From Nannari To Chaas: Local Ice Cream Flavours Are All The Rage

Ice cream has evolved quite a bit in the last few decades; from boozy popsicles and soft serves to frozen gelato and fusion kulfi, there are plenty of new players in the ice cream segment. How adventurous is too adventurous when it comes to ice cream? A bowl of butterscotch or a sugary sundae may be too old school for you; however, an affogato or the Italian Brioche con Gelato may not be the first thing you think of when you crave the cold, creamy comfort of ice cream.

But how about some sweet and peppery beeda popsicle or a kokum sorbet that tastes like a kala khatta gola? Homegrown brands are pushing for local, nostalgic flavours to make ice cream even irresistible than it is, and it seems to be working, for the most part. Turns out, selling unconventional ice cream flavours even if it’s straight out of their childhood can be quite a challenge. 

“Most people, and I mean 5 out of 7 people would choose the flavours they have been eating their whole lives. But they may just choose more than one if you get something really right with your experiments,” shares Ronita Singhi, a home chef from Chennai who introduced raw mango ice cream to her menu last summer and was pleasantly surprised with the demand. 

Chef Saloni Kukreja who introduced her artisanal ice cream label Indu Ice Cream a few months ago has come up with seasonal and year-round flavours that are recognisable and widely appreciated, like filter kaapi ice cream, masala chaas sorbet with curry leaves, mango lassi ice cream and masala doodh with cornflakes crunch. 

“We are now looking at more seasonal flavours like litchi and targola and also looking for ways to incorporate Indian sweets in different formats of ice creams and maybe festive inclusion as well,” kukreja shares.

“There are takers for new flavours and they may try it one time and like it but it’s difficult to find people um that sort of keep coming back for the same flavour unless you know they really, really enjoy it. Like the chaas for instance, I thought we were going a bit too experimental and people wouldn’t like it, but the number of people that kept coming back and asking for it has been really cool,” the chef says.

However, Kukreja feels what has really shifted for ice cream is the rise of consumers who are looking for premium or quality options. "I think it’s changing in terms of the demand for higher quality, people enjoy quality gelato with good ingredients, so a better quality of products is what they really appreciate, something that's better than a low-flavour option that may not be so great quality-wise," she adds.

Singhi who has never made ice cream before 2022 believes making an unconventional but popular flavour can be simple, especially with clean notes and balanced sweetness. “Seasonal flavours are somewhat more popular and then some quirky additions are appreciated by customers. Like we had lassi-flavoured ice cream last year which was pretty minimal in taste and we included jalebi sticks with it,” she explains. 

Sudharsan Hari’s label The Perk Ice Candy offers sugarcane, mosambi, jamun and sitaphal ice candies which have been well-received. One of the brand’s popular year-round options is the Kamarkattu ice candy made with caramelised cane jaggery blended with coconut milk. Kamarkatu or kamarcut is a traditional South Indian candy made out of jaggery that is made by slowly cooking jaggery with water and it typically also includes shredded coconut so the ice cream’s curation is perfectly in sync. 

The brand has recently collaborated with The Social Bee and launched five distinct flavours, like Aam Panna, Beeda, Nannari Sarbath etc. “Out of these new flavours I see three flavours bringing in new customers and the rest of the people simply trust the brand so they are open to exploring our line-up,” says Hari. 

The vegan brand which delivers in Chennai and Bengaluru mainly offers ice candies in flavours which are already familiar to most people and may even command nostalgia. "We don’t recommend flavours to customers because all the flavours we make are flavours which they’ve experienced at some point in their lives, most people at least,” says Hari. 

“50 % of people I would say would want a citrusy flavour, whereas the rest would want a mango or a sweet-ish flavour. But people who like citrus will never give it up for a mango,” he adds.