“Inclusion” is a broad term used to describe anything injected into ice cream, ice cream pies or other frozen novelties. Items that may be added include fruits, nuts and syrups, as well as chocolate chips, cookie dough and candy bar bites. There are two general types of inclusions. The particulate inclusion is an actual particle, like a chocolate chip or fruit piece that has some identity and is distributed throughout the ice cream as individual particles. Syrups such as chocolate, marshmallow, butterscotch or peanut butter are materials injected into ice cream as a continuous stream. Other terms used for syrups include variegates or ribbons.

Brigham's Loads the Bases

For more than 90 years, Brigham's Ice Cream (Boston) has sold its widely acclaimed vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce at its parlors, restaurants and supermarkets. Although Brigham's previously had sold fudge variegates in its line of ice creams, it was not until last April that the company decided to use the original Brigham's fudge recipe as part of a combination ingredient system. “It's such a winning combination whose time has come. I'm not sure why we hadn't done it in the past,” says Claudia Kost, vice president of manufacturing in product development at Brigham's Ice Cream.

The new ball park-themed flavor, appropriately titled “Reverse the Curse,” was released on Babe Ruth Day in an effort to put to rest the alleged curse the Great Bambino made against the Boston Red Sox baseball team. The brainchild of a customer contest, the flavor will feature Brigham's popular fudge sauce, chocolate covered peanuts and chocolate covered caramel cups, which correspondingly represent baseballs and bases.

The biggest mystery, however, was how the Brigham's fudge would react as a syrup inclusion. Since Brigham's use of inclusions and variegates had become fairly routine, they were able to put all of the elements together without much trouble. “We had all of the pieces of equipment already, we just had to incorporate them to work with this one flavoring [system],” explains Kost.

Syrups and Variegates

The variegate's density or viscosity is very important. “Many of the products today contain variegate sauces or fudges that are much more difficult to use than the old-fashioned, water-based variegates,” says Neal Glaeser, president of a frozen ingredients licensing and marketing company. With sauces and variegates one checks viscosities, with inclusions one checks densities.

Variegates need to have enough structure to retain their identity after they are pumped into the ice cream. “We set viscosities according to the manufacturer's product. They tell us how thick they need to run it into their product so the ribbon holds up,” says John Namy, corporate executive chef for global concept development at an inclusion supplier.

“An oil or a thicker-than-usual, water-based variegate can be real thick, fudge-y and much more difficult to pump,” explains Glaeser. “There are a lot more of these types of products than there used to be. They are much more sensitive to pumping than what the typical variegate was 10 years ago.”

If the syrup's structure is too weak, it will tend to lose the identity of the syrup stream and mix in with the ice cream. “There should be a sharp line of demarcation between the syrup and the ice cream,” recommends consultant Bruce Tharp, owner of Tharp's Food Technology (Wayne, Penn.), a consulting firm with a principal focus on ice cream.

The other challenge, the freezing point, should be managed so that the ribbon does not freeze separately and become icy. The target is to have nice, smooth syrup. “It is not appealing for the syrup to form large ice crystals,” says Tharp. Their formation depends on the overall level of the sugar in the syrup.

“The sugar level has the biggest effect on the freezing point; both in the ice cream and in the flavorings themselves,” informs Tharp. Polyols or sugar alcohols also depress freezing point, to various extents. To prevent different degrees of freezing, the sugar levels must be balanced. “It's not necessarily that you have to match the same freezing point, but you have to produce a structure that will minimize the size of the ice crystals,” says Tharp. That may involve a higher or lower freezing point, depending on the composition of the syrup.

Particulates and Inclusions

Suppressing the freezing point of a product can alleviate similar problems when adding particulate inclusions. “It is important to keep [particulates] as cold as possible when added to ice cream,” suggests Tharp. If they are very warm when the pieces are injected, the ice cream around it will melt and then refreeze. The ice crystals of the ice cream that refreezes will be larger than they were before they melted, resulting in an icy ice cream.

Keeping particulates cold helps them to flow better before they are added to the ice cream. Certain inclusions are liable to warm up in the hoppers, injectors or food feeders and stick together. Chocolate chips demonstrate that premise by often clumping together when they get warm.

