It’s never really been a rocky road for ice cream at retail, despite economic downturns and competition from other sweet treats. Ice cream remains the leading frozen treat at market, representing 54 percent of sales in 2013, according to Mintel.
That said, the popular category does have an encroaching challenger: frozen yogurt. Today’s fro-yo is the real deal, made with all-natural flavors and ingredients – unlike the artificial version we saw in 1980s and ’90s shopping malls – and an increasing share of it is Greek (style). Mintel research shows that frozen yogurt sales saw a 74 percent increase between 2011 and 2013, compared to a 3.9 percent rise for ice cream. The frozen yogurt spike is likely due to new product releases spurred by consumer interest in health and the popularity of yogurt offerings in the foodservice arena.
Still, consumers of all ages continue to scream for ice cream, which is consumed in 89 percent of American households, Mintel reports. It’s no wonder there’s an entire month (July) dedicated to its celebration. While chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are mainstays, flavors from other desserts – even the names of other desserts – are popping up in product formulations. Maybe it’s like having two desserts.
A few years back, Red Velvet Cake stormed out of the South like General Lee, conquering Northern dinner parties and even weddings. Blue Bunny Ice Cream, a brand of Wells Enterprises of LeMars, Iowa, in 2011 introduced a red velvet cake flavor of ice cream that became a centerpiece of its Duff Goldman line of cake-inspired ice creams.
TV baker Jeffrey “Duff” Goldman, owner of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes and star of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, helped develop them, and his face appears on the cartons. Also in the line are Carrot Cake, Triple Chocolate Cake, Strawberry Shortcake and Wedding Cake (each has a much longer name). Those are all in the 1.75-quart containers. Available only in pints, is Cup O’ Coffee Cake. Recently added was Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae.
Edy’s, a Nestle brand, this year came out with limited-edition flavors such as Summer in the City (New York-style) Cheesecake and German Chocolate Cake Spectacular.
Breyers’ limited-edition flavor of the season is Summer Berry Cobbler, a blend of black raspberry and sweet strawberry flavors and cinnamon biscuit pieces. In addition, the Unilever brand has a new line called Gelato Indulgences, “a trio of textures in four indulgent varieties: Vanilla Caramel, Raspberry Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Triple Chocolate.”
Häagen-Dazs, which is produced by Nestle, also has unveiled a gelato line with Tiramisu, as well as other flavors less Italian and less dessert-inspired. Its Limited Edition line includes Midnight Cookies & Cream, Peanut Butter Pie and Bourbon Pecan Praline.
Ben & Jerry’s (also owned by Unilever) seems to have long been a fan of dessert-inspired flavors. Everybody has a cookie dough; Ben & Jerry’s has that flavor plus Cake Batter. B&J has a long line of double-desserts including Blueberry Cheesecake, Boston Cream Pie, Cheesecake Brownie, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cinnamon Buns, Peach Cobbler, S’Mores, Strawberry Cheesecake, Strawberry Shortcake and (in scoop shops only) Candy Bar Pie. New introductions include Turtle Cheesecake and Lazy Sunday (vanilla cake batter with chocolate and vanilla cupcake pieces and a chocolate frosting swirl).
Another trend is combining salty or savory with sweet flavors in ice creams and other frozen desserts. Small-batch purveyors are testing flavors such as Sweet Potato Pie and Dutch Apple Crumble. Salt & Straw is a Portland, Ore., creamery that Oprah put on the map when she featured it in her magazine (Huffington Post, GQ and Martha Stewart Living also are fans). Its Strawberry with Cilantro Lime Cheesecake looks tame compared to the rest of its flavor board: Summer Cucumber & Raspberry Sorbet, Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero and Black Raspberries & Smoked Ham.