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.