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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Flavoursome future for ice cream
By Claire Foy-Smith
BBC News Online

As ice cream lovers celebrate 100 years of the humble cone, BBC News Online asks what does the future hold for Britain's favourite summer treat.

Horseflesh, cow-tongue and garlic are the ice-cream flavours of the month as temperatures soar in Tokyo.

Even in deepest Berkshire, crab and sardine varieties are wowing the critics.

Child eating ice cream
Some ice cream fans opt for the tub

It may be all change for the flavours but the shape is safe at least, according to Design Museum curator Libby Sellers.

"The conical shape has triumphed," she told BBC News Online.

"It is the perfect, most reduced form it could be - a curled piece of waffle which acts as a container. And vendors can have them stacked a hundred-high.

Chocolate stopper

"I wouldn't change it. I am sure there will be attempts, but if it ain't broke...."

Even the chocolate stopper found in posher cones serves a greater purpose than being a "nice treat".

"It probably does spare the bottom, the tip of the cone from falling out. It is another cold surface which the ice cream can't penetrate," she says.

Ice cream cone
The conical shape has triumphed
Libby Sellers
Design Museum

In 1904, at the St Louis World's Fair, Syrian entrepreneur Ernest E Hamwi passed a waffle to a neighbouring vendor who had run short of dishes.

Others also lay claim to inventing it, but the ice-cream man rolled it up and the cone was born.

The past 100 years has seen a few tweaks to a design which "does get soggy, does drip and, for the novice, you could find your whole scoop on your shoes," Miss Sellers admits.

1930s sophistication saw the introduction of the "dripless cake cone" - a larger bowl-shape which allowed the dessert to "sit in the bottom rather than nestle on the top".

And paper aprons - a "glorified napkin" to catch wayward drips, followed them to the dustbin.

As for the future, Miss Sellers hopes ice cream-lovers will resist some advertisers' attempts to turn enjoying the dessert "into the dance of the seven veils".

"It is not meant to be that serious. It is about enjoying the moment - not about what it might lead to in a sexual way."

"Eating ice cream is very emotive. Yes, there are a gazillion other ways to eat it but you put a scoop in a cone and it brings back all those childhood memories," she says.

Savour the flavour

For some ice-cream makers the future is a savoury one.

Toyko's Ice Cream City is offering flavours like octopus and shrimp, alongside vegetarian soybean and kelp options for summer.

At the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, three times Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal is serving up crab and sardines-on-toast flavours.

The concept - while diners would recoil from crab ice cream, a 'frozen crab bisque' is eaten without fuss.

If you can separate the idea of ice cream from dessert, the barrier to savoury ones comes down, he believes.

Policemen and an ice cream van
It can take more than willpower to stay off the ice cream

The trend is not confined to fine dining but could extend to family staples.

Unilever, which has Walls and Ben & Jerry's under its brand umbrella, has invested cash researching fast food flavours like cheese and chilli.

But it is old favourites, vanilla, mint choc chip and rum and raisin that endure for traditional ice-cream maker Bibi Morelli.

Her great, great grandfather served only vanilla when he arrived in the UK around the time that first cone was rolled.

Now a Broadstairs seaside parlour and Harrods outlet command a 50-flavour range. Traditional ones top the popularity list and there is "Zabaglione and Tiramisu for the more adventurous".

The new Atkins?

Alcoholic ice-creams will be popular in the future, she predicts - banana and malibu, lemon and vodka sorbet and mango mohitos are in the company's bespoke range.

"They are good for parties because it's almost like a drink dessert," she says.

There is also a move towards "healthy ice cream".

Dairy and fat free varieties and good quality ingredients for those who worry "not in terms of calories, but in getting something natural and fresh".

And, for fad diet fans who cannot resist the drip-drip allure of frozen fancies, Morelli's gelatiere Gino Soldan has a diet book - a balanced, calorie-controlled plan, made just from ice cream.

It is safely hidden at home in Italy but he plans to unleash it on the UK market - perhaps heralding a future where ice cream is the new Atkins?

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