There are a couple of ways to manage that, says Tharp. One is to make a chocolate chip with a relatively high melting point so that it does not get soft at normal temperatures in a processing room. “The problem that arises when you raise the melting point of the chocolate is it becomes waxy when you eat it, [because] your body temperature doesn't melt it down,” he informs.

Wax On, Wax Off

A melting point that is too high can result in particulates with waxy attributes, while a very low melting point causes particulates to melt and adhere to themselves and the equipment. The best particulates are designed not to melt at room temperature, and to be shelf stable.

Tharp suggests adding chocolate chips as a liquid. In this situation, the chocolate is subjected to agitation right after it is injected, or the force of the injection breaks the injected pieces of chocolate into small particles, which immediately then harden because of the low temperature. The result is the chocolate chip effect.

Rocky Roads with Frozen Fruits

In some applications, to avoid icy fruit pieces, food manufacturers soak fruit in a solution of approximately three parts sugar to one part fruit. “If you take a strawberry off the vine and put it in ice cream, it could damage dental work when you try and chew it,” warns Tharp. “It would be like an ice cube.” The sugar migrates into the structure of fruit because of osmotic pressure, resulting in a much higher level of sugar in the liquid inside the fruit than what naturally occurs. The freezing point will decrease, making the fruit nice and soft.

It is more difficult to do that with other fruits. “Strawberries are not too hard to do, but peaches cause a slight problem,” says Tharp. Also, the sugar has an added advantage in that it helps preserve the fruit.

Sammy So-Soggy

Generally, one of the virtues of adding inclusions in ice cream is to get a textural contrast between the soft, smooth, creamy texture of the ice cream to what is often the crisp, snappy consistency of the injected particulate, says Tharp. “There are few exceptions, such as the cookies and cream type product, but usually a soft and pasty inclusion can be undesirable.” With cookies and cream, the cookies become soggy in the ice cream and that becomes part of their characteristic taste. “It's like dipping an Oreo™ in milk--[sogginess] becomes the target,” Tharp adds.

The equipment used to inject these materials into ice creams tend to submit the particulates to some abuse in terms of stirring, agitating and moving them from the holding bin to the ice cream itself.

“The inclusion has to have enough consistency to maintain the product identity once it gets into the ice cream. It can't be too crumbly,” adds Tharp. It also has to be designed so that it will not absorb large quantities of water.

Soaking it Up

Items that have become very popular in ice cream over the course of the last five years are baked goods like brownies and cake pieces. These items are dead-on targets for water migration and they do not survive equipment processing or distribution very well. “We worked with our manufacturer to develop a brownie piece that, when frozen, is very hard and [unpalatable]; but, once the water migrates from the ice cream, it tastes like a really good, chewy brownie in ice cream,” recalls Glaeser.

By and large, it is desirable to minimize the degree of water migration into the particle so that it retains a sharp identity. “You have to make sure you have the right moisture barrier coatings so that the product stays crunchy, soft and chewy or gooey in the ice cream,” informs Namy. It all depends on how developers want the ice cream to look, taste and eat (mouthfeel).

“There is nothing more disappointing than a soggy pecan in butter pecan ice cream,” says Tharp. There are various techniques implemented to prevent water migration into the particulate. Oftentimes, the little pieces will be coated with chocolate, like with Brigham's “Reverse the Curse” peanuts. That chocolate coating becomes impervious to water. It also becomes a part of the flavor profile.

Some nuts (like almonds and pecans) are roasted or immersed with a coating of oil. Roasting nuts prevents them from absorbing water and getting soggy. Additionally, it adds to the flavor profile by generating a stronger flavor, which can become a useful background flavor in ice cream, says Tharp.

The Cookie Dough Connection

Before embarking on a project, it is important manufacturers know their target consumer. Namy and his colleague, senior food technologist Aimee Holmes-Hilburn, suggest, “Have an idea of the flavor you want to produce, before you take it to an inclusion supplier. Tell them exactly what you are looking for, whether you are looking for low-cost ingredients, certain kinds of flavors and the type of equipment you own.” They also suggest that adding too many inclusions could block up equipment and keep the product from running through the system.

