Look for an uptick in functional ingredients and better-for-you (BFY) ice cream varieties in 2020 that allow customers to indulge guilt-free.
Think functional frozen yogurt offerings featuring probiotics, or functional ice creams that provide energy through essential vitamins or act as a sleep aid, noted Hannah Spencer, foodservice analyst for market research firm Mintel.
Mintel also found consumers are increasingly seeking non-dairy and plant-based ice cream options.
“Oat milk is gathering attention as a non-dairy milk option as its creamy texture and taste are more similar to cow’s milk than other non-dairy milk options,” Spencer said. Ice cream makers are creating products to meet the demand.
Market research firm IRI found refrigerated and ready-to-drink coconut milk were up 180.8% and 395.3% respectively over last year for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 29, 2019, according to all scan convenience data.
Younger customers especially are seeking BFY and dairy-free options. Some 24% of Gen Zers are interested in BFY options, compared to 20% of the total population, while 19% of millennials are interested in dairy-free compared to 13% of the total population, Spencer noted.
Baltimore-based High’s, with 49 stores in Maryland, sees the trend toward dairy-free ice cream, said Sherryn Diamond, director of food service for High’s. “However, our sales are showing us that our guests are looking for an indulgent treat that our High’s ice cream provides.” She also sees mix-ins, such as candy or fruit trending.
Good, Old-Fashioned Ice Cream
High’s is known for its super-premium ice cream “made the old-fashioned way” with fresh cream, natural ingredients and slow-churned to maximum creaminess, Diamond said.
In 2019, High’s expanded on its core eight flavors, adding six new varieties that include Mad Cow Fudge, a fudge swirled ice cream with multiple candy mix-ins, and Moo-Berry Oat Crumble, a creamy frozen yogurt with fresh Maine blueberries.
To celebrate its ice cream heritage, new High’s stores and remodels include a sit-down ice cream counter. While the chain’s focus is on the High’s ice cream brand, it also sells Ben & Jerry’s, Talenti and novelty ice cream. Ahead for 2020, High’s plans to expand its menu, adding three or four sundaes and new milkshake combinations.
Opportunity also exists for c-stores in pint-sized ice cream, which is portable, shareable, offers built-in portion control and adds novelty to the freezer case, Mintel’s Spencer advised. Mintel found 15% of customers are interested in pint-sized ice cream options, while 33% are interested in pint-sized items in general.