Pierre's French Ice Cream of Cleveland will mark its 82nd anniversary this year, and throughout that history, distinctive products have helped to drive the regional company's success. Ice cream makers, more than other dairy processors, must continually delight and even surprise fickle consumers, or they won't last 82 years.
Pierre's started with French style-ice cream, distinguished by the use of egg yolk as a texturant. Eggs have played a significant role in ice cream formulation, and are generally considered a mark of a premium product.
Much more recently — in 2009 — Pierre's rolled out Yovation, a new generation of frozen yogurt that includes traditional yogurt cultures and a specially selected strain of probiotic culture.
“Pierre’s was interested in offering a frozen yogurt that was delicious, distinctive and contained a superior probiotic,” says Laura Hindulak, vice president of marketing. “As the benefits of probiotics are further recognized more and more, people are seeking different ways of supplementing them into their diets. Yovation provides an opportunity for probiotics in a treat they already enjoy.”
Yovation has taken Pierre's into new markets, Hindulak says, and it is now sold nationally. New flavors introduced in 2013 include Vanilla Pomegranate Blueberr, and Black Cherries & Chocolate Chunks.
Flavor excitement is also crucial to the success of Black Dog Gelato, a boutique ice cream maker in Chicago with roots in the city's culinary industry. Founder Jessica Oloroso is a pastry chef who had worked with Stepahnie Izard, (of Chicago's dessert-centric Hot Chocolate restaurant) before launching her own sensation in 2007.
Oloroso now operates two stores in the city and buys fresh ingredients from restaurant purveyors to make small batches of gelato with imaginative flavors such as Strawberry Balsamic and Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel.
Ice cream and frozen dairy novelty manufacturers must offer that flavor excitement (whether it's traditional and nostalgic or creative and cutting edge) within a framework of broader food trends. Consumers are more particular than ever. Some are more concerned with health and nutrition, even when it comes to choosing a dessert, but indulgence is a major factor, too.
While developing classic ice cream products may seem like nothing new under a blue moon, new ingredients and flavor options offer plenty of opportunity for innovation in ice cream and other dairy segments.
Not just any culture
Pierre's uses GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) as the active probiotic ingredient in its Yovation line.
“Once we began to research and develop our product, we were drawn to GanedenBC30,” Hindulak says. “We were delighted to find a probiotic that could withstand the intense heat/cold extremes of our manufacturing process, hold up through shelf-life tests and maintain its survivability through the digestive system.”
An added attraction, she notes, is that the supplier, Ganeden Biotech Inc., is also located in Cleveland.
In its marketing materials, Ganeden notes that the yogurt segment continues to be the “shining star” of dairy, and that the explosive growth of Greek-style yogurt has been the most active driver. The company notes that “many consumers buy yogurt specifically for the probiotics.”
A 2010 study showed evidence that BC30 is better able to survive in the digestive tract and travel into the intestines where it can do the most good. This is due to the fact that it forms gram-positive spore rods, which can withstand the acidic environment of the stomach.
Additionally, a 2009 study found that BC30 may help relieve some of the abdominal pain experience by patients who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
BC30 is also the active culture that is used by Red Mango, a Korean-style frozen yogurt specialist.
Cultured dairy products such as yogurt provide the best nutritional proposition of any dairy products, but other dairy products also can be made in a more healthful fashion. This would include low-fat milks, flavored milks made with less sugar per serving and/or natural sweeteners.
In the past decade, a new category of low-calorie ice cream has emerged in the form of what is commonly called churned ice cream. This group of ice creams, sometimes made with special freezing techniques, generally have up to a third less calories and fat but maintain organoleptic properties very similar to those found in traditional premium ice cream.
Pierre's offers low-sugar product lines made with Splenda sucralose sweetener, churned products, and fruit sorbets in addition to Yovation. Like most regional ice cream makers, it also has a broad portfolio of traditional-flavor products and some indulgent product lines.
“Over 90 percent of American households enjoy ice cream and frozen treats, so innovation has played an important role in the growth of Pierre’s diverse assortment,” Hindulak says.
Fruit flavors continue to be a big part of ice cream and frozen desserts, and Pierre's puts fruit flavors to work in its ¡Hola Fruta! line of sorbets and fruit bars.
“Pierre’s ¡Hola Fruta! Pure Fruit Sherbet introduced sherbet lovers to exotic flavors such as Mango, Margarita and Pina Colada,” Hindulak says. “This past year, the ¡Hola Fruta! line expanded to include refreshing fruit bars.”
Pierre’s ¡Hola Fruta! Fruit Bars are made with real fruit and are naturally free of fat, cholesterol and gluten and even are dairy-free. These 1.65-oz. snack-sized frozen treats are certified kosher. Each bar ranges from 50-56 calories depending on the flavor and offers a good source of vitamin C per serving.