Slideshow: Raining red velvet

by Monica Watrous
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KANSAS CITY — Shoppers are seeing red on supermarket shelves as a beloved bakery flavor bleeds into snacks, candy and beverages. In a number of limited-edition items, product developers are venturing to capture the popular red velvet cake flavor, characterized by light cocoa and buttermilk notes with the tangy sweetness of cream cheese frosting.

Red velvet has been a seasonal staple on restaurant menus for several years, as the featured flavor in a cake donut at Krispy Kreme, a latte at Dunkin’ Donuts, a muffin at Tim Hortons, a cookie at Panera Bread, a whoopie pie at Starbucks, and a molten cake sundae at Sonic Drive-In. A red velvet cake cheesecake is offered year-round at The Cheesecake Factory. Dairy Queen has whipped up a red velvet variety of its signature Blizzard ice cream treat, too.

Red velvet isn’t new to the grocery store, either. Within the past few years, General Mills introduced a red velvet cupcake variety under its Yoplait Light yogurt brand, Unilever launched Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake ice cream, and Kellogg Co. added red velvet to its Pop-Tarts roster.

Now more packaged food manufacturers are swooning over the sweet. Mondel─ôz International this week launches Red Velvet Oreo as the latest seasonal flavor in its sandwich cookie arsenal, featuring a pair of ruby-hued wafers filled with cream cheese-flavored crème.

“Red velvet is more seasonal in nature and mostly associated with fall/winter seasons or shown as a limited-edition holiday treat,” said Azeem Mateen, marketing manager for Sensient Sweet Flavors, a unit of Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill. “Its profile fits into the comfort mega trend where… indulgence is keen and nostalgic.

“Moreover, red velvet is warm and inviting in the winter months, which brings that sense of comfort. In all, the success of red velvet in bakery applications has prompted success in other non-traditional categories, like cookies, ice cream, yogurt and chocolates.”

New to the candy aisle this season are Dove Milk Chocolate & Red Velvet Swirl Promises, which are heart-shaped chocolate candies with a swirl of red velvet flavor, from Mars, Inc., which last year introduced M&M’s Milk Chocolate Red Velvet candies for Valentine’s Day. Other new confections include Red Velvet Peeps from Just Born Quality Confections, featuring red marshmallow chicks dipped in cream-flavored fudge, and Brach’s Red Velvet Candy Corn from Ferrara Candy Co.

New snacks featuring the flavor include limited-edition Tastykake Red Velvet Mini Donuts from Flowers Foods, Inc., which coats a red velvet flavored donut in powdered sugar. Hostess Brands has unveiled a limited-edition red velvet variety of Hostess CupCakes, which are frosted red velvet cakes with a creamy filling.

Kellogg recently introduced Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes, which are red shortbread cookies with a light cocoa flavor that are dipped and drizzled with a sweet cream cheese-flavored glaze.

From the Duncan Hines brand, Pinnacle Foods recently debuted a red velvet brownie mix, packaged with a pouch of cream cheese flavored topping. On the success of Duncan Hines Decade red velvet cupcake kit, the brand also has added Holiday Velvets cake mix, tinted red and green, Spring Velvets, featuring yellow and pink cake, Summer Velvets, which are red and blue, and Autumn Velvets, with orange and brown.

Consumers may now have their red velvet cake and drink it, too. Celestial Seasonings, a brand of the Hain Celestial Group, in January introduced a trio of indulgent teas that include a red velvet rooibos variety.

“Red velvet is marketed more visually than other chocolate flavors,” said David Holderman, lead R.&D. at Sensient Sweet Flavors. “There are many other chocolate type flavors that are stronger and more decadent (such as ganache and fudges); however, the name ‘velvet’ entices the consumer to perceive it differently.

“As flavors, it is more of a neutral alkalized light chocolate. The color is what draws the consumer in. It is very different from any normal brown-colored chocolates.”
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