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The Sensory Side of Ice Cream

The sensory characteristics related to ice cream are unique and powerful in a billion dollar marketplace. What are some of the sensory characteristics of ice cream?

sensory product testing

Some of the flavor attributes include overall dairy, dairy fat, dairy cooked, eggy, fruity ripe, floral, green unripe, vanilla, alcohol like, chocolate, cocoa, nutty, caramelized, toasted, dark roast, fresh, fruity cooked, non-natural, overripe, citrus, peely, sweet, bitter, sour, salty, astringent, etc.

Some of the textural attributes include firmness, density, meltdown, viscosity, fat feel, chalkiness, iciness, seed awareness, fruit awareness, mouth coating, amplitude, longevity, bloom, etc.

Of course, not all ice creams are the same and they often have different sensory characteristics. For example, Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. In English, this word commonly refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. Gelato can be made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. It is generally lower in calories, fat, and sugar than other styles of traditional ice cream.

Did you know that for many flavors, gelato often scores higher in most characteristics such as flavor bloom and fullness of flavor than traditional ice creams? Overall, testers typically find fruit flavored gelato to be less bitter, less sweet, more sour and more astringent than traditional fruit flavored ice creams. Vanilla and chocolate gelato is often found to be sweeter and is associated with higher density, lower firmness, and slower meltdown. Gelato and ice cream samples frequently have similar intensities for textural characteristics.

Gelato samples often test very closely to higher-end traditional ice cream samples, but differences exist even in those comparisons. When compared with traditional ice creams, gelatos are often characterized by flavors that generally are intense and considered to be typical of ripe fruit in that flavor category. Testers described fruit gelato as fresh, fruity and more sour than sweet, an eating experience that is similar to eating a piece of fruit. The traditional fruit ice creams, on the other hand, have more dairy notes. The chocolate and vanilla gelato and the more expensive traditional ice creams can also be characterized as having flavors that are associated with higher quality ingredients including natural flavorings and extracts (e.g., cocoa powder and pure vanilla). Some traditional ice cream samples have flavors associated with imitation flavorings.

Understanding the nuances of ice cream is possible with the use of sensory product testing. There are far more factors to consider than we have talked about today. In 2016, the global ice cream market is estimated to be worth about 54 billion U.S. dollars. In 2015, a single ice cream brand had reported sales of approximately 570 million dollars in a 52-week period. Clearly, we all scream for ice cream!


This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us online at www.contracttesting.com.