Friday, August 4, 2023

Frozen Novelty Innovation Knows No Limits


Cones, cups, push tubes, sandwiches, sticks, you name it. Frozen novelties, as the name suggests, are novel treats sold in the freezer. Currently they are a driver of retail ice cream category growth.  

It was not that long ago that the retail frozen novelty category was a shrinking business. Decades ago, frozen novelties were dominated by bold colors, cartoon characters and fun flavors…mostly designed for kids. But after moms started diligently reading ingredient statements and refusing to purchase products with artificial colors and chemical-sounding ingredients, product offerings started to dwindle. The category evolved to be mostly portion-controlled, low-fat “skinny” products designed for the mom rather than her kids.  

Times have changed, again, thanks to efforts by marketers focusing on frozen novelties as a snack, one that fulfills one or more snacking occasions. Today there are approximately 300 billion snacking occasions that occur annually in the U.S., according to Mike Gervasio, vice president, category leadership for PepsiCo. He said there are five need-states that run the spectrum, starting with emotional snacking and ending with functional snacking. Products that meet these need-states vary by daypart and demographic.   

At one end of the spectrum is “uplift.” This is all about snacks that help consumers feel excited and relieve boredom. Nourishment is at the other end. 

“This is about ingredients that matter,” he said. “Snacks to satisfy the body.” 

In between there’s indulgence, satisfaction and energy. That’s why snacking is one of the fastest evolving food and beverage categories, with consumers embracing more ways to snack than ever and innovation occurring at a remarkable rate.

This is fueling innovation in frozen novelties, an approximate $7.9 billion retail business that grew about 10% in dollar sales from 2021 to 2022, according to Circana data. Multi-serving packaged ice cream and like products, including the powerful pint container, is just a bit larger, with approximate $8.1 in retail sales, an increase of about 8% from 2021 to 2022, according to Circana data. 

Here are some noteworthy frozen novelties that entered the global retail marketplace this past year. 

Häagen-Dazs calls its latest creation “a cone for grown-ups.” Butter Cookie Cones come in four varieties. There’s chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate fudge sauce, chocolate curls and cookie pieces; coffee ice cream topped with espresso sauce, roasted almonds and cookie pieces; strawberry ice cream topped with white chocolate curls, raspberry sauce and cookie pieces; and vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce, chocolate curls and cookie pieces. The 3.7-ounce cones are individually wrapped and sold in boxes of four.

In the U.K. and France, the Häagen-Dazs brand teamed up with world-renowned pastry chef Pierre Hermé to develop a macaron ice cream range that comes in single-serve cups, pints and stick formats. 

The product features crunchy, chewy mini macaron shells in creamy ice cream. The range includes three different varieties: Strawberry & Raspberry, Double Chocolate Ganache, and Yuzu & Lemon.
“The collaboration with Pierre Hermé is a perfect way of showcasing the true craftsmanship of our brands. We are both passionate about innovating and re-interpreting classic favorites and creating extraordinary experiences for our consumers,” according to Häagen-Dazs Global Brand Director Manuel Garabato. “And what better way to do that than with a pure French ‘amour’ taste experience.”

Papila Collection brings L’Original Macaron Ice Cream to the U.S. The new hand-held frozen dairy dessert is exclusive to 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.

“The biggest challenge was mastering the delicate balance of humidity transfer from the ice cream to the macaron shell, a feat that required exceptional skill and ingenuity to prevent sogginess,” according to the company’s website. .

L’Original Macaron Ice Cream comes in three varieties. They are: Chocolate (the macaron and ice cream are made with 80% cocoa gourmet chocolate), Raspberry and Lychee (the ice cream is a blend of juicy raspberries and fragrant 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). A box contains two of each variety.

Ferrero launched a trio of ice cream sticks in the U.K. under its Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello brands. The Ferrero Rocher Classic and Ferrero Rocher Dark ice creams are coated with crunchy hazelnut pieces and filled with hazelnut-flavored ice cream, while the Raffaello ice cream sticks feature a crispy coating with a sprinkling of coconut shavings and crunchy almond pieces with coconut-flavored ice cream.

Just in time for the Barbie movie debut, Spanish ice cream company La Menorquina partnered with Chupa Chups to develop a crunchy, pink ice cream cone. Inspired by the Chupa Chups strawberry-cream lollipop candy, the frozen novelty features a crunchy pink cone filled with Chupa Chups strawberry-cream flavored ice cream, filled with a strawberry sauce, encased in a white chocolate coating and topped with caramel chips and rounded sprinkles.

Private-label retailer Aldi continuously offers exclusive frozen novelties to its U.S. customers. Some recent offerings include Sundae Shoppe Stroopwafel Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches, which is vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two soft stroopwafels filled with dulce de leche. There’s also Sundae Shoppe Vanilla Ice Cream filled Cupcakes, Stracciatella Dipped Cookie Sandwiches and Donut Bars flavored Ice Dessert.

J&J Snack Foods has long played in the water ice space. The company is now in dairy-based frozen novelties with the rollout of Gelato Frozen Novelties. The gelato comes in three flavors--Italian Cannoli, Mint Chocolate Chip and Sweet Cream Churro--in 4-ounce cups and is sold at retail in boxes of four cups.

Well’s Enterprises got creative with Blue Bunny Stuffed Puffs. The first product to launch in this co-branding initiative was Blue Bunny Stuffed Puffs Scoopables, which combines Blue Bunny’s signature frozen dairy dessert with Stuffed Puffs’ Filled Marshmallow. There’s also ice cream sandwiches that feature Blue Bunny’s signature frozen dairy dessert with Stuffed Puffs’ Filled Marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cracker cookies. 

The company also teamed up with The Cheesecake Factory to offer At Home Cheesecake Ice Cream Bars in original and strawberry flavors. The stick novelties were inspired by the casual-dining restaurant chain’s iconic desserts.
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 and 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 business Nick’s entered the U.S. frozen novelty space with ice cream bars in seven varieties. They 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).

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