Despite the month of July being National Ice Cream Month, consumers continue to indulge all year long. To say that ice cream is a trend is a bit of a misnomer – after all, it’s been popular for centuries. In fact, Dolley Madison served ice cream as the featured dessert at the 1813 inaugural ball.
We’ve come a long way since then. The most recent annual data shows that about 1.4 billion gallons of ice cream and frozen dessert are produced in the United States.
There are many innovative products that are adding a new twist to this perennial frozen treat and driving substantial growth in the market. These new offerings are contributing to the expected growth of overall frozen novelty products to top $35 billion by 2025 within the U.S. frozen desserts market.
Here are three trends that are significantly contributing to this expected growth.
1. Protein-packed Ice Cream
Arguably, no segment of the frozen food aisle has seen more disruption than the ice cream and frozen novelties market with the introduction of protein-rich products. Many producers developed products in response to the growing low-carb diet trend. These products not only boost protein; they do so with fewer calories, fat and sugar.
Unlike many low-fat options of the past, these protein-packed ice creams are typically clean label and feature rich, decadent textures. And, they’re beyond traditional vanilla ice cream flavors or chocolate ice cream varieties. Some examples include novelty flavors such as sea salt caramel, chocolate covered frozen banana, mint chocolate chip, and birthday ice cream cake. Many of these flavors can be enjoyed with fewer than 350 calories for an entire pint (compared to more than 1,000 for traditional ice cream).
One leading brand of protein-rich ice cream saw staggering sales of $44.3 million in 2016 alone which rose nearly eight times in 2017 to more than $350 million, and rose yet again in 2018. The success has led to the company venturing into ice cream sandwiches, ice pops and other frozen novelties.
The onslaught of competition entering the high-protein ice cream category demonstrates that this is not a fad. Rather, it’s an evolution that many companies want to be a part of.
2. Free-from Frozen Desserts
Consumers are shifting away from traditional “diet” products which have notoriously been packed with artificial flavors and additives to help compensate for the ingredients that were removed to achieve lower fat and calories.
But much of the population is becoming more concerned with making sure the ingredients listed on the package provide nutritional benefits and can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The same holds true for frozen novelties.
Ensuring clean labels and ingredient transparency while appealing to nostalgic themes is driving the better-for-you ice cream market. By using on-trend ingredients and natural sweeteners, frozen novelty producers are shifting away from “diet” products to those with more nutritional and functional benefits.
3. A Jump in Gelato
An Italian cousin to ice cream, gelato is gaining popularity in many markets. Perhaps that’s because gelato typically doesn’t use eggs and has less cream than traditional ice cream — meaning it can already boast improved nutritional values in comparison.
Food formulators continue to look for ways to further reduce fat and calories to capture more market share while maintaining the dense, creamy texture associated with gelato. Despite steady gelato franchise growth over the last several years, that growth may be threatened by increasing awareness among U.S. consumers who are increasingly choosing healthier options.
How to Formulate Healthier Frozen Desserts
Achieving lower fat and calories while maintaining the rich flavors and creamy textures associated with ice cream and other frozen novelties is a challenge for many food manufacturers, especially when consumers insist on clean labels. It requires reducing the amount of milk, cream and eggs without the use of artificial thickeners, emulsifiers or flavors.
Many in the frozen dessert market have found significant success using functional whey protein, such as Grande Bravo®, in place of high-cost, high-fat traditional ingredients. The result is just as indulgent as the original recipe with clean, complementary flavors. Adding to the benefits, whey protein is all-natural, has superior viscosity and gelation properties, is price-stable and comes in an easily hydrated dairy powder form.
To learn more about how Grande Bravo functional whey protein can improve nutrition in your frozen dessert application while enhancing flavors and mouthfeel, check out the free guide below. Then, reach out to the food scientists at Grande Custom Ingredients Group. We’ll help you determine the best approach to reformulating your desired product so you can get to market quickly and get the scoop on your competitors.