Americans are eating less ice cream but are willing to pay more for premium varieties, according to new research from Mintel. Nine in 10 consumers bought frozen treats in the past six months; however, 22% said they are buying less. But while volume sales of ice cream products are declining as mentioned in our previous article, dollar sales are estimated to grow 1.8% over last year to reach $12.6 billion, buoyed by consumer demand for higher-end offerings.
While little opportunity exists to acquire new customers in the universally penetrated frozen treat market, interest in premium and healthy options gives brands the opportunity to offer products that communicate health and wholeness, while also encouraging moderation, which can aid in increasing trials through smaller sizes. Putting a heavy focus on quality, taste and health will resonate with consumers, and emphasizing single-serving packs and messaging around the variety of products should appeal to Americans’ preference for snacking.
The wide range of single-flavor frozen treats and products with unique mix-ins are keeping consumers from becoming bored with the category. The rise of new, trendy flavors speaks to the dual components nostalgia and indulgence play in the market, while internationally-inspired varieties like mochi ice cream and gelato are succeeding in flavor and format. For more traditional offerings, mix-ins can give treats an added boost, with fruit and nut additions potentially alluring health-focused consumers.
Forty-three per cent of consumers purchased gelato, up from 39% last year. Aside from a dip in sales from 2011 to 2013, the segment is experiencing growth, though the growth has slowed in the past year. Retail sales of gelato and gelato-based novelties increased an estimated 32% over last year, compared with increases of 42% from 2014 to 2015 and 247% from 2013 to 2014. New gelato product launches fell 8 percentage points from 2015 to 2016 to 9%, Mintel research said.
Sales of ice cream and frozen novelties have kept up despite declining interest thanks to innovative new product development and continued interest in gelato. However, gelato may be nearing its peak, as sales increases and new product launches are in decline compared to recent years. It’s possible that gelato is going the way of Greek yogurt, and losing a little of its luster. That said, we predict that gelato will remain relatively popular as it carries strong appeal for indulgence and satisfaction, and delivers the cues of a premium product.