Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Health conscious frozen desserts breathe new life into a stagnant category

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Health conscious frozen desserts breathe new life into a stagnant category

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As the dog days of summer drag on, people nationwide are reaching for frozen desserts to help stay cool, but unlike in the past when the promise of providing a moment’s respite from the heat in the form of a sweet treat was enough to land a product in someone’s shopping cart, now consumers are looking for more.

Americans’ ongoing focus on health and wellness means even frozen desserts need to offer a benefit – and manufacturers are responding with myriad options, including with products that are low- or no-sugar, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high protein, plant-based, packed with probiotics or superfoods, portion-controlled – whew! – the list goes on.

Needless to say while this laundry list of attributes offers a lot of potential, it also is generating a lot of competition in a category that as a while has been pretty stagnant in recent years. So, where should manufacturers’ focus their attention to ensure initial and repeat purchase? What else can they do to breathe new life into the category? And how can they stay ahead of the competition?

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, we tackle these questions and more with help from two innovative frontrunners in the frozen novelties category: Michael Shoretz, the founder and CEO of Enlightened, and David Greenfeld, the founder of the startup Dream Pops.

Wanted: Healthy dessert

Ice cream and frozen desserts have a well-deserved reputation for being thought of as indulgent and a special treat given the high amounts of fat and sugar in traditional offerings. But, as the consumer market research firm Packaged Facts notes, “today’s ice cream has the potential to offer much more by adding much less.”

In Packaged Fact’s 9th​ edition of its Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts report released in 2017, the research group points out that more than 85% of US households buy ice cream or sherbet, but that as consumers increasingly worry about how what they eat is impacting their health they are either scaling back on frozen treats, or looking for alternatives that are better-for-them.

This was the exact experience that prompted Dream Pops Founder David Greenfeld to create his line of plant-based, low-calorie frozen pops back in 2016.

“I have a pretty ridiculous sweet tooth ….[and] I really started to think a lot about what I was consuming on a daily basis and started to get a little bit more conscious about my daily habits and food consumption. And so I started to trade away from a lot of these sugar heavy, dairy heavy, high fat products,”​ Greenfeld said.

But when he went to the store, he couldn’t find alternatives that met his health and taste demands, he said.

After doing some research and talking with colleagues and friends, Greenfeld said he realized the next wave of innovation in frozen dessert would be plant-based, which he saw was growing 20-30% year-over-year and is estimated at a $4 billion market.

With this in mind, Greenfeld crafted Dream Pops with a coconut milk base – but he didn’t stop there. He also added superfoods and adaptogens to give consumers additional health benefits.

What is inside Dream Pops isn’t the only thing that makes them unique – their size and shape also help them stand out on shelf, and helping to expand frozen novelties’ usage occasions.

The pops are geometrically shaped to fit perfectly in consumers’ mouths, and they are smaller than the average frozen dessert at just 100 calories – making them ideal for snacks.

Because the products are frozen with liquid nitrogen, they  have a smaller ice crystal, which means they melt more slowly than most frozen desserts – reinforcing the idea that they are an on-the-go treat.

Expanding the target audience

Just as Dream Pops is expanding how consumers can enjoy frozen treats, the more mature better-for-you brand Enlightened Ice Cream is expanding who​ can enjoy frozen desserts with the launch earlier this week of its Keto Collection.

Company founder and CEO Michael Shoretz says the progression of the better-for-you movement to ice cream and frozen desserts has opened up a lot of room for innovation and growth within a very mature category – especially for companies that recognize ‘healthy’ means different things to many different people.

He explained that the list of ingredients to avoid and diets to follow is constantly evolving and as such creating new consumer demands. A key example, is the fast growing high-fat, low-carb Ketogenetic diet that has taken the US by storm in a few short years and which served as the inspiration for Enlightened’s launch this week of a Keto Collection.

The collection includes seven pints and four bars – each serving of which has less than 1 gram of sugar and only 1 gram net carbs. Plus, the company notes it is made with real cream to deliver the high-fat that is needed to help maintain ketosis on the diet.

“Instead of using sugar, which is typically the second or third ingredient in ice cream, we chose to use monkfruit and erythritol, which is the same sweetener system we use in our traditional core line of ice cream,”​ he added.

While a lot of brands across categories are hopping on the keto trend, Shoretz said this line isn’t about making a fast buck. Rather, it is about responding to consumer demand.

“We noticed a rapid rise in the request for a keto option or a very low carb options form our consumer base,”​ and so the company responded with a  whirlwind innovation to production period that was compressed from the first quarter of 2019 to distribution in more than 8,000 by the end of the forth quarter, he said.

Small innovations can have a big impact

While both Enlightened and Dream Pops are breaking the frozen dessert mold in a major way, Shoretz notes that not all innovation needs to be big and flashy to make a meaningful difference to consumers and have an impact on the category.

“One aspect of innovation and growth that isn’t often talked about, but I think is really critical to continued success is iteration – improvement of current products. So, it’s not just always about coming out with some thing new, which is exciting and can get headlines, but just as important I think is finding small ways to make your current products better,”​ he said.

For example, Enlightened improved the formula for its scoopable ice cream after consumers complained it was too hard when they took it out of the freezer. The changes made it more enjoyable and a better product, which in turn made consumers more loyal.

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