Karam Takes Cold Stone Into New Territory

Karam Takes Cold Stone Into New Territory

Food & Drink

Karam Takes Cold Stone Into New Territory

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There are some irrefutable facts of food. Oil and water don’t mix. Tomatoes are a fruit. Ice cream melts.

But wait. Enter Ray Karam, Tastemaster for Cold Stone Creamery. Karam, a food scientist whose training is in biology and chemistry, has put his knowledge to work in order to change your ice cream experience. He’s the one who thought up the Green Apple Gummy Bear sorbet – more than a mix in, he introduced a stabilizer to allow the sorbet to actually be gummy. He’s the one who looked at marshmallows and thought, ‘What if ice cream had that ‘chew’ to it?,’ and then made a ice cream to match.

Karam has taken ice cream creations into the world of molecular gastronomy by playing with the texture and mouth feel as much as with the flavors. His newest creation, introduced in stores this week, combines two of America’s most popular desserts in partnership with JELL-O®.

So, what do you get when you combine pudding with ice cream? That’s right. Ice cream that doesn’t melt.

The Food Channel’s Top Ten Trends in Dessert lists ice cream as one of the biggest trends. Ice cream is becoming the star of the show, not just a topper. And, novelties and unusual experiences in ice cream are big news. That’s why we sat up and took notice when we heard about Karam’s latest idea.

Last year, while Karam was brainstorming flavors and ideas, he put the Web to work. ‘I was spending some time on the Kraft® Foodservice Web site, and I saw the institutional packages of pudding. I went, ‘There it is!’ I called our local rep and asked for samples. She sent me every flavor!’

That’s when his training kicked in. ‘I’ve been in the ice cream and dairy foods business for 31 years, working for Carnation, then Nestle,’ he says. ‘I started as a night microbiology tech. I moved through Quality Control and finally became an Assistant Production Manager. All along the way I loved the ice cream part of the business.’ He firmed up his commitment by going back to school for a graduate degree in Food Science.

Karam landed at Cold Stone seven years ago, and says, ‘I pestered them into giving me a job because they didn’t have anybody like me. I was a customer before I worked here – there was one in my neighborhood. I loved the idea that you can go in and customize; you aren’t limited to the grocery store flavors.’

And customize is exactly what Karam continued to do. ‘I get my inspiration from wherever. I’ve done nacho cheese ice cream, beer ice cream, pickles and ice cream in honor of pregnant co-worker.’ Do any of his combinations go bust? ‘Sure,’ he says. ‘Coke and popcorn – don’t try to put them together into ice cream! They turn very bitter.’

The pudding idea, however, has had a sweet reception. He says, ‘I used our sweet cream in place of the milk requirement and scaled it up to our larger batch sizes. Lo and behold, once we froze it you get this classic JELL-O pudding flavor, and along with it you get this pudding chew to it that’s outstanding. A double whammy! The cool thing about this is when it melts it doesn’t go back to liquid, it goes back to pudding.’ And a new product was born.

‘It actually surprised me a little bit,’ he says. ‘I thought it would get much softer.’ Karam also calls the idea ‘unprecedented in the ice cream world,’ adding, ‘I can’t say enough about it. I think it’s delicious. Everyone has been overwhelmed with it. It’s a real treat to see people’s eyes light up when they taste it.’

Actually Karam points to an earlier Kraft foods product, the JELL-O® pudding pop, as a precursor to the Cold Stone idea. ‘Some of the Kraft people remembered that they had made a chocolate pudding pop to mimic the JELL-O pudding on a stick. But no one’s done it as an ice cream shop flavor before. And this is even better, because the final product has the Cold Stone proprietary mix ins,’ he adds.

Nancy Rusconi, Chain Account Manager, Kraft Foodservice says, “We have a special partnership with Cold Stone, one that dates back a number of years with OREO. Cold Stone is constantly looking for innovative creations that combine ice cream with tasty mix-ins to create new to the world flavor experiences. And we feel our work with Cold Stone Creamery in the development of JELL-O Pudding Ice Cream Creations was truly a collaborative one. We worked closely with Cold Stone to test ideas and flavor combinations that would meet Cold Stone lovers’ quest for the ultimate ice cream experience.

The product is now available nationwide in two of JELL-O’s most popular flavors initially, chocolate and butterscotch (some stores will also offer vanilla and banana). ‘Butterscotch has been missing from ice cream for quite a while, and this delivers,’ he says. ‘It may be a bit of an old fashioned flavor, but young people love it.’

For a limited time, consumers can visit the kraftfoods.com to receive $1 off the new JELL-O Pudding Ice Cream Creationâ„¢ when they join the Birthday Club.

Karam says, ‘Kraft is a fantastic company. When they like something, they go whole hog. And they really loved the product. Nobody else in the world will have it.’ The product is in stores now as a summer flavor, just through July 28, but Karam says, ‘I’m hoping it will go long term. If it goes really well, our franchisees will request it become permanent.’

The food scientist is well aware of dessert trends – after all, one of his earlier creations was the Cold Stone Cupcake, which starts with a Belgian chocolate shell, filled with cake, then caramel, then ice cream, and topped with frosting. ‘I’m hoping to create a trend by doing these texture changes,’ he says. ‘I know people are watching. I want to set the trends – I don’t want to follow trends. I want to stay ahead of that curve – it’s my mission in life.’

Also see our story and video from debut day by clicking here.

Try these recipes using the new Cold Stone/JELLO-O Pudding Ice Cream:

Chocolate Pudding Trifle
Butterscotch Pudding Trifle
Puddin’ Cookie Sandwiches
Pudding Pops

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