Cream of the crop:
How lecithin is transforming
ice cream into a functional,
by Timo Nieraese, Senior Area Sales Manager at Lecico GmbH
Indulgent snacking was a major consumer trend in 2020 amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. According to research from NPD, snack food consumption increased by 8% during the height of Covid-19 as many reached for comforting foods, while Kerry research noted that sales of ice cream and frozen desserts grew by 20% at the beginning of the pandemic. This is backed by data from Kantar Research that suggested an extra 54 million litres of ice cream were purchased by consumers in 2020, adding £226m to the take-home market.
Yet with health and wellbeing returning as a top priority, consumers are switching back to functional, nutritional and great-tasting natural treats to satiate their indulgence. According to Kantar, sales from popular health ice cream brand Halo Top surged in the second half of 20203. Google Trends data also supports this theory as searches for ‘healthy ice cream’ peaked between May and June 2020 in the US, UK and Australasia, as consumers began to seek healthier options for their frozen treats.
The rise of functional health
With the global ice cream market currently valued at $65.8 billion in 2020, health-conscious consumers have created an upsurge in demand for vegan ice cream as the need for sustainable and plant-based options come to the fore. In 2018, the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association reported that sales for vegan ice cream increased by 26% from the year prior, reaching $304 million. As of now, Grand View Research reports that the vegan dessert market is expected to grow at 10.1% CAGR until 2027. This rise in plant-based product demand has also driven further appeal in functional health, especially with the younger generation where one in four consumers aged 25-34 claim that functional benefits would encourage them to try a new frozen treat.
New product launches focusing on ethical, premium and vegan claims have been recognised by food ingredients manufacturers as a way to tap into this growing consumer trend. Yet to ensure brands meet these claims, manufacturers must source non-GMO and natural plant-based ingredients that not only offer highly nutritional benefits, but can also offer excellent functional properties including emulsification, stabilisation and homogenisation.
A natural emulsifier
Many popular vegan ice creams now feature a wide range of plant-based ingredients as a substitute for animal-based milk and egg yolks. These include xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan, plant-based fats, oils and lecithins. Found in soya, sunflower, corn, and rapeseed, lecithin is a phospholipid containing lipid from plant origin, making it perfect for vegan, dairy-free, or even full dairy ice creams.
The beauty of lecithin lies in its functional characteristics though. As a natural emulsifier, lecithin can help create a smooth and creamy consistency in dairy-free products. By producing a drier ice cream, emulsifiers like soya and sunflower lecithin can increase the resistance to rapid meltdown during consumption, further increasing the resistance to shrinkage during shortage. This is due to the way emulsifiers adsorb to the surface of freshly formed fat droplets during the homogenisation and ageing stages, ultimately forming a protective layer that prevents droplets from coalescence.
While lecithin is a superb choice for food ingredients manufacturers, its benefits also feed into consumer trends. With good mouth feel and stability in ice creams, lecithin also offers nutritional advantages for those that wish to indulge healthily. As a natural source of choline, which is one of the building elements for phosphatidylcholine, lecithin as an additive or ingredient can help improve memory and cognition, boost metabolism and protect heart health[8,9,10].
The Lecico advantage
At Lecico, our expertise in lecithin is second to none. We have over 30 years of experience in developing, producing and marketing lecithin and special phospholipids for the food ingredients market, meaning we can tailor our support to your customers’ needs. Our lecithin products are 100% natural and offer excellent clean labelling advantages for the plant-based food market. For instance, our premium de-oiled non-GMO soya lecithin – LECICO P 900 IP – works wonderfully in ice creams as it stabilises oil in water emulsions and improves homogenisation when used as a mixing facilitator.
Our de-oiled sunflower lecithin also bodes an excellent creamy finish for vegan ice creams and is a great alternative to soya with its hypoallergenic and sustainable credentials. The Lecico SUN P 400 is one of our premium, non-GMO de-oiled products and can be used as a natural emulsifier, wetting agent, stabiliser, release agent, antioxidant and dispersant.
Meeting consumer demand
For food ingredients manufacturers, meeting the consumer demand for healthy, natural products that are sustainably produced and minimally processed, is certainly a challenge. While the start of the pandemic caused a surge in indulgence, we know the health-conscious consumer is here to stay. With Lecico, you can create both indulgent luxury and natural goodness in your ice creams – all we ask is that you handle the great taste and leave the mouthfeel to us.
- NPD, ‘Snack Food Behaviours in Challenging Times’, June 2020
- Kerry Research via Food Ingredients First, ‘Ice Cream trends, functional ingredients and plant-based formats’, April 2021
- Kantar Research via The Grocer, ‘Brain-freeze Britain: ice cream category report 2021, February 2021
- Google Trends, ‘Healthy Ice Cream’ worldwide data between 1st January 2020 – 20th April 2021
- Research and Markets, ‘$65.8 Billion Worldwide Ice Cream Industry to 2026 – Rising Health Consciousness and Better Knowledge Have Led Consumers Towards Upmarket Treats’, April 2021
- Forbes, ‘Top Trends in Vegan and Plant-Based Desserts’, October 2020
- Grand View Research, ‘Vegan Dessert Market Size’, July 2020
- National Institutes of Health, ‘Choline’, March 2021
- Elsawy, Gehan et al. “Effect of choline supplementation on rapid weight loss and biochemical variables among female taekwondo and judo athletes.” Journal of human kinetics vol. 40 77-82. 9 Apr. 2014, doi:10.2478/hukin-2014-0009
- Millard, H.R., Musani, S.K., Dibaba, D.T. et al. Dietary choline and betaine; associations with subclinical markers of cardiovascular disease risk and incidence of CVD, coronary heart disease and stroke: the Jackson Heart Study. Eur J Nutr 57, 51–60 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1296-8
With over 30 years of experience, Lecico, an Avril Group company, is a leading global supplier of lecithin and phospholipids backed by a vertically integrated supply chain. With European production, Lecico offers high quality ingredients for international Food, Infant Nutrition, Animal Feed and Health & Nutrition markets. Collaborating with brands, manufacturers and distributors around the world, Lecico operates from its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany offering comprehensive technical support for its customers with flexible and tailored product solutions.
Avril Group is a c.6 Billion Euro international agro- industrial group based in France, specialising in food, animal feed, energy and sustainable chemistry. The Avril Group operates in 19 countries and employs 7,600 employees.
For a complete overview of the Lecico product range and company, please visit www.lecicio.de