Keep in mind that in regards to food feeders, there are varying degrees of sensitivity. “Some ingredients are more sensitive than others to heat,” says Glaeser. Some manufacturers hit roadblocks because they do not consider the load capacity and function of their own equipment before deciding on the inclusions and flavoring ingredients to be used.

“Right now, low-carb is a big trend, along with no-sugar, low-fat and reduced-fat. Those are hot topics,” says Namy. One of the more difficult challenges that manufacturers face is adding inclusions but keeping the sugar or carb count low.

“You are limited on the ingredient side as to what you can do inclusion-wise, while still meeting that low-carb target,” says Glaeser. “As you go up the scale in decadence and indulgence, you also drive up carbohydrates,” continues Glaeser, who also considers co-branding as a growing trend.

His company recently partnered with Tootsie Roll and Andes Candies to make co-branded ice cream formulas for manufacturers.

Appearance also plays a critical role in adding inclusions to frozen desserts. “If you want to insert a key lime make sure it looks like a key lime. That requires experience in knowing the desserts and sauces,” says Namy. Looking back, Kost imagines that, had they not had 90 years of experience with both the ice cream and fudge, typical industry challenges could have kept them from hitting a home run.

Showcase: Vanilla and chocolate flavors; nuts and inclusions

Everybody loves birthdays. Kerry makes every day a celebration with the “It's My Birthday Cake” ice cream flavor concept. Appealing to both kids and adults alike, “It's My Birthday Cake” features vanilla frosting-flavored ice cream that is loaded with tender “birthday” cake pieces and tasty chunks of pink and blue frosting. Kerry's flexible fat-based refining enables production of customized colors and confectionery chunks and chips. Kerry, Karen Holliday, 800-255-6312, kholliday@kerrygroup.com

Popular and soothing, vanilla combination flavors come in a variety including Vanilla Caramel, Vanilla Bean, Vanilla Cream and Vanilla Custard. Vanilla Almond, Vanilla Mint and Vanilla Orange are popular as well. Virginia Dare's vanillas can improve the sweetness perception by rounding out and cutting the edge off other flavors. Bakery applications benefiting from vanilla and vanilla combinations include snack cakes, muffins, frostings and fillings. Dairy applications include ice cream, frozen desserts, yogurts and dips. Vanilla adds variety to breakfast foods such as cereals (both hot and cold), English muffins, waffles, pancakes and French toast. Virginia Dare, Paulette Kerner, 410-569-9766, pkerner@virginiadare.com

A substantial cost savings can be achieved when using a line of natural vanilla WONFs to replace pure vanilla extract in most applications. These flavors can be used as direct replacements for bakery, candy, nutraceutical, beverage and dairy applications. Many varieties are available, including Bourbon, Tahitian, and Indonesian types. Gold Coast Ingredients also has a full line of pure extracts, N&A and artificial flavors. Gold Coast Ingredients, 800-352-8673, www.goldcoastinc.com

Perk up ice cream, beverages, nutritional products, bakery items and other sweet foods with chocolate, vanilla, nut and fruit flavors. Chr. Hansen's chocolate flavors come in dark, regular, milk, fudge and white versions, and can become something really special when layered with other sweet flavors such as mint or fruit. Vanilla is wonderful alone or can be used to enhance almost any flavor, such as a variety of Chr. Hansen fruit and nut flavors. Chr. Hansen, Karen Wood, 800-558-0802, kwood@chr-hansen-us.com

As the vanilla market continues to face continuing weather problems and more governmental regulations, the food and beverage industry looks for new solutions. With strong expertise in creating great-tasting flavors, WILD has a wide variety of N&A and artificial vanilla flavors as well as Natural Vanilla WONF flavors. The company can create the right profile of vanilla for your specific application: ice cream type, French vanilla and sweet vanilla. Samples available. WILD Flavors Inc., Donna Hansee, 859-342-3526, dhansee@wildflavors.com

Recent studies have shown compelling evidence that almonds provide important health-promoting benefits. Excellent sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, almonds also are rich in magnesium, a good source of fiber and protein, and contain calcium, zinc, iron and folic acid. Food technologists also rely on almonds to add texture and “crunch” to savory and sweet products, as well as a distinctive and appealing taste. Consumers perceive added value in foods with almonds, both for taste and for health. Almond Board of California, 209-549-8262, www.almondsarein.com/atwork

