The rise of the food explorer

Chloé des Courtis explains how hybrid ideas are affecting the dairy desserts market, ranging from sugar reduction to adventurous eating.

Dairy desserts are undergoing a renaissance, with retail parlours aimed at consumers who want to enjoy an outing while eating magnificent, Instagram-friendly desserts. Similarly, any meal at home is rounded off by a sweet treat, and consumers are looking for new experiences in their eating habits. 

Dairy is a key part of this, featuring in ice cream, yogurts, cheesecakes, and of course, panna cottas. Chloé des Courtis, senior manager, EMEA marketing at CP Kelco, answered a few questions about where the ingredients supplier sees the trends emerging.

Q. What trends are you seeing in the dairy desserts market? 

There is so much newness in the dairy desserts market. The main trends are pleasure/indulgence, premium and clean label. Innovations include special textures, layered desserts, inclusions, high quality ingredients and a new look at traditional recipes. 

Consumers purchase desserts for different reasons: either to satisfy a craving, take a break, treat themselves or conclude a meal. All these different eating occasions are opportunities to innovate. 

Snacking has changed so much. It’s an anytime occurrence now and that has led to more “portable” dessert items and even more portion control. 

Globalisation is also driving trends. Younger generations have become food explorers. They love to travel the world and are very receptive to trying new flavour profiles. Then, they come back home and want to introduce their friends to all the new ingredients they’ve experienced. This is opening new doors for the industry and leading to more experimentation in dessert concepts. Consumers are willing to take “risks” and try exotic new desserts that mix salty and sweet, heat and spice – out of their usual comfort zones.

Q. What are your customers asking for? 

Whether through the request of consumers, food advocates or governments, reducing the sugar content of desserts is an ongoing effort for our industry. Nutri-score nutrition labelling is also influencing new product development as it empowers consumers to compare their options. 

Consumers don’t want to give up desserts; they are really just asking for permission to indulge without the guilt. They like formulations that incorporate a few “healthy” ingredients and still satisfy that sweet tooth. For example, consumers like to know about the antioxidant properties in chocolate. 

They’re also beginning to accept fat as a necessary part of their dietary intake so full-fat dairy is growing. Having a dessert should not be considered a major breach to a diet or lifestyle. 

Customers are also more concerned about how dessert products are made. They’re paying attention to ingredients, their quality, and where they come from. The whole story behind the product is very important to them, including the sustainability priorities of the companies that make them. 

“Clean label” is also a trending consumer request. However, this phrase means many different things depending on the consumer and region. In general, consumers want products made from ingredients that are easily recognisable on the label and compatible with their diets or personal beliefs, such as vegan/ vegetarian, kosher and halal. 

We have been seeing more requests for vegetarian alternatives to gelatine in recipes. Genu Explorer Pectin ND-200 was developed to answer the market need for a label-friendly texturising solution for use in neutral dairy desserts. It’s suitable for both hot-filled (panna cotta type) and cold-filled (crème dessert type) processes. Extracted from citrus peels, our speciality pectin product can be used instead of gelatine and does not require further cooling time to obtain structure. 

It helps provide a firm texture and a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel to help dessert makers create indulgent but label-friendly treats. Depending on the desired application, technical experts can also recommend other ingredients to achieve a gel-like texture, such as Kelcogel Gellan Gum. 

Q. How have trends affected the way the products are used, ie, new ingredients such as matcha? 

The major changes affecting products are convenience as well as adding health-related benefits to match consumers’ on-the-go and active lifestyles. We see more single-serving packaging to accommodate this need, which not only makes snacking an easy option for busy families but also helps with portion control. 

This is an excellent opportunity to position some dairy desserts as great snacks with the protein consumers crave. The portion sizes also show consumers that desserts can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. 

Many new ingredients and flavours are being used. Beyond the traditional vanilla and chocolate flavours, we see coffee incorporated with the added functional benefit of a caffeine boost. Botanical ingredients and flavours are also growing (pun intended): herbs, spices, cinnamon, mint, peppermint, lavender, rose, green tea. In the premium dessert category, alcohol flavours are popular: rum, piña colada and whiskey. 

The dairy alternatives trend is also affecting this space with flavours. Coconut is gaining popularity, as well as nuts such as almond and hazelnut. 

Q. What areas of growth do you see coming for the dairy desserts area? 

Dairy alternatives are booming in what used to be traditional dairy segments, as this trend expands from dairy alternative drinks into neutral desserts. Soy, almond and oat-based desserts are expected to grow, but coconut is the key dairy alternative product base as it most resembles the texture of whole dairy milk. 

Hybrid products are also growing. This is an interesting trend to watch and is something that appeals to food explorers. The idea is to position a product across two categories, such as a kefir dessert yogurt, a Greek yogurt crème or a yogurt mousse. 

  • Chloé des Courtis is senior manager, EMEA Marketing at CP Kelco

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