Gelato Jonny 4 – Small changes lead to improved longevity of special dietary gelato

A couple of months ago we talked about flexitarianism impacting on demand for vegan products.  There are obviously other special dietary requirements which you may have experienced to a lesser or greater extent.  In addition to vegan and vegetarian the most common special dietary requirements are sugar free, dairy free and gluten free, and that’s before we even step into the world of allergens or religious eating constraints.  So the question is which of these should you make gelato for or should you make special gelato at all? 

You may find that you already have products that meet some of these dietary requirements.  Many fruit flavours are naturally gluten free, sorbets are dairy free and so on.  Maybe you have only rarely been asked for any of these before, so you don’t believe there is a demand.  However I have found that if one person has asked there could be a ten others who don’t want to make a fuss but would like the option.

How many people in the UK have special dietary requirements?

Here are some estimated stats about the number of people in the UK on special diets:

  • 4.7 million diabetics (Diabetes UK) requiring sugar free or low sugar options
  • 8.5 million gluten free (BBC) – note these are not all coeliacs
  • 0.6 million vegans (Vegan Society)
  • 4.6 million vegetarians – the line between vegan and vegetarianism seems  to be a bit blurred
  • 3.3 million lactose free (BUPA)

This totals over 21 million people with special dietary requirements although we can’t be sure how many follow more than one special diet, so even if on a conservative estimate we said there were over 15 million adhering to one or more of these diets, that equates to over 20% of the population.  However here is an interesting point – apparently 54% of households buy at one time or another from the ‘free from’ ranges.  This indicates a similar pattern to what we highlighted with flexitarianisms, that consumers are selecting to buy from the ‘free from’ product lines rather than being forced to due to a medical condition.  So should we ignore this trend or embrace it given we are in the business of desserts and treats?

Why makers and wholesalers shy away from special dietary ice cream and gelato?

When I am asked ‘should I make a special dietary ice cream or gelato?’ by customers, I know that deep down they are hoping I will say ‘no’.  Why is that?  In my experience I would say that  mostly people are nervous about extra costs of buying in different ingredients for a relatively small market, with low demand where there may be wastage.  Also there are concerns that the special recipe doesn’t keep as long.  However these need not be barriers to making special dietary recipes for ice cream or gelato.

What are the small changes that can be made?

  • Use a recipe which mainly uses ingredients you already have on your shelf
  • If you are worried about making too much of a special recipe and you want to test your market only make a small quantity.  Use a shallow pan or half pan or a small box for take home or wholesale options 
  • Make the product according to where you are storing it, depending on if it will be kept in the deep freeze or in the cabinet.  If the latter take it out at night and put it in the deep freeze to prevent discolouring or a shiny skin
  • Don’t label the gelato or ice cream as a special dietary product as consumers looking for standard options will think it tastes ‘free from’, but in reality they probably won’t be able to tell.  However do ensure your staff know or put a note on the back of the label so when someone does ask for a special dietary option they know which ones they can serve.  In this case I advise that you put a note on the counter explaining special dietary gelato is available. Customers can then ask for which flavours fit their dietary requirements.

In summary, looking at the trends I don’t think we can afford to ignore this sector so why don’t you go ahead and experiment with a new ‘free from’ recipe and if you need any help with balancing it you know where to find me.

See you next time for the latest scoop.

Jonny

Antonelli’s National Technical Manager Jonny Ireland write’s a regular column in the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…

See how this article looked in the September ’19 edition of the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…

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