“Consumers are interested in a variety of trends such as indulgent ice cream flavors and premium ingredients. The counter trend is healthier, better-for-you, and better-for-the-planet non-dairy ice cream alternatives. Nostalgia runs deep, and ice cream is a childhood favorite that checks the box for comfort foods.”
The ice cream market isn’t cooling, as better-for-you offerings gain ground
While ice cream is now appreciated year-round, the summer remains crucial for sales and product introduction, as consumers head outdoors for gatherings and warmer weather. Nearly 60% of all ice cream is produced in July, followed by June and May, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.
The global ice cream market was valued at $79bn in 2021 and is expected to grow by a 4.2% CAGR from 2022 to 2030, due in part to innovative flavors and as health-conscious consumers demand better-for-you options, including dairy-free and vegan ice creams, according to Grandview Research. Additionally, the vegan segment is expected to grow at an accelerated 9% CAGR during the same period.
“Like other categories, better-for-you ice cream and plant-based non-dairy products are going strong. They are following suit with the alt milk and creamer space,” Marks-McGee said.
On the non-dairy side, ice cream maker Breyers' released an oat milk version of its vanilla ice cream with sustainably sourced vanilla, and climate-conscious ice cream brand Alec’s Ice Cream, which is created with certified regenerative organic A2 dairy and carbon-neutral regenerative cane sugar, expanded into Whole Foods Market nationwide, Marks-McGee said.
Collaborations, savory flavors add a twist
Beyond non-dairy ice creams, consumers increasingly want bolder and unique ice cream flavors with limited-time offerings, often in the form of brand collaborations, Marks-McGee said.
“Collaborations are a popular way to garner attention and test limited edition flavors. Savory ice creams are in fashion and because of their novelty, consumers appear to be engaged. Van Leeuwen is at it again and has teamed up with Hidden Valley on a Hidden Valley Ranch ice cream flavor.”
On the savory side, "Jeni’s has brought back its Everything Bagel flavor for a limited time" that includes a streusel with sesame, poppy seeds, onion, garlic, and sweet cream flavors, Marks-McGee said. Then on the sweet side, Häagen-Dazs collaborated with pastry chef Pierre Hermé on a range of summer ice cream flavors, which include Double Chocolate Ganache, Strawberry and Raspberry, and Yuzu and Lemon.
Ice cream sandwiches reimagined
And while gallons and pints remain popular formats, "ice cream sandwiches are being reinterpreted,” Marks-McGee explained.
Ben & Jerry's latest ice cream sandwich "features vanilla ice cream, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls," while Entenmann's released a line of ice cream sandwiches at Walmart that include Brownie Cookie Salted Caramel, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Chocolate Chip & Brownie Cookie, Chocolatey Glazed Cookie Donut Chocolate, Chocolatey Glazed Cookie Donut Salted Caramel, and Glazed Cookie Donut flavors.
And collaborations are finding their way into ice cream sandwiches with Blue Bunny partnering with Stuffed Puffs Filled marshmallows for ice cream sandwiches, including Classic S’mores and Salted Caramel S’mores, “which are sandwiched between graham cracker-like cookies,” Marks-McGee explained. Additionally, Blue Bunny and Stuffed Puffed collaborated on a line of frozen Scoopables that came in Birthday Cake, Cookies N’ and Crème, and S’mores flavors
While ice cream sandwiches are a convenient way for many consumers to get their ice cream fix, “ice cream minis are a recent format made for snacking,” Marks-McGee said. Blue Bunny added Chocolate Cookie Crumble, Strawberry Shortcake, and Vanilla Caramel Crunch flavors to its Mini Bars line, and Talenti Mini are now available in Alphonso Mango Sorbetto, Dark Chocolate Gelato, Roman Raspberry Sorbetto, and Vanilla Caramel flavors.
Trends to watch: From Fruit Roll-Up shells to DIY ice cream
Several recent TikTok ice cream trends and upcoming launches might provide further inspiration for CPG brands to innovate around flavor, texture, and format. The cottage cheese ice cream trend "is supposed to be a better-for-you ice cream that is high in protein and lower in calories," Marks-McGee said.
Consumers are also using Fruit Roll-Ups to create an ice cream shell for an "interesting texture and taste," she said. "The Fruit Roll-Up ice cream uses a flattened Fruit Roll-Up as the base that has a scoop of ice cream in the middle, [and] then the Fruit Roll-Up is folded tightly around the ice cream," she added.
Products like True Scoops’ upcoming DIY ice cream mixes are letting consumers “make homemade ice cream by adding half and half,” Marks-McGee said. The line of mixes is currently available in Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla Bean, and True Scoops offers a line of topping mixes in Hot Fudge Sauce and Salted Butterscotch.