Chocolate is a favorite flavor and inclusion. ADM Cocoa markets its products globally under the brands: Ambrosia®, De Zaan®, and Merckens®. Ambrosia's coatings, chunks, liquors and other chocolate products are used in the confectionery, baking, dairy, ice cream and foodservice industries. Ambrosia is also a major producer of private label baking chips. De Zaan's cocoas are known for their premium quality, narrow product specifications, and ability to work in various customer applications. Merckens offers a product line of premium chocolate products formulated for chocolate confectioners and wafers geared for cake decorators and home candy makers. ADM Cocoa, Bill Lansing, 414-358-5700

Unique extraction processes result in intensified vanillas that require a lower use rate than regular extraction. David Michael & Co., a leading vanilla supplier, offers innovative items such as Premier Process®, Supreme®, Super Supreme® and David Michael's Superb® vanillas. It also offers custom-designed Philadelphia Style System® vanilla slurry units. By combining vanilla extract with bean specks, this slurry offers a convenient way to manufacture “Philadelphia Style” vanilla ice cream. From a one-fold to a twenty-fold to oleoresins, the company provides a full range of natural, N&A, or artificial liquid or dry vanilla for your every application. David Michael & Co., Total Customer Satisfaction Department, 215-632-3100, dmflavor@dmflavors.com, www.dmflavors.com

A new line of indulgent flavors adds decadence to product development projects. Robertet Flavors Inc. has introduced a line of classic chocolate flavors with profiles including milk, white, semisweet, bittersweet and bitter types. For product developers seeking something a little more unusual, try the company's new specialty chocolate flavors. The profiles include Mayan Chocolate, Ibarra Chocolate Type, Chocolate Mint and Fudge Cream. Applications include beverages, confections, dairy, desserts, soy-based products and more. The flavors are water-soluble and are available in liquid, dry, natural and N&A versions. Robertet Flavors, Gretchen Schleck, 732-981-8300

Vanilla's characteristic, complex flavor is the perfect accent to chocolate and fruit-enhanced frozen treats. The refreshing flavor of ice cream novelties is made even better with the addition of pure vanilla extracts, natural and artificial vanillas and natural vanilla WONF from Nielsen-Massey. The vanillas are classic flavorings for ice cream bars, sherbet cups and gelato. Custom-blended products also are available. Whether targeting sophisticated adult tastes or aiming at the children's market, vanilla flavors offer versatility and diversity. Nielsen-Massey, Dan Fox, 800-525-7873, www.nielsenmassey.com

Rely on more than 50 years of experience in the frozen desserts area for ideas that produce the finest and most innovative ingredients for ice cream. Pecan Deluxe Candy is a major trendsetter in flavors, interactive kids' creations, international flavors, good-for-you ingredients and much more, shaping the way consumers enjoy frozen desserts. The company currently is run by second- and third-generation family members and includes a team of individuals dedicated to producing the finest and most innovative ingredients for ice cream. Pecan Deluxe's R&D department offers out-of-the-box creativity and a trendsetting culinary development team. Pecan Deluxe, Shirley Hudson, 214-631-3669, shirley_hudson@pecandeluxe.com

Add excitement to your products with a myriad of nuts and inclusions. Kraft Food Ingredients Corp. (KFIC) offers: Baker's® Golden Toasted Coconut--with a rounded, roasted profile; Oreo® Pieces--America's #1 retail cookie adds unmistakable taste to frozen and baked desserts and dairy foods; Chips Ahoy!® Real Chocolate Chip Cookies--crumble the cookies to create flavorful toppings in baked, refrigerated and frozen desserts or snack items; Kraft® Caramel--comes in enrobing, sauce and bits and is easy-to-use; and Kraft® Marshmallows--miniatures are ideal for fruit and gelatin salads, and casseroles. Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., 901-381-6500

A completely customizable range of inclusions and bits is designed to enhance the taste, texture, aroma, color and mouthfeel in snacks and other foods. Unlike other inclusions, flavors, or spices and seasonings, Loders Croklaan's SensoryEffects impact all of the senses with one piece. The line can be used in sweet and savory applications, in products such as baked goods, hot cereals and savory snacks. Chocolate and vanilla nuggets are designed for thin and laminated doughs, as well as breads, bagels and waffles. The products now offer no-trans and low-carb products to meet the demands of the food manufacturing industry. Loders Croklaan, Mary Thomas, 815-730-5225, mary.thomas@croklaan.com

