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Summer is over, but high-protein ice cream and frozen yogurt is in.
Desserts are the latest category to leverage consumer demand for high protein. “There has certainly been an increased number of launches with protein claims in the ice cream, frozen yogurt, and frozen dessert categories in the last year or so,” says Vicky Fligel, business development manager for ingredients supplier Glanbia Nutritionals (Chicago).
Justin Woolverton, founder and CEO of ice cream brand Halo Top Creamery, notes that high-protein desserts are still relatively uncommon-“because protein is a little less synonymous with dessert than with what you’d eat, say, post-workout or for breakfast”-but that this category is promising.
“One of the strengths of protein is that a lot of people looking for protein are doing so to avoid the other things-carbs and fat,” Woolverton continues. “In other words, if you want a product that has few carbs and little fat, yet has any substance at all, then what’s left is protein….A lot of people want something sweet that doesn’t contain a lot of carbs or fat, yet has substance-they don’t want a flavored ice cube. A high-protein dessert gives you that, even for people who aren’t looking for protein, per se.”
“If you’re going for a basic, low-calorie dessert like Skinny Cow, why not make it low-sugar and high-protein, as well? You’ll feel better afterwards, and it will taste like it has more substance,” he adds.
Essentially, high-protein desserts are a feel-good treat. “Protein makes you feel good,” Woolverton says. It allows consumers to still indulge, but often without blood sugar crashes, bloating, or irritability associated with standard, high-sugar desserts. “Everybody has been in the office, had those cookies or cake, and in about 30–60 minutes felt like they crashed…In short, high-protein desserts let you indulge without feeling gross afterwards. It’s 3 pm, you’re at your desk, and you absolutely need a snack. Doesn’t ice cream sound better than yet another tub of Greek yogurt?”
And frozen treats like ice cream and frozen yogurt make sense as a delivery format for high protein, Fligel says. “Protein is already inherently present in standard ice cream but would fall short of any ‘high protein’ claims. Dairy is a natural source of protein, and it makes sense to incorporate more protein into dairy products from a flavor and acceptability standpoint.”
As expected, however, formulating with high-protein, especially in a frozen format, has its challenges. Let’s look at a few examples.
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