Cool treats blend classic flavors in new ways

June 17, 2016

Cool treats blend classic flavors in new ways

Putting a fresh spin on traditional chilled dessert flavors can provide a cool enticement for customers, especially in the summer months.

When it comes to chilled desserts, consumers are gravitating toward the nostalgic flavors of their youth, while at the same time experimenting with new flavors that add excitement.

Foodservice operators are meeting this demand with creations that freshen up classic recipes with on-trend ingredient profiles, often with an international twist. The increasing prevalence of ice cream sandwiches on menus, for example, allows operators to blend textures and flavors in mash-ups that allow customers to experiment with new combinations.

Likewise, the trend toward customization that has swept the quick service segment industry is also growing in the chilled dessert category, as evidenced by the expansion of build-your-own ice cream and frozen-yogurt concepts that allow customers to concoct their own creations.

The ability to customize is a key factor in the success of these chains, says Solomon Choi, who goes by the title of CE-Yo at frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles.

He says the chain sees a daily rush of students after school gets out, but more and more has been noticing customers coming in for a customized refreshment following a trip to the gym in the afternoons or evenings.

“16 Handles isn't one thing to everyone,” says Choi. “You can walk into a 16 Handles and pile strawberry and kiwi onto one of our sorbets for a post-workout treat, or you can really let loose after a rough day and indulge in a cup of Birthday Cake fro-yo with cookies and cheesecake bites.

“That ability to have fun while being self-expressive drives repeat visits, regardless of mood or occasion.”

Choi says he’s seen customers gravitating toward both classic flavors and new flavor experiences.

“In 2016 we've seen an interesting demand from our customers for both bold, new flavors as well as nostalgic, familiar ones,” he says.

The chain’s April launch of its Sweet Taro Pie flavor, an example of an exotic new variety, has been a hit with customers.

“With 80 rotating flavors, it's not every day that we can provide 16 Handles' guests with a flavor that is wholly unfamiliar to many of them, and it was great seeing them take to it,” says Choi.

The chain followed the Sweet Taro Pie rollout with the debut in May of Cinnamon Rice Pudding, a flavor its customers had been requesting “for some time,” he says. “And now that it's available, their purchases are backing up those requests.”

At Colby College in Waterville, Maine, two of the dining halls this year added do-it-yourself smoothies to the all-you-can-eat menu, allowing students to customize their cool treats.

“The students absolutely love anything they can do themselves—where they are in control of what goes into it,” says Larry Llewellyn, director of dining services for Sodexo, which manages foodservice operations on the campus. 

The program has been much more popular than expected, he says.  As of April about 750 of the college’s 1,800 students have purchased the cups required for the program.

Seasonal flavors

Incorporating fresh, seasonal fruits is another key way operators seek to satisfy customers looking for cool treats.

“Customers continue to look for desserts that use seasonal, fresh and local ingredients when available,” says Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking officer at New York-based Magnolia Bakery. “We’re pleased to offer a number of desserts that incorporate seasonal fruit or flavors throughout the summer season, including cupcakes, cakes, sour cream coffee cake, pie, crisps, and our signature ‘Nolia Pies’, as well as icebox desserts.”

This May and June, Magnolia is offering a strawberry icebox pie, and on the calendar for July and August are the blueberry jamboree and the peach jamboree, respectively.

“We also just introduced icebox pie bars in a variety of flavors, including key lime and peanut butter — these are a great option for customers looking for big flavor in a smaller portion,” says Lloyd.

The chain incorporates seasonal flavors into its cheesecakes and icebox pies as well. Seasonal cheesecake varieties include a pistachio flavor with cranberry topping in March, Key Lime in the summer and pumpkin spice in the fall. Icebox pie flavors include a coconut cream variety in the winter, strawberry in the summer and the new pumpkin with gingersnap crust in the fall.

Magnolia also has offered ice cream sandwiches for several years, and adds new flavors each season. The classic flavors — including brownie, blondie, lemon bar, magic cookie bar and red velvet — are available all summer. Other seasonal and specialty ice cream sandwiches that are introduced throughout the summer include PB&J; devil’s food whoopee pie with strawberry swirl ice cream; sea salt chocolate chunk caramel; and oatmeal cookie with blueberry swirl ice cream.

Although primarily known for its cupcakes, the second most popular treat at Magnolia Bakery is its banana pudding, made with vanilla wafers, fresh bananas and vanilla pudding. A new chocolate version is made with layers of OREO® cookie wafers, fresh bananas, chocolate pudding and chocolate shavings.

“Customers are loving it,” says Lloyd.

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