Oh how sweet it is

Written by Rebecca Frazier
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Ice cream is a timeless treat, and while flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry will always remain classics, consumers are increasingly seeking out unique flavors for a creamy, chilly and indulgent treat.

In the past, ice cream stands or shops were the only place to find non-traditional flavors. However, in recent years, those flavors have found their way into grocery stores all over the world. This non-traditional ice cream, labeled as super premium ice cream, uses the highest-quality ingredients to create one-of-a-kind flavors that consumers love.

Sales of super premium ice cream have shown significant growth — a 14.5 percent increase compared to only 2.6 percent increase in traditional ice cream. Recognizing an opportunity when they see it, management at DFA-owned Kemps decided in January 2016 that they needed to find a way into this market.

They quickly expanded their product portfolio by launching Sweet Me Creamery in February 2017. The seven specialty flavors were crafted with a farmer’s market experience in mind to design feel-good flavors for customers. Kemps sought to find what flavors would be most meaningful and interesting to consumers to provide them with a product that was not already available, but also felt familiar.

“The flavors are meant to be familiar in a way, so that people feel comfortable enough to try them,” says Claudia Klug, director of insights and innovation at Kemps, and one of the lead project members behind Sweet Me Creamery. “We used the farmer’s market experience to design flavors and used consumers to validate the flavors were something they were interested in.”

The flavors crafted to create this impression include Creamy Dark Chocolate Mint, Maple Toffee Blondie, Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel, Salted Caramel Brownie, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler, Sweet Cream Espresso Mocha and Vanilla Bean.

In an effort to create these feel-good flavors, research provided insight into what flavors would be best marketed in targeted areas. For example, strawberry rhubarb cobbler is a very popular dessert in the Midwest, which lead to the creation of a Sweet Me Creamery flavor mimicking the bittersweet taste. There was also a trend among consumers showing that salted caramel was one of the most popular flavors. Sweet Me decided to take this flavor and give it a spin by adding fudgy brownie to it.

“Product quality and taste are important no matter what flavor you are launching,” Klug explains. “We use consumer panels to test our flavors and ensure they exceed consumer expectations."

Although it has been a short time since the product was released, consumer response has been overwhelmingly positive. Sweet Me has a large sampling program that travels to breweries, food markets and fairs, among many other places. The brand is raising awareness for its products through the use of social media, and gaining exposure for its products by consumer sampling.

Sweet Me was recognized in June at the World Dairy Innovation Awards as a runner up for the best new brand or business award. There were 20 countries represented at these awards in total. In addition, Sweet Me’s feel-good, close-to-home flavor, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler, won the Most Innovative Ice Cream Flavor of 2017 at the 2017 Ice Cream Technology Conference.