But the products must be backed up by the science and accompanied by consumer education to change eating habits of ice-cream from an occasional to a frequently consumed food, according to a new review published in Food Research International.
“The incorporation of probiotic bacteria into ice-creams is highly advantageous since, in addition to being a rich food from the nutritional point of view, containing dairy raw material, vitamins and minerals in its composition, it is usually consumed by everybody, being well accepted by the public,” wrote the reviewers, led by Adriano Cruz from Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Sao Paulo.
“In the specific case of probiotic ice-cream, this is a concrete challenge as, most of the times, ice-cream is not consumed daily by most of the consumers, and this frozen dessert is more frequently consumed during the summer in most of the countries, and it is hence considered as an occasional food.”
The review was welcomed as “timely” by probiotic expert Professor Gregor Reid from the Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute, and The University of Western Ontario.
“In the end, I suspect it will not give more than other delivery vehicles, just an alternative source for consumers,” Prof Reid told NutraIngredients.com..
Successful formulation of probiotic ice-cream is dependent on overcoming certain technical challenges.
According to the reviewers, frozen products like ice-cream present particular challenges, such as the beating in of air - known as overrun. There is also the issue of storage under freezing temperatures, which would affect the viability of the strains over time.
Additional issues to be considered by formulators is which strain to use, how and when the bacterial inoculum is added to the product, in what quantities, as well as the choice of other ingredients, “especially any fruit pulp/juice, which will give the final flavor to the product”, wrote Cruz and his colleagues.
Confirming the finished product is probiotic
“Even though several studies have shown adequate viability of the probiotic cultures during storage of ice-creams, more clinical studies on the consumption of probiotic ice-creams are recommended,” wrote Dr Cruz and his colleagues.
“Also, it is important to confirm if, after long storage periods, the probiotic cultures are still able to confer the same health benefits already observed in other foods with shorter shelf-lives and higher storage temperatures, such as yoghurts and fermented milks.”
Professor Reid agree, telling this website: “Key issues [of delivering a probiotic ice cream] will be reproducibility of the viable count, calculating what a single dose is and proving that such a dose confers specific health benefits,” said Prof Reid.
Already on the market
A scan of Mintel's New Products Database reveals there were 35 probiotic frozen dessert launches between 2006 and summer 2008 in countries such as Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Columbia, India and China.
Indian company Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation launched two probiotic ice creams - Amul Sugar Free Probiotic Frozen Dessert and Amul Prolife Probiotic Wellness Ice Cream - in 2007 with the former targeting diabetics and the latter being sold on a broader wellness platform.
Unilever, the world’s biggest ice cream maker, added an iced lolly containing probiotic bacteria to its Walls Milk Time range, and is aimed at children in the UK.
In Latin America, Chr Hansen has developed a probiotic ice cream with a Costa Rican ice cream producer. Euromonitor predicted Unilever, which is also the Latin American market leader, would not be far behind.
Professor Reid noted that “a so-called probiotic yogurt ice cream” is already on the market in Canada, “which states that 'probiotics reduce the risk of cancer'”, he said.
“Whatever the claims made directly or indirectly, companies will need to do the human studies to verify them,” said Prof Reid.
Source: Food Research International Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2009.03.020“Ice-cream as a Probiotic Food Carrier” Authors: A.G. Cruz, A.E.C. Antunes, A.O.P. Sousa, J.A.F. Faria, S.M.I. Saad