Classic products in a frozen dessert portfolio are excellent for securing volume but new, innovative products aligning with market trends are what really drives growth. One trend that continues to grow stronger year-on-year is plant-based products. A 2020 report by the Plant Based Foods Association highlighted that “U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods increased by double digits in 2020, growing 27% and bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion”, strongly suggesting that plant-based foods will not be disappearing anytime soon.
The ice cream and frozen dessert industry in particular is now seeing the importance of plant-based innovation in order to create more non-dairy products that are on par with their dairy equivalents and attract consumers following a more plant-forward lifestyle.
We interviewed Rachel Bliesner and Rob Hennis from Toppings Solutions to find out about the key trends in plant-based ice cream inclusions as well as some of the most common challenges that manufacturers and brands are faced with when trying to innovate in this area.
If you’re not familiar with Topping Solutions yet, you can read our latest article with them here where we discussed the importance of fast-paced innovation in the ice cream industry.
Top Plant-Based Inclusions Trends
Both dairy and plant-based consumers often opt for ice cream when looking to satisfy that craving for an indulgent treat. Nothing says indulgence more than large, impressive inclusions swirled into your preferred base of choice.
Inclusions are also a great way to add to a product’s uniqueness. The more original, colourful and/or larger the inclusion, the more the product promises to stand out from the competition and win over the consumer.
So, which inclusion was most in demand throughout 2021 and what should we expect to see more of in 2022? Here is what the experts at Topping Solutions had to say.
Most Requested Inclusions of 2021
One of the top selling items for Topping Solutions in 2021 was Dark Chocolate Chips. Dark chocolate is a fantastic plant-based inclusion of choice for any brand. It is naturally suitable for vegans as it is typically made by combining cocoa beans with cocoa butter and/or chocolate liquor instead of dairy products.
For a long time, plant-based was almost synonymous with healthy, however with a growing number of plant-based alternatives on the market, we are seeing more of an increase in plant-based products that have less of a health focus, and lean more towards indulgent flavours and ingredients.
For instance, three of the other top selling ingredients that Topping Solutions worked with in 2021 were all highly indulgent inclusions:
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Vegan Oat Brownie
Vegan Speculoos Cookie Crumb
Top Trends to Expect in 2022
1. Plant-Based Chocolate
Requests for vegan milk chocolate, plant protein-enhanced chocolate, and no sugar-added chocolates that are also plant-based have been growing and will continue in popularity into 2022.
So far this year, there have already been a number of new product launches in this category that use only the cacao fruit (i.e. cacao bean and pulp). They are being marketed to a customer base that values lower sugar and added fibre options, and who also consider reducing food waste to be of high importance in their lifestyle.
2. Converting Dairy to Plant-Based
There will continue to be many more new plant-based ice cream brands appearing in our freezers this year, however the traditional dairy companies will also be focusing more on pursuing the conversion of some of their dairy ranges to plant-based formulations.
For example, hemp protein as a dairy alternative protein enhancer is one trending ingredient anticipated to be in-demand for plant-based ice creams in 2022.
Plant-based substitutes to chocolate milk is another request on the rise from ice cream brands. Oat milk as an alternative to dairy milk remains a popular choice for products like these.
3. Creating Cleaner Labels
In 2022, it is also expected that vegan ice cream brands will be focusing more on ingredient innovation that allows them to fulfil the consumer demand for high-quality clean labels in plant-based alternatives.
While an encouraging goal, it will not be a simple one as many of the emulsifiers and stabilizers used in frozen desserts are often not seen as ‘clean-label’ by consumers. Therefore, the challenge for brands in the alternative ice cream industry will be to source ingredients that are not only clean-label, but also plant-based-suitable.
Challenges with Plant-Based Inclusions
It has been said that ingredients nowadays don’t just need to taste delicious, they need to tick a lot of boxes if you want to build a more inclusive, accessible and let’s not forget, affordable product for as many consumers as possible. Sourcing the right ingredients for your plant-based product can be tricky for a number of reasons.
1. Procurement of Special Ingredients
The inclusion industry is filled with many options and players, so much so that time is what most companies struggle with when trying to find the right partner from whom to source their inclusions. The sourcing process can be lengthy with multiple stages including researching suitable manufacturers, understanding their portfolios and formats, verifying their certificates and claims, obtaining and reviewing documentation, and tasting samples. This is all before you even begin to develop a strong relationship with the partner you choose.
This is why companies like Topping Solutions are so helpful to brands in our industry because they can do all the sourcing for you from one place, in a fraction of time, with suppliers that they trust and have long-term relationships with. This can reduce the stress and time it takes for you to source new speciality ingredients, allowing you to focus on growing your business in other areas that require more of your skill set.
2. Reaching Minimum Order Requirements
Many brands, especially those who are newer-to-market, will relate to the difficulty of reaching minimum order requirements (MOQ’s) from manufacturers. One solution for helping new brands reach these MOQ’s is to pool together through companies like Topping Solutions so that you can consolidate larger order requests from inclusion manufacturers and satisfy MOQ’s. This will help you be more flexible and adaptable when fulfilling smaller orders for plant-based or other inclusions so that you can create your ideal product(s).
Are you an innovative ice cream brand struggling to find the right inclusions and/or meet purchasing requirements? Reach out to the team at Topping Solutions here with your plant-based inclusion queries. They will be more than happy to help you build your business!
Founded by former executives in the Ice Cream industry, INNODELICE aims to create a worldwide ecosystem of solutions within the frozen dessert industry. Thanks to the relationships fostered by INNODELICE, manufacturers, brands, importers, distributors and suppliers can discover, buy and sell solutions to GROW their business. These solutions include co-manufactured and branded products as well as innovative and competitive ingredients, packaging and services. Our collaboration model generates lower costs and fewer risks for our participating partners while optimising their time to market. To learn more about INNODELICE, contact Andrea MONTREUIL (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.innodelice.com.