Ice Cream and Frozen Novelties: Overcoming the Challenges

It is an odd fact to isolate from the mounds of data in this multi-billion dollar category, but we must keep in mind that 19 percent of all consumers we interviewed are now buying less frozen desserts because they perceive them to be unhealthy.

Overall, the category has been relatively flat. In terms of dollar sales, between 2010 and 2015, the sales went from $11.2 billion to $12.2 billion, which is about a 10 percent gain, however, volume has been declining.

The dominant item in frozen desserts remains ice cream, at 53.4 percent of total sales, but the rising star is gelato. When we questioned consumers in 2014, 23 percent reported buying gelato, yet by July 2015, 39 percent reported buying gelato. Though ice cream and frozen yogurts are well-established, gelato has only a 25 percent penetration so there is much room to grow. Gelato is one of the shining items in the category as sherbets and sorbets, yogurt and dairy alternatives have fallen by about 11 percent.

CLICK HERE to view Part 3: Dessert Explosion at LSR's

Ice cream is perceived by 61 percent of consumers as having the best flavor. Far and away, single flavor ice creams are the most purchased at 50 percent with ice cream flavored with mix-ins such as nuts, fruit, cake-bits and caramel swirl checking in at 38 percent of sales.

Two interesting trends we might mention for frozen desserts: there is a significant drop-off in consumer demand for “all-natural” but a sharp increase in the demand for hormone-free frozen dairy products.

Frozen in Foodservice

Frozen desserts in foodservice represent one of the bright spots for the frozen dairy category. Ice cream/gelato has shown itself to be the darling of finer dining with a 79 percent penetration in fine dining establishments and 71 percent in casual dining establishments. As we go from mid-scale to QSR to fast casual, the numbers keep dropping. Diners at high end restaurants are inclined to share dishes of ice cream and gelato as sweet indulgences.

Not surprisingly, the top ingredients served at foodservice with ice cream/gelato are fudge, whipped cream and caramel. However, of greater interest are some of the fastest growing flavor combinations served with ice cream/gelato. These include “tea,” amaretto, Valhona (dark chocolate) sauce, blood orange sauce and peppermint.

CLICK HERE to view Part 2: Bakery Dessert Trends

The fastest growing ice cream/gelato flavors are surprising. Peppermint dominates this classification in the Northeast, South and Midwest, while the West is even more surprising with watermelon flavor.

Of all frozen desserts offered on foodservice menus, the top three flavors are vanilla, chocolate and strawberry at 32, 29 and 17 percent respectively, but also in that top category are brownie, fudge and chocolate chip, making chocolate variations far and away the most popular.

What are the new flavors that dessert chefs have placed on menus? In terms of introductions, the most popular are pistachio, espresso and dark chocolate. Across all operators, as a new mainstream flavor, we are seeing more cinnamon. Mature flavors of frozen desserts found on menus in all foodservice venues once again show a domination of chocolate. Vanilla concepts appear on 73 percent of menus, while chocolate registers 71 percent, then strawberry. In the top flavors, we see fudge and brownie.

Milkshakes in Foodservice

From 2010 to 2015, milkshakes have declined on foodservice menus by 5 percent.  Milkshakes have their deepest penetration in foodservice with mid-scale operators on 43 percent of all menus, about twice that of QSR venues. Of note to milkshakes are its fastest growing flavors including root beer, peach, raspberry, pineapple and coconut. Other unique new flavors include chocolate-peanut butter, chocolate-hazelnut and buttermilk.

CLICK HERE to view Part 1: Chocolate Rocks!

Across all regions, the fastest growing flavor in milkshakes is raspberry. While the classic flavors, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry still dominate, there is a concerted effort to keep this ice cream dessert concept fresh with unique and unexpected flavors.

Foodservice, with innovative flavors and the emergence of gelato, may prove to be the saving grace to this category of desserts.

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