Friday, September 23, 2022


Adulting (noun): the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks, such as paying bills, cleaning house and cooking meals. Those responsible actions provide permission for the person to be a bit carefree in terms of what others think. That includes enjoying ice cream whenever and wherever. And marketers are responding with flavors and formats geared to adults. 

Research by Synergy Flavors shows that 98% of adults claim to have indulged in ice cream over the past six months, as compared to only 26% of children under 18 doing the same. The key here is the word “indulge.” And that’s why brands have started focusing on adult-themed ice cream innovations.

“Sales of ice cream and frozen novelties remain elevated far beyond the pre-pandemic baseline, though they have entered a period of stabilization as consumers eagerly return to out-of-home experiences and manage soaring grocery spend,” says Sydney Olson, food and drink analyst at Mintel and author of “Ice Cream and Frozen Novelties, US-2022.” “Exciting flavor profiles, snackable formats, premium concepts and experiential tactics can keep consumers engaged, justify higher prices and fend off returning parlor/shop competition.”

Mintel’s research shows that more than half (54%) of U.S. adults agree there is nothing wrong with eating indulgent food. The same portion agree indulgent foods can benefit your overall health. This finding foreshadows the future of frozen treat brands by highlighting a shift away from dated and restrictive definitions of health and towards the importance of decompression, connection and enjoyment that ice cream can facilitate.

Of those surveyed by Mintel, 62% say flavor is the most important factor when buying frozen treats from the store. It’s also important to note that ice cream consumers are not brand loyal and winning market share depends primarily on the execution of flavors.

Soaring grocery prices can be especially threatening to discretionary and impulse-driven categories such as frozen treats, according to Olson. Even so, premium is the leading concept that would motivate frozen treat shoppers to buy more. This indicates inflationary prices will lend to a “less-but-better” approach to treating.

Further, at-home lifestyles broadened what kinds of foods can be considered a snack, creating greater access to categories such as frozen treats that were previously ruled out due to lack of shelf stability and portability, according to Mintel research. Snacking innovation opportunities include bite-sized formats, single-serve containers and ready-to-drink milkshakes and ice cream in pouches.

This is something that Gelatys is embracing. The company now offers Gelato Bites, which are bite-sized balls of gelato that may contain a filling or be enrobed in a decadent coating, or both. Examples include Dulce de Leche gelato filled with dulce de leche and then dipped in milk chocolate and Pistachio gelato filled with chocotella and dipped in milk chocolate. 

Del’s Dairy Farm is a farmstead small-batch ice cream company located in New York’s Hudson Valley. The company offers a range of adult-centric flavors including Coffee Toffee, which is robust and bright coffee ice cream with toasty toffee bites, and Lavender Honey Blueberry, which is lavender-flavored ice cream sweetened with New York State honey and ripples of bright blueberry jam. The latter speaks to the growing number of adults who are hungry for physical, spiritual and emotional gratification. 

“The pandemic amplified loneliness,” according to Eve Turow-Paul, author of “Hungry: Avocado Toast, Instagram Influencers, and Our Search for Connection and Meaning,” and executive director of Food for Climate League. “People are looking for control. They are turning to food to fulfill those unmet needs. You cannot ignore the fact that people are in crisis.

“Food is home,” says Turow-Paul. “Food is comfort, and we can really use food to create that sense of purpose and meaning in our lives.

“There’s never been a more important time to work in the food space,” she says. “Food is our answer to the climate crisis, as well as mental health and well-being.”
Ice cream, along with other dairy products, can do all of this. 

According to Dairy Management Inc., research shows there’s a heightened emphasis on mental and emotional wellbeing, and consumers are looking for products that calm. There is projected growth associated with products that calm, and these benefits are of particular interest with Gen Z consumers, those who are fresh out of college and have started adulting.  

Research shows that among dairy consumers, 22% use dairy products to calm themselves and 24% are currently not using dairy products to calm themselves but would like to for this benefit. Creaminess is a key attribute across all dairy categories that consumers crave for calming products, according to MaryAnne Drake, director of the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, and professor at North Carolina State University. 

In addition to ice cream being able to calm, innovative flavors based on global cuisines help adults escape reality, which assists with satisfying their emotional appetites. That is something Alec’s Ice Cream provides. 

In addition to providing an array of adult-centric flavors, Alec’s Ice Cream also speaks to the emotional hunger that comes with adulting, especially when trying to think of the future. The company uses the world’s only certified regenerative organic A2 dairy and carbon-neutral regenerative cane sugar. 

“They come from good places, do good things for our planet and make taste buds feel extra good, too,” according to the company. 

Unilever “warms” up freezers to help fight climate change.

Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan sets out the steps the company will take to reduce emissions to zero within its own operations by 2030 and to net zero across its value chain by 2039. 

Roy Horne, head of climate action for the ice cream business group at Unilever explains why the frozen food industry needs to take action to reduce its carbon footprint, and how warming up the cold chain will be a key part of the process.

“The cold chain is everything involved from the ice cream being churned in our factories, right the way through to the point you or I take it out of the cabinet or out of our home freezer,” says Horne. “All the way through it needs to be maintained at an average temperature of -20°C. So that involves refrigerated storage. It means refrigerated trucks, it means refrigerated sales cabinets, it means home freezers. It’s the whole process that requires refrigeration.”

Ice cream has historically been stored at around -18°C. A few years ago, some of Unilever’s research and development team began challenging that temperature. This led the company to investigate the possibility of changing the product to increase the supply chain temperature to save energy. 

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