With blizzards having blanketed more than half of the U.S., during the past two weeks, it seems like a good time to start thinking about summer…and ice cream! While most companies are already in production, and some even in distribution, of their summer 2022 rollouts, here’s something to think about as you brainstorm on future innovations.
Research published in the Journal of Dairy Science on Nov. 8, 2021, on “Consumer perception of ice cream and frozen desserts in the ‘better-for-you’ category,” identified labeling and sensory preferences among today’s ice cream consumers.
The research team spearheaded by Lauren Sipple, then a student at North Carolina State University and now a PhD student in food science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted an online survey (n=1,051) of ice cream and frozen dessert consumers, followed by consumer acceptance testing of commercial better-for-you frozen dairy desserts. Consumers of better-for-you frozen desserts (n=578) completed various exercises to identify the attributes that drive purchase of better-for-you frozen desserts. This helped determine the attributes all frozen dessert consumers (n=1,051) perceived to make a frozen dessert better-for-you and which stabilizers or emulsifiers were most attractive on an ice cream or frozen dessert label.
A consumer acceptance test (n=186) was also conducted using four commercial vanilla-flavored frozen dairy desserts made with different sweetening systems (sugar, sucralose and acesulfame K, monk fruit and allulose, and stevia and erythritol). Half of consumers were primed or informed with the sweeteners and basic nutritional information for the frozen desserts before tasting, and the other half of consumers evaluated samples blinded, where they were only informed that they were tasting a vanilla-flavored frozen dessert.
Findings indicate that sweetener type and base (dairy vs. plant) were the most important attributes to better-for-you consumers when selecting a better-for-you frozen dessert (n=578). For all ice cream and better-for-you dessert consumers (n=1,051), sweetener-related claims (naturally sweetened, reduced sugar, no added sugar), along with “all natural” and a short ingredient list, were the top attributes that contributed to perception of a “healthier” frozen dessert.
When better-for-you frozen desserts were tasted by consumers, purchase intent decreased after tasting, suggesting that frozen desserts made with natural non-nutritive sweeteners did not meet consumer expectations. Flavor of better-for-you frozen desserts remains more important than perceived healthiness.
“Consumers perceive frozen desserts, even those in the better-for-you category, as an indulgence,” says Sipple. “Frozen dessert manufacturers should focus on naturally sweetened, dairy-based desserts with minimal sweetener-related flavor defects when designing products for the better-for-you category.”
You can access the entire paper HERE.