At the top of the healthy heap is Halo Top, an ice cream brand that
has been out a few years, but is spurring a following in more c-stores.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
It wasn’t that long ago that yogurt was the cream of the frozen and refrigerated dairy and novelty category. In fact, Greek still remains a dominant segment in the U.S. as manufacturers look for the next wave of growth.
According to IRI, a Chicago-based retail research firm, frozen yogurt sales in convenience stores rose 9% to $2.6 million during the 52 weeks ending June 6, 2018.
However it’s just a small fraction compared to the $509 million in ice cream sales that c-stores generated during the same period.
So what’s the coming attraction in this finicky category?
Consumers’ growing penchant to combine better-for-you treats with indulgent offerings has opened the door to a segment of ice cream brands that not only come billed as lower-calorie, but high-protein as well.
High- or added-protein claims were featured on 10% of all ice-cream launches in the 12 months ending in June 2018—up from 2% during the same period the previous year, according to the market research firm Mintel Group.
At the top of the heap is Halo Top, a brand that has been out a few years, but is spurring a following in more c-stores. An average pint of Halo Top has 320 calories—considerably less than a regular pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Blue Bell. Some varieties of Halo Top also boast 24 grams of protein and 20 grams of fiber.
As Halo Top’s “light” ice creams have become more and more popular, Ben & Jerry’s this past February released a low-calorie ice cream of its own. Ben & Jerry’s version comes in three flavors: P.B. Dough, Caramel Cookie Fix and Chocolate Milk & Cookies. The pints each have less than 160 calories per serving and are low in fat, with no artificial sweeteners.
Jared Koerten, a senior food analyst at Euromonitor International, sees the movement toward healthier ice cream choices such as Halo Top growing stronger still.
“I point to Halo Top as being the story in ice cream, and honestly, the story of all packaged food in the last three years,” said Koerten. “Halo Top has been just incredible, the growth that brand has put up has totally revolutionized the entire ice cream segment.”
Reilly Robinson Musser, vice president of marketing and merchandising at Robinson Oil Corp., which does business as Rotten Robbie Gas Stations, said the California-based chain of 36 locations was never a yogurt destination, but has started to see stagnant ice cream sales thaw.
“Our ice cream sales are up slightly—which is good, since they have been down the last two to three years or so,” said Reilly. “We got away from an exclusive contract and now have multiple manufacturers in the ice cream freezer.”
Innovative manufacturers are beginning to carve a niche such as Snow Monkey Superfood Ice Treat, which is dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. It claims to contain more fiber than four bowls of oatmeal, more protein than three eggs and more iron than a steak.