Blend two dry vanilla cream flavors to add depth to your vanilla profile. Commercial Creamery Company Product 8045 is a sweet flavor for baking, beverages and dairy products. It has a hint of cream on top of the vanilla. Product 8119 has a stronger cream note, in addition to the vanilla. This product is ideal for applications that do not need the sweetness. Commercial Creamery Company, Kelly Curry, 509-747-4131

Due to the cocoa bean shortage and subsequent price increases, this company has developed cocoa-replacer flavors. The replacers offer consistent quality and may replace up to 66% of cocoa powder. Depending upon the price of cocoa, there is an opportunity for cost savings by replacing the cocoa with a chocolate/cocoa flavor in a wide range of applications. Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Steve Carlin, 847-291-8300, scarlin@bellff.com

Walnuts are a leading ingredient nut for both commercial and home bakers. Diamond leads the industry in processing technology and capacity, and can satisfy the most exacting specifications of high-quality ingredient customers. Diamond's commitment to defect-free products has led to innovations like laser sorting, sterilization, blanching and antioxidant treatments. Its state-of-the-art packaging lines can meet any ingredient customer's needs, from one-pound bags to one-ton bins. Now available: Diamond glazed walnuts for ingredient users. Diamond of California, Dick Wolf, 209-647-6770, dwolf@diamondnuts.com

In need of vanilla and chocolate flavors? Look to Degussa Food Ingredients' flavor division, Maxens™ Flavors. Its flavor chemists have extensive experience in the creation of vanilla and chocolate flavors. They go beyond taste to provide extraordinary flavors for your finished application. For more information on how Degussa's flavor line can add flavor to your products, visit their website. Maxens Flavors, customer service dept., 888-771-6573, www.flavors-fruit-systems.com

In 1991, Moose Tracks® ice cream was introduced, and it became an overwhelming hit with consumers; it commonly outsells vanilla in some product lines. Denali Flavors Inc., a variegate and inclusion licensing and marketing company, developed Moose Tracks, and went on to introduce the Alaskan Classics® product line, which has grown to some 30 flavors and is manufactured by more than 80 dairies in North America. Manufacturers supply Alaskan Classics ingredients under Denali's specifications to partnering dairies. Denali Flavors Inc., Neal Glaeser, 877-877-4625, www.moosetracks.com

Hazelnuts are the perfect complement to chocolate--some say they are chocolate's best friend. Hazelnuts can be incorporated as a paste or butter for an extra-smooth chocolate consistency, or they can be added in a diced and sliced form for a crunchy texture. Including both forms in an already sophisticated chocolate will result in a distinctive, exciting and in-demand product. Adding value is as simple as adding hazelnuts--the possibilities abound! Hazelnut Marketing Board, Polly Owen, 503-678-6823, hazelnut@oregonhazelnuts.org, oregonhazelnuts.org

With cocoa prices continuing to rise, manufacturers will welcome a chocolate extender for the costly commodity. Designed for use in bakery products, beverages, pudding and confectionery products, one pound of the extender will replace 15lbs. of cocoa. Developed to simulate the profile of a high-quality, 10-12 Dutched Cocoa, the flavor extender provides a rich chocolate taste with deep, complex notes. The extender is an N&A formulation, available in a liquid or powder form. Kosher and pareve. Samples available. Comax Flavors, Norman Katz, 800-992-0629, Nkatz@comaxflavors.com

Covering a broad spectrum of products, these flavors are designed for inclusion into products with specific guidelines. Wynn Starr offers a complete line of chocolate flavors for various applications such as beverages, soy-based products, cream cheese and its derivatives, baked goods, candies, etc. Functionality would be dependent upon the requirements for natural, artificial and N&A, in either a water- or oil-soluble base. Offering products in either powder or liquid form, the company can custom-design a chocolate flavor to suit your needs. Wynn Starr, Roland Abate, 201-934-7800, Rabate@wynnstarr.com