For nearly a century, Ice cream was barely touched in terms of technological innovation. In the last few years, however, we’ve seen 3D-printed ice pops, spray-dried yogurt powders, and popsicles that don’t melt.
Add cryogenics to that list. Verū, who’s been making some headlines recently, is using a patent-protected flash-freezing technology to make ice cream pops that are low-calorie and additive free but actually taste good.
As a general rule, the faster a food product can be frozen, the better it will taste. Verū’s technology—which it developed with a cryogenics company and the University of Berlin—uses liquid nitrogen to freeze its product down to as low as -196 degrees Celsius (about -321 Fahrenheit.) And it can do so in seconds.
A traditional ice cream mixture typically freezes at only around -6 degrees Celsius, and its freezing rate is much slower. To get a high-quality taste and texture, traditional ice cream makers have to add fat, sugar, and all those other additives to their products. By speeding up the freezing rate and dropping the temperature, Verū’s able to deliver a high-quality product that’s made so quickly it doesn’t need anything much besides the puréed fruit. (In case you wondered, the liquid nitrogen never comes into physical contact with the actual product.)
Right now,Verū serves serves mostly B2B customers like hotels, fine food stores, and catering companies. Of late it’s started to shift its focus from the technology side of things towards figuring out how to best bring its treats to market beyond Germany.
They’re not the first to try cryogenics on ice cream. A San Francisco-based company called Smitten has its own technology that’s controlled by algorithm to “deploy hazy gusts of liquid nitrogen that rapidly, precisely transform fresh ingredients into individual servings right before customers’ eyes.” Sub Zero, which also uses liquid nitrogen, started as a Utah couple’s side project and is now distributed internationally. Mini Melts has a long history of marrying science and frozen desserts, and will even deliver its cryogenically manufactured ice cream to your door. And lest we forget, Dippin’ Dots has been around since 1987, though this “ice cream of the future” is a actually more of a nostalgic item these days.
I think it’s safe to say this sudden wave of innovation in ice cream is a direct response to consumers’ desire to find healthier alternatives to more traditional options. There are a lot of considerations food producers have to take into account these days: lactose intolerance, vegan diets, growing concern about obesity, and even the simple desire to eat cleaner. Most of us will still partake in the occasional scoop of Ben and Jerry’s. That said, if technology continues to influence the world of frozen deserts, we may soon have a ton more options to satisfy a sweet tooth without consuming a day’s worth of sugar in the process.