Part 1: Ice Cream and Gelato Trends

What are the flavor trends that have emerged from the top QSR Frozen Dessert establishments?

Ice Cream flavor offerings rose whopping 28 percent at leading U.S. frozen dessert concepts in 2013 versus 2012; of the 19 chains from whom we gathered data, the number of ice cream concepts went from 196 to 248. 

The chains are not afraid to experiment and they are not afraid to combine flavors into more adult and more sophisticated combinations. For example, in 2013 Ben & Jerry’s introduced “Coffee Caramel Buzz,” which  featured Coffee Malt ice cream with whiskey caramel swirls and English toffee pieces.

However, that is not to say that traditional flavor selections are passé. In the ice cream category, Chocolate continued as the most common flavor on frozen dessert ice cream menus in 2013, logically followed by vanilla, fudge (which technically might suggest a chocolate variant), strawberry and caramel.

Interesting, year-to-year, 2013 versus 2012, the order did not change, but it should be noted that ice cream Chocolate and Vanilla where not close; menu flavor mentions of Chocolate were 58 nationwide for 2013 as opposed to 31 for Vanilla.

What we found quite interesting were the “Fastest-Growing Menu Flavor Mentions” on ice cream offerings. Product development teams should take a much closer look at this. The fastest growing flavor menu mentions (in order) were: blueberry, vanilla bean, almond, peanut and banana. Note the connection between many of the popular health messages and these flavors. This bears market research to determine if other healthy food products might translate into future flavors. Maybe not so amazing is that there are now vegetable ice creams!

Leading Brands in Ice Cream

Also of interest is the inclusion of popular brands into ice cream concepts, certainly suggesting a synergy. In 2013, far and away Oreo remained the leading brand mentioned on ice cream menus at seven of the leading frozen dessert concepts; Oreo was followed by Heath, Reeses, Teddy Grahams and Snickers. Heath was mentioned by name at two concepts while all others were at one. Nevertheless, cookie flavors and confection continue to help push frozen dessert sales.

An example of a partnership in 2013 included the Carvel chain, which partnered with Oreo to introduce a new variety of ice cream treats; these treats included:  Classic Oreo, Cappuccino Oreo, Mint Oreo and Peanut Butter Oreo cookie pieces.

Interesting Ice Cream Promotions

2013 saw a continuation of combining more sophisticated flavors to broaden appeal. For example, Dairy Queen offered “Choco Covered Cheesecake” as its Blizzard of the Month for September. The treat blended cheesecake pieces, cocoa fudge and chocolate chunks with vanilla soft serve. Reflecting back on the top flavor trends, we see fudge and chocolate combined along with the more sophisticated taste of cheesecake.

Baskin Robins unveiled a summer 2013 menu lineup going for popular natural fruits combined with standards for example Watermelon Chip, watermelon-flavored ice with “seeds” made of real chocolate and Pineapple Coconut, reduced-fat pineapple-coconut ice cream with chunks of pineapple.

The frozen dessert ice cream category continues to show a flavor explosion with no signs of letting up. The Frozen Dessert Chains are studying far-reaching and unexpected trends throughout the food and beverage industry to create new products.

Check back next week for part 2!

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