Friday, June 2, 2023

Ice Cream Has Become a Go-To Snack for the Growing Number of Snackers: Daypart-Designed Frozen Novelties May Bring More Consumers to the Freezer for Snacking


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. 

Flavor innovation opportunities for morning, noon and night

When it comes to flavor trends in the U.S., chocolate is the leader, according to IDFA. It’s followed by cookies ‘n cream, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate chip, cookie dough, butter pecan, French vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough, and caramel/salted caramel. But it’s the limited-time offerings—often seasonal flavors or bizarre mashups—that keeps Americans enjoying this frozen dairy treat. 

(photo source: Ruby Jewel)

These LTOs make great snacks, as they provide flavor adventure. And snacking is not going away.  
Global flavors appeal to what Toya Mitchell, cultural and inclusive insights manager at Kellogg Company, refers to as “flavor chasers.” The majority of flavor chasers are multicultural and part of the Gen Z demographic. 

Diversification of flavors—including global flavors--provides enticement for snacking during different times throughout the day, according to Lyons Wyatt. Younger consumers, many of whom are multicultural, are driving the increase in snacking, with many opting to snack rather than eat a “meal.” 

“By 2040, half of the U.S. will be multicultural,” said Chelsea Jenkins, director of cultural and inclusive marketing at Kellogg. “If the U.S multicultural market were a country, it would be the fourth largest economy with a combined purchasing power of four trillion dollars, equivalent to Japan’s.” 

Swicy, a combination of sweet and spicy, also known as sweet heat, is trending outside of the frozen desserts snack category, and presents an opportunity for innovators to differentiate. Think hot honey, chile lime and Mexican hot cocoa. 

Asian flavors gaining traction include boba tea and mochi. 

Cold brew, coffee and tea flavor profiles are also popular. These products may tout the caffeine content and play into the energy trend. Think of an ice cream latte stick novelty with a caffeine content equivalent to Red Bull.

Morning ice cream snacks may also be caffeine-centric flavors or suggestive of traditional breakfast foods. Think frozen Greek yogurt ice cream sandwiches flavored like pancakes. 

Bubbie’s Ice Cream has added Mocha Chip to its mochi lineup. It offers a twist on the traditional coffee ice cream scoop--or morning coffee--as a mindfully indulgent handheld treat. It’s made by wrapping creamy coffee ice cream that’s packed with chocolate chips in melt-in-your-mouth chocolate mochi dough. With only 90 calories per piece, Bubbies’ Mocha Chip Mochi Ice Cream provides a better-for-you way to satisfy even the toughest sweet tooth and promises to energize any summer activity, too, according to Katie Cline, vice president of marketing.

Its unique coffee blend includes Kona Coffee, which is farmed and processed in the Kona Coffee Belt on Hualalai and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. This sourcing offers a deeper connection to Bubbies Ice Cream since the brand started off as an ice cream shop on the island of Oahu in 1985.

Ruby Jewel’s newest ice cream sandwich is the perfect portable pick-me-up snack. It’s Mocha Macchiato. The LTO features a house-made caramelized espresso ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies. 

Hudsonville Ice Cream’s product line now includes novelty bars, which the company launched in three flavors. Salted Caramel is salted caramel-flavored ice cream with a milk chocolate coating. Strawberry Shortcake is strawberry ice cream with pieces of yellow cake, dipped in white chocolate. The Vanilla Milk Chocolate is a traditional bar with vanilla ice cream and a milk chocolate shell.

In partnership with the 2023 NFL Draft’s coldest and most coveted prospect, Bryce Young, Snickers Ice Cream is helping NFL fans “chill out” with the first-to-market Snickers Bryce Cream Bar. The limited-edition frozen treat features the same creamy peanut butter ice cream, smooth caramel and crunchy peanuts covered in a chocolatey shell as the original Snickers Ice Cream bar with a label inspired by Young.

