Make Room for Gelato

Why this Frozen Delight is Growing Up

If you are anything like me, Gelato and espresso are the best parts of visiting Italy. Each gelato parlor is better than the last. The artful presentation of long shallow pans adorned with natural fruit, nuts or coffee beans attracts the eye and whets the appetite. The daily visit to the gelateria was a personal requirement after lunch and often after dinner. Whether I was in a small town outside of Florence or strolling around the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the quality was always excellent.    

When I was eighteen, this first pilgrimage to Italy led to my love and obsession with Gelato and ice cream. Later that year, I worked with one of the greatest Italian American ice cream makers in the US, Gus Rancatore of Toscanini’s. Toscanini’s has been voted best in Boston too many times to count and has been written about by every magazine over the last thirty years. Toscanini’s refined my love here, and I learned the most about our beloved frozen desserts.  

The United States has the world’s largest consumption of frozen desserts, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and of course, Gelato. Gelato and ice cream account for about forty percent of a fifty-seven-billion-dollar market (according to Grand View Research). Italy also sees the US as the most significant opportunity for exports as the market continues double-digit growth year after year.  

Gelato is unique from ice cream for several reasons. First, ice cream is required by law to contain a minimum of ten percent butterfat, with some brands using up to twenty-five percent butterfat. In contrast, Gelato typically contains between four and nine percent butterfat, which allows it to maintain a more elastic quality and not freeze as solid.  

Gelato is perceived to have a more intense flavor, partially due to the lower fat content coating the palate. Another contributor to this effect is that Gelato is kept at a warmer temperature. As foods warm-up, more volatile aromatics and flavors are released and more easily perceived on the palate.  

Ice cream also has considerably more air turned into the mixture. This added air is part of how it achieves a creamy texture even while being more solidly frozen. On the other hand, Gelato has less air, maintaining a creamy, silky texture even though it uses less cream than milk and contains less fat.  

Gelato accounts for a smaller portion of the market; however, it has the most growth potential. According to the USDA, ice cream consumption has explicitly been going down since 2000. Meanwhile, low-fat options have remained steady. Gelato would fit into the low-fat option category and could be marketed in this way. Dairy desserts still account for eighty percent of the market; however, non-dairy options are growing, and innovations making oat milk gelato, and other non-dairy flavors broaden gelatos appeal.  

Recently I found myself in Italy again for the first time in two years. I was there to learn the art of Gelato making from a Maestri Gelatieri Italiani. Reconnecting with one of my passions and learning a new craft on such an in-depth level made me want to pursue it even further. Gelato is something that is a natural complement to espresso and coffee. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to offer Gelato or ice cream in a café and indulge in the infinite flavor combinations and menu options that can be created between the two. Affogato is only the tip of the iceberg.

I look forward to offering gelato making classes and integrating Gelato and ice cream into café concepts for customers looking for another revenue driver with zero wastage and a romantic story.

by Jake Leonti

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