Product Focus: Ice Cream Trends

Innovation in frozen desserts is making frozen treats more popular. In this month's product focus, we're taking a closer look at ice cream trends.

Ice Cream SalesPackaged Facts estimates the market for all ice cream and frozen dessert sales, including packaged ice cream and frozen novelties sold through retail channels and ice cream purchased at foodservice outlets, was about $28 billion in 2016. This figure includes $12.3 billion on the retail side and $15.7 billion from foodservice. Total ice cream and frozen dessert sales are projected to approach $30 billion by 2020. Retail dollar sales are projected to reach almost $13 billion while foodservice will surpass $16.3 billion.

The Packaged Facts report states that forces currently shaping the ice cream market are likely to be the same ones that will determine its direction through the next several years. These include the introduction of products that fit within the “free-from” trend in the food and beverage industry in general; an increase in gelato and superpremium ice cream introductions and sales; reduced sales of packaged frozen yogurts; and more variations on already popular flavors. In addition, the market will continue to see new packaged ice cream and frozen dessert products emerging that feature successful local or regional foodservice brands.

“Recent innovation in frozen desserts is all about re-interpreting conventions,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. “It’s combining old-fashioned themes with on-trend ingredients, blending sweet flavors with savory, shifting from diet products to those with nutritional and functional benefits.

“Until recently, claims of ‘low-fat’ and ‘fewer calories’ were the main better-for-you product positioning, but now the focus is evolving to getting more nutrition from every calorie you consume,” he says. “Among the nutritional virtues today’s consumers are seeking in snack and dessert products are protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, probiotics/prebiotics and natural sweeteners.”

“Ice cream and frozen novelties remain among the top 10 food categories in supermarkets. More than 85 percent of U.S. households use ice cream or sherbet. And despite the maturity of the ice cream market, a lot is happening in terms of new product innovation,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Small Batch Gelato

Family-owned Cedar Crest Specialties Inc. rolls out seven flavors of authentic Italian-style gelato made in small batches using fresh, local Wisconsin milk. Packed in pint containers, the seven flavors are: Coffee Caramel (coffee gelato blended with swirls of caramel and dark chocolate almonds), Hazelnut (hazelnut gelato with dark chocolate chunks), Mint Cookie (white mint gelato with chocolate cookie pieces), Peanut Butter (peanut butter gelato with sea salt caramel ribbon and fudge-covered peanuts), Pistachio, Sea Salt Caramel and Vanilla Bean.

A Dessert in a Dessert

Graeter’s Manufacturing Co. makes its ice creams in 2.5-gallon French pot freezers. The small-batch then gets hand-paddled into pint containers. The family-owned dairy’s most recent flavor is Strawberry Cheesecake, which features a cheesecake base with sliced strawberries and large pieces of buttery graham cracker crust. Last year, the company rolled out Cheese Crown ice cream, which is based on the namesake Danish. The ice cream is a rich cream cheese base swirled with crunchy cinnamon pastry pieces and fondant icing flakes.

Multi-Texture Gelato

Unilever grows the Breyers Gelato Indulgences line, which launched in 2014 with its trio of features: creamy gelato, luscious sauce and gourmet toppings. This summer there are three new indulgent flavors. Cookie Dough is a combination of sweet cream gelato paired with a rich fudge swirl and gourmet chocolate chip cookie dough pieces. Pistachio Biscotti features pistachio-flavored gelato with a rich pistachio swirl and gourmet biscotti crumble for a pistachio lover’s dream come true. Cinnamon Roll blends creamy vanilla-cinnamon gelato with indulgent cinnamon sugar and a gourmet baked cinnamon topping.

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