Balchem Variegate Technology

Swirls of thick fudge, spirals of tart raspberry, and crunchy bits of caramel covered peanuts. These sensory igniting elements are referred to as variegates. They’re folded into layers of creamy ice cream and consumed by millions of frozen dessert lovers every single day. 

High quality variegates can be the difference between a frozen treat that is nice to indulge in once in a while and a freezer necessity in every household. Ours are specifically engineered to boost flavor, provide interesting texture components, and enhance the eye appeal of your products. The proof is in the pudding… or should we say the fudge.

What Are Variegates?

The meaning of the word “variegate” is simply to change in appearance. In the food industry, Variegates (also referred to as ribbons, ribbonettes, swirls, sauces, spirals, revels, etc.), are textured flavor dimensions primarily used in ice cream. There are a few different types including water-based, emulsion-based, and oil-based. The type that you choose depends on the desired flavor and texture of your ice cream.

Variegates 101

How Are They Added?

Variegates can be blended into ice cream prior to filling by using a variegating pump or by using a stationary or spinner head. Heads offer flexibility by offering various sizes and tube quantities for distribution. You can also achieve various patterns, depending on the equipment.

Water-Based Variegates

Water-Based variegates are stabilized sugar syrups with fruits, cocoa, flavorings, and/or colors added. The mainstream flavors that you’re probably most familiar with are strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, caramel & chocolate. If you’re looking for something a little more outside the box with a tropical twist, there’s also mango, pomegranate, guava & kiwi variegates.

Advantages And Challenges Of Water-Based Variegates:

Water-based variegates are known for being the easiest to handle and control. Most of them can be refrigerated and have a smooth texture. The nozzle can also be primed with variegate prior to starting the ice cream freezer which assists with productivity.

The only challenge with water-based variegates is that they’re limited to soft particulates such as fruit puree, seeds, nuts, and coconut flakes.

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Emulsion Based

Emulsion Based Variegates are often more premium – Oil-in-Water or Water-in-Oil. The mainstream flavors for these types of variegates include caramels and dulce de leche. There are also unique flavor blends available such as mocha and chocolate peanut butter. It can include particulates, depending on the viscosity of emulsion and nozzle size.

Advantages And Challenges Of Emulsion Based Variegates

Emulsion based variegates can provide more premium textures and flavors such as a hot fudge texture and creamy textures. They can also have soft particulates and many of them can be used refrigerated. 

These variegates can present challenges in production due to the fact that most require refrigerated storage and some may require tempering before use. They may also require large nozzle sizes to handle added particulates.

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Oil Based

Oil Based are blends of oil, sugar and other solids – with flavor and colors added. They may also contain textured bits called particulates. The most widely used flavors for these types of variegates include chocolate and butter vanillas. Fruit and Caramel flavors are available but rely heavily on flavors rather than fruit and milk. 

Advantages And Challenges of Oil Based Variegates

Oil-based add unique textures to ice cream and can have larger particulates that can be added depending on nozzle size. Some of these larger particulates include:

  • Cookie, Cracker and Pretzel Crumbs
  • Rice Crisps
  • Seeds
  • Sugar, Citric Acid or Salt Crystals

Oil Based can be the most challenging to store, handle and control in-use. Few can be used refrigerated and nearly always require special start-up procedures. They also usually require tempering before use and can separate if stored at ambient or above for any length of time. 

It’s important to maintain continuous flow to the nozzle at all times during the run and the nozzle cannot be primed with variegate prior to starting ice cream freezer. Oil purging of the pipes and pumps may be required to eliminate water (using oil compatible with variegate labeling). Feel free to reach out to us if you have any variegate handling or equipment questions.

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Variegate Viscosity

Water-based and emulsion-based can use similar stabilization systems including starches, gums, pectin, and a variety of combinations of these. Emulsion based can also use homogenization as another means of creating viscosity in addition to or in place of the stabilizers listed above. Emulsion based may also require tempering based on fat content. 

Fat or oil-based has no water which means they cannot rely on stabilizers for viscosity. This means that their viscosity is controlled by the types of fats/oils used along with the appropriate level of other solids like cocoas, sugars, etc. Fat based may require extra care in use as they may need to be tempered to facilitate flow, lines, and pumps need to be flushed with oil and feed lines may need to be heat traced in order to assure a consistent flow into the ice cream.

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