Ice cream has become a go-to snack for the growing number of consumers who are snacking throughout the day. Single-serve frozen novelties provide permission to indulge, according to numerous trend presentations made at Sweets & Snacks Expo held May 22-25, 2023, in Chicago.
While unit sales of all ice cream are down, dollar sales are up, which makes sense during these inflationary times. But the growth in dollar sales is not only about higher prices, it’s also about consumers splurging on premium ice cream treats.
“Indulgence is winning,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader at Circana during a presentation on snacking trends.
A new report from Market Research Future projects the artisanal ice cream market will grow 4.2% annually from now until 2030, when it will be worth $95.8 billion. The report defines artisanal ice creams as those that are produced by hand using age-old techniques, with premium ingredients such as cream, milk, sugar, fruits, nuts and spices. Additionally, the report references the lack of artificial preservatives, flavors and colors in artisanal products as appealing to consumers.
The research highlights how consumers’ tastes have evolved and they’re seeking out premium goods with natural ingredients, such as small-batch ice creams made conventionally with local ingredients. The report states that even though these types of products are often more expensive than generic ice cream, consumers have shown they will pay more for the high quality and flavor that come with artisanal options.
“America’s love for ice cream knows no bounds,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “Comforting and satisfying as an indulgent treat, ice cream production and consumption grew throughout the COVID pandemic and sales continue to set a blazing pace at grocery, scoop shops and corner stores.”
Snacking on ice cream
The Circana 2023 Snacking Survey shows that the trend toward more frequent snacking throughout the day remains strong, especially among young consumers. Nearly half (49%) of consumers snack three or more times per day, up four percentage points, or 8%, in the past two years.
The pandemic not only increased the number of snacking occasions for most consumers, it changed their attitudes about snacking, according to research from Acosta Group. While mindful snacking—choosing better-for-you options—is prevalent at certain snacking times, such as late morning and right before bed, consumers believe snacking can be a reward or a treat.
Consumers don’t necessarily think in negative terms about indulgent snacks, according to Lyons Wyatt. If an indulgent snack may assist with stress or mental health, then it is fair game. That’s where ice cream fits in.
Share of dollar sales of indulgent snacks increased 0.9% to reach 31.2% of total snack sales in 2022, according to Circana. At the same time, the dollar sales share of better-for-you snacks fell by the same amount and now represents 26.4% of total snack product sales.
“Consumer trends over the past few years have pushed snacking consumption to a whole new level,” said Katelyn Harmon, director of business development-U.S., for the California Milk Advisory Board.