Papila Collection brings L’Original Macaron Ice Cream to the U.S. The new hand-held frozen dairy dessert will be available exclusively this summer at all Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. The product was developed with a French award-winning pastry chef and successfully launched with Waitrose & Partners in the U.K. in 2022. One box contains two of each of the three varieties, which are Chocolate (the macaron and ice cream are made with 80% cocoa gourmet chocolate), Raspberry and Lychee (the ice cream is a blend of raspberries and lychees sandwiched between two raspberry macarons) and Vanilla (the macaron and ice cream are made with a premium blend of three vanillas sourced from Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti).

In celebration of pride month, Coolhaus is rolling out “Our Love Out Loud” sammies. “They were created to celebrate ‘you.’ This limited-edition ice cream sandwich is what rainbow dreams are made of,” according to the company. It is creamy cheesecake ice cream with a sweet strawberry swirl hugged by rainbow sprinkle cookies. 

The new Coolhaus Sammie is made with real dairy. While the company continues to make some sammies with animal-free dairy, the majority of its portfolio is now back to using real cows’ milk. 

J&J Snack Foods now offers gelato novelties in three flavors: Italian Cannoli, Mint Chocolate Chip and Sweet Cream Churro. The gelato comes in 4-ounce cups and is sold at retail in boxes of four cups. 

Well’s Enterprises introduces Blue Bunny Stuffed Puffs ice cream sandwiches, which feature Blue Bunny’s signature frozen dairy dessert with Stuffed Puffs’ Filled Marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cracker cookies. 

The Cheesecake Factory and Well’s Enterprises are rolling out The Cheesecake Factory at Home Cheesecake Ice Cream Bars. The new stick novelties come in Original and Strawberry flavors. Original is a cheesecake-flavored ice cream bar dipped in a chocolatey cookie-crunch coating for a two-in-one frozen dessert. It was inspired by the casual-dining restaurant chain’s iconic Original cheesecake. Strawberry is a strawberry cheesecake-flavored ice cream bar with a strawberry swirl.

The brand is expanding its line of miniature treats with frozen Mini Bars. The dairy desserts combine swirls of flavor with a cookie crunch coating to create a convenient, snack-sized bar. Varieties are Chocolate Cookie Crumble, Strawberry Shortcake and Vanilla Caramel Crunch.

“Following the success of Mini Swirls, we knew we wanted to grow our ‘Mini’ platform with a new product lineup that offered the same snackable indulgence as the cones,” said Jeremy Hrynewycz, brand marketing director for Blue Bunny. “We are proud to launch Mini Bars as a new way to bring joy to consumers’ everyday lives with the perfect frozen treat that’s mini in size, but mighty in crunch.”

Bimbo Bakeries and Sorrisa Group partnered to introduce Entenmann’s Ice Cream Sandwiches. The bakery-inspired novelties come in six varieties: Brownie Cookie Salted Caramel, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Chocolate Chip & Brownie Cookie, Chocolatey Glazed Cookie Donut, Chocolatey Glazed Cookie Donut Salted Caramel, and Glazed Cookie Donut. The donut ice cream sandwiches feature a glazed, moist donut cookie rather than an actual donut.

Swedish-style better-for-you frozen dessert manufacturer N!CK’S is now in the frozen bar space. The seven varieties are: Choklad Choklad, Mint Choklad, Peanot Choklad Krunch, Salta Karamell Swirl, Strawar Swirl, Triple Choklad and Vanilj Choklad. Some of the varieties have a chocolate coating (120 to 140 calories), while others are uncoated and contain a swirl of variegate (50 calories). They are all low in net carbs and contain no added sugars. Key ingredients are cream, milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, allulose, soluble corn fiber, erythritol, inulin and EPG (modified plant-based oil).

Keto Foods is adding Zero Added Sugar Keto Crunch Bars to its frozen dessert lineup. Ice cream flavors are Butter Pecan, Mint Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Sea Salt Caramel, Triple Chocolate and Vanilla. The stick novelty is enrobed in a chocolate crunch. One bar contains 160 calories, 14 to 16 grams of fat, 1 gram of total sugar with no added sugars, 5 to 7 grams of sugar alcohols, 2 grams of fiber and 3 to 4 grams of protein, depending on variety. Keto ice creams attract not only those following this popular high-fat, super-low sugar diet, but also consumers who want indulgence without the carbohydrates. 

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