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Mintel: global ice cream industry in good health

Mintel’s consumer research shows that consumers’ love for ice cream is unwavering: 9 in 10 UK consumers enjoyed an ice cream between July and October 2023, and an almost identical number was seen in Germany. Frozen treats are also omnipresent in freezers across the pond, with over 94% of US adults purchasing ice cream, frozen novelties, or frozen yogurt in 2023.

“Ice cream remains as popular as ever, and the global ice cream industry is in good health. Ice cream is still enjoyed primarily as a comfort food for many consumers. However, consumer demands are changing, as consumers increasingly focus on healthy eating. It is essential that ice cream brands respond to consumer demand to avoid consumers turning elsewhere for a sweet treat,” Mintel says.

The past few years have been a boon for popular comfort foods, with consumers experiencing the heightened stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then followed by ongoing economic crises. The ice cream industry was particularly well-placed to benefit from rising prices and high inflation due to the lipstick effect. Ice cream’s positioning as an affordable treat appeals to consumers during times of economic crisis.

Photo: Mintel

However, since the pandemic, Mintel has observed a definite shift toward more health-conscious eating, worldwide. Mintel’s consumer research has found that it is unlikely that ice cream could ever establish itself as a truly healthy food, even amongst consumers who are actively looking for healthy ice cream. As a result, ice cream needs to offer permissible indulgence to consumers, striking a balance between health and indulgence. Functional health benefits can provide further incentives. 

Moreover, as consumers are getting more adventurous, unconventional ice cream flavors provide new opportunities.

In the APAC region, floral flavors have been gaining interest, although non-traditional flavors (such as savory profiles) remain a niche for now. Traditional flavors and nostalgia continue to influence the ice cream industry, Mintel finds.

“Ice cream will always be a comfort food. It is unlikely that consumers will stop turning to their favorite indulgent frozen treat in times of uncertainty in the near future. However, how the concept of ‘comfort’ resonates with consumers is changing, and ice cream brands need to be conscious of different consumer expectations when considering new product development and marketing campaigns. Some consumers want to be reassured that they are not damaging their health, or even improving it, when eating ice cream. Some want to experience something new, and get a small portion of excitement through a novel flavor,” the research specialist concludes.


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