According to an online Mintel blog, savoury ingredients such as olive oil and black pepper could be emerging as new flavour trends for ice cream.
The past year has already seen two small-batch artisan launches of olive oil ice cream, says Mintel analyst Alex Beckett. Texan company Lick launched a dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt ice cream this summer while Two Fat Cows in Australia also uses extra virgin olive oil.
Beckett says: “Including olive oil in the recipe is said to provide texture benefits to ice cream, in that it adds an indulgently creamy – yet not oily – texture, while the flavour is said to add subtle grassy and nutty notes.
"Advocates of the combination even point to how olive oil is rich in naturally occurring antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E – although this is unlikely to bestow ice cream with a health halo."
Black pepper on the other hand has not yet made it onto retail shelves but its popularity is growing in the food service sector – and this is where manufacturers tends to seek their inspiration.
Beckett said: “In the global retail channel, ice cream products with black pepper among the ingredients are all but absent. But among the small parlours, boutiques and food trucks that tend to inspire new retail ice creams, and the blogs that report on them, black pepper’s profile is growing. After all, compared with the stringent demands of retail, the out-of-home ice cream channel can afford to be more experimental, and launch more unconventional flavours.”
A survey last year by Amore di Gelato found that top ice cream flavours in restaurants and gastropubs around the UK included beetroot, Jersey black butter and stout.
According to Beckett, ground black pepper could be well received by consumers in several global markets. In the UK, 39% of consumers said they were interested in hot flavoured ice cream while 51% of Chinese respondents said they were keen to try sweet and savoury mixed flavours.
Although savoury flavours in ice cream may sound unusual, some have already become fairly established. Sea salt, especially when used in combination with caramel, made the jump from high-end food service to retail and is now well-known with the number of global ice cream launches featuring sea salt tripling between 2013 and 2015, according to Mintel data.
Bread and cheese...in gelato
Meanwhile, gelato makers are getting even more adventurous. According to Bas Smit, global marketing director of Barry Callebaut’s food manufacturers division, gelato manufacturers this year at Sigep ice cream fair were showcasing a variety of cheese and bread flavours, such as pretzel gelato.
Although gelato tends to be limited to small-scale artisanal production, Smit also said it could be influential for larger manufacturers and retailers. “How this will manifest itself in three or four years in the Carrefour, Tesco, Wholefoods or Walmarts of the world? How will the brands and private labels capture this development that the gelatos already have?,” he asked.
However, some big manufacturers are already making the leap to savoury in certain geographical markets. Last year the Japanese arm of American company Häagen-Dazs launched vegetable ice cream, tomato cherry and carrot orange as part of its Spoon Vege range.
But Japanese consumers may be more open to Westerners when comes to savoury flavours in general. Fugetsudo manufacturers Basashi Ice, or raw horse meat ice cream, while squid ink and soy sauce flavours are also available from other manufacturers.