On a recent Qantas flight back to Australia, I was contemplating a few of my goals that I wanted to achieve during the short amount of time I was back in my motherland.
Certainly, seeing family was high up on my list, however, I found myself musing over the foods that I wanted to eat that were not available to me in the USA. Before I knew it I was feverishly scratching a list (ironically the back of a sick bag) of Aussie culinary treats that I had sorely missed. Meat pies, sausage rolls and cream and jam donuts obtained the gold, silver and bronze placing, however pasties, strawberry Freddo Frogs and Milo were also lip smacking favorites.
Within 30 minutes of touching down, I found myself in a shopping mall, sitting in a food court across the table from a classic Australian icon; a meat pie floater. As if freshly minced beef and gravy wrapped in a cocoon of flaky pastry wasn’t enough to tantalize your taste buds, this pie was topped with mushy peas, mashed potato, and was soaking in a bath of brown gravy. It looked as good as I knew it was going to taste, and I had to hold back the tears in front of my fellow diners before enjoying every last bite.
As I wiped the last trickle of gravy from my chin (and my shirt) I thought to myself, why hasn’t the meat pie taken a hold of the American consumer? In fact, I have had swarms of Aussie’s tell me I should open up a pie shop in Missouri.
I mean, they eat all sorts of foods right? I had eaten everything from deep fried snickers at the Upper Peninsula State Fair to warm grits in Arkansas.
This being the case, I had heard of a couple of pie places that had tried and failed. Why is it that some tastes become so successful and others are destined to fail? In fact, while I was at the show in Sydney, I came across a gelato case with a pan of Vegemite gelato. Now if the “Aussie Pie Shop” concept wasn’t going to fly in the US, Vegemite Gelato wouldn’t stand a chance.
So why do some flavors and combinations fly to great culinary heights and others flop? Why do certain taste profiles always stay popular in certain areas or with certain demographics and others that in your personal opinion should win a Michelin Star, sit in the case for weeks on end untouched?
Well a recent article in the Washington Post nominated 5 reasons why people are influenced to one side or the other when it comes to taste preference. These “influencers” are important for you, as an ice cream maker / purveyor to understand and utilize in the process of developing, making and marketing flavors.
People from regional areas and bloodlines can experience flavors differently, in particular bitter or unpleasant aromas or flavors. “Almost everyone lacks the ability to detect at least one scent, meaning that the chemical that gives truffles their distinctive odor might strike you as either offensive or earthy. Or you might be among the 25% who can’t smell it at all.”
The old gag about having a dog that didn’t have a nose always gets good traction. “How did he smell?” you ask. Terrible!!
You may know someone, perhaps a family member or a personal friend that has issues smelling or tasting certain foods or odors. Hey, in some circumstances, this is a blessing – believe me.
There aren’t too many foods that I won’t eat, but avocado and carrot cake are two that I will not touch with a 10 foot pole. The avocado story isn’t too interesting, but let me share a carrot cake tale.
Long story short – I had a friend in my Sunday school class that was having a birthday the following Sunday. So our teacher said she would bring a cake next Sunday for the 10 or so kids in our class. Well, only the birthday boy and I showed up for class the following week, so our well meaning teacher cut this massive carrot cake right down the middle and motioned for us to eat our half. And we did. Later that day, and well into the evening I violently expelled every ounce of that cake – and then some. To this day, no matter how you dress up anything to do with carrot cake – I cannot even stand a faint whiff.
On a more professional level, studies show that infants are known to have a pre-disposition to foods their mothers eat during pregnancy or even while they are breast feeding, so we have the ability to expose our children to a range of foods while in their infancy
It is not rocket science to identify which cultural backgrounds have a tendency to lean towards more spicy or bitter foods.
We often attend trade shows on the southern border of the US; Texas, Arizona and California, where the Hispanic population is very prolific. At a lot of these shows we run flavors through our ice cream equipment to lean towards the culinary profile of the locals. Horchata is a rice, almond and cinnamon based flavor that a lot of our friends south of the border grew up with. My Australian taste buds don’t appreciate the spicy notes of the flavor, but we had guests lined up in droves for the “Horchata Heaven” that we were running.
In this age of population diversity, there is most certainly a pocket of culture on your 5 kilometer radius that you can lean towards for a little inspiration.
This may not come as a complete surprise to you but generally speaking, women crave sweeter foods than men. The lads prefer more of a salted profile than the ladies.
Bruce Feirstein published his most famous work in 1982 entitled “Real Men don’t eat Quiche”. I don’t know whether I agree with his thinking entirely, however the sweeter and lighter the flavor, the seemingly more feminine it becomes. Bold and strong flavors have always sold well in the male market. Now before you start rewriting your menu board for “Steak and Bacon” ice cream, remember that most national ice cream companies are marketing their products towards women aged between 18 and 34 years old. Why?
These women are making the purchasing decisions for their families, and that is who you want to have influence over.
It’s not a surprise to most ice cream makers that a slew of flavors that are becoming wildly popular throughout the industry include those made with particulates. Nuts, candies and bakery items such as cookies and cake are all making the rounds in the most popular flavor categories.
The International Dairy Foods Association (www.idfa.org) holds an innovative flavor competition each year, and it comes as no surprise that the flavors that gained the attention of the judges all involved a variegate to provide texture as well as flavor. This year’s winners were:
- Red Velvet Cake
- Blackberry Blackout
- Double Dunker
- Pig Trail Mix
- Hula Hula Macadamia
- Strawberry Peppercorn
- Sweet and Salty Pretzel (One for the men and the women)
When flavor is combined with texture, it creates for an “organileptic” experience. When all 5 senses are used to consume any food product, it makes for a much more memorable experience. The smell of strawberry, the sound of a crunching granola, the taste of a pear puree, the course texture of peanut butter all contribute to the end result; an ice cream to talk to your friends about.
So there you have it. Get cracking on those crazy and original flavors folks. And for further ideas from different ice cream stores around the world, go to www.theicecreambloke.com