I scream, you scream ... for probiotic ice cream?
Researchers from the University of Cartagena in Colombia found that adding microencapsulated probiotics to aloe vera ice cream before the ripening step resulted in better viability and a 44% longer shelf life, according to a study published in Contemporary Engineering Sciences. The findings present "huge opportunities" for manufacturers to economically develop functional varieties of ice cream, the Dairy Reporter said.
The analysis compared microbiological stability, color, taste, flavor and texture by adding Lactobacillus bulgaricus to the ice cream before and after the ripening step. Ripening in ice cream production is a refrigeration period of 24 hours at about 39 degrees. It follows mixing, pasteurization and homogenization but precedes freezing. Ripening is done to firm up the ice cream and develop a smoother texture.
When probiotics were added to the ice cream before ripening, they showed a proliferation of the bacteria between 10 and 20 days, the Dairy Reporter noted. However, when they were added after ripening, growth hit a peak after 15 days and then declined after 20 days to the point where a functional health claim could not be made.
As consumers become increasingly interested in gut health, manufacturers are pumping probiotics into everything from cereal and cookies to coffee and yogurt. While those formula changes may result in a nice value-add for a brand, this study found that incorporating probiotics into ice cream also can enhance viability and extend the product’s shelf life. Survivability and growth of probiotics are crucial to labeling claims advertising their numerous beneficial health effects, so manufacturers are looking for the best way to add them to products to enhance their levels and their value.
According to the Colombia university's research, adding probiotics before the ice cream ripening stage enhanced the "sensorial acceptance" of the product, meaning there was higher acceptability for color, taste, flavor and texture. So there should be little concern that their presence will change texture, taste or mouthfeel as long as they're added at the most beneficial time in the manufacturing process.
Some studies have focused on how well strains survive after exposure to gastric acid in the stomach. Ganeden, which produces probiotic strains, said in 2016 that one of its products was being used in frozen desserts, along with other items, so some consumers may be used to the idea of finding probiotics in indulgent treats. Others may view them as an interesting and unusual addition. Health claims on dessert products could help reduce any guilt factor from consuming high-calorie, high-sugar treats — and may even convince shoppers that ice cream brands containing probiotics are inherently better than those without them.
The use of probiotics and prebiotics is expected to significantly grow in the coming years due to their reputation for relieving digestive issues, boosting the immune system and contributing to the maintenance of balanced gut microbiota, or "good" bacteria. BCC Research projects the probiotics market will grow to $50 billion globally by 2020 from $32 billion in 2014. Millennials are particularly interested in the sector, which is also helping to drive growth.
Increasing product launches and a greater popularity of items making wellness claims signals that probiotics could be a long-term growth opportunity for manufacturers. The category could be particularly appealing to beleaguered dairy producers looking to diversify into lucrative areas as a milk glut and the tariff wars continue to hold down prices.
- Dairy Reporter Double plus? Probiotic ice cream brings 'economic and health benefits', say researchers
- Contemporary Engineering Sciences Shelf Life of Ice Cream: Effect of Microencapsulated Lactobacillus bulgaricus