Register today for the Dairy Industry SmartBrief, free of charge.
Sweet frozen treats have always been and probably always will be a favorite food of people on almost any occasion, but ice cream was especially popular as consumers grappled with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Ice cream has exemplified some of the major food and drink trends that have emerged and proven to be strong over the past 18 months. More and more consumers are looking for these treats, with 59% of consumers saying they bought frozen desserts as a snack and 38% saying they snacked on more than they were before the pandemic, according to a Mintel study.
Gourmet and comforting food
Mintel also found that about half of consumers snack on frozen desserts for self-pleasure and to feel good.
“Permissible indulgence is increasingly in demand and substantial opportunities exist for frozen snacks to fill the void,” Paris Hogan, senior consultant at Mintel, told FoodNavigator.
While consumers have experienced the challenges of the pandemic, they continue to purchase foods that provide satisfaction and familiar tastes. Ice cream company Van Leeuwen experienced this effect when consumers flocked to their products and stores for solace.
“When it comes to food, this led them to opt for more indulgent foods that made them happy,” said co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen. “It actually goes well with our ‘happiness is health’ and ‘a life without good is bad’ slogans.
In uncertain times, the stability of classic and delicious ice cream flavors can help reassure and even appease the customer.
“We have found that the ability to eat ice cream is achieved by creating something that is first and foremost familiar and understandable to people,” said Van Leeuwen.
Unusual flavors for product categories are all the rage in the food and beverage industry – Mtn Dew Flamin ‘Hot, Sour Patch Kids Candy Pop Popcorn, and Peeps Pepsi, for example. Ice cream was no exception to this phenomenon. Van Leeuwen collaborated with Kraft Heinz earlier this year to create a limited-time Macaroni & Cheese flavor, which was available in packaged form as well as in Van Leeuwen stores.
“We loved the idea of partnering with an iconic American food product,” said Van Leeuwen. “The reason we entered into this partnership is that, to our surprise and delight, Kraft Mac & Cheese had a clean ingredient label that is consistent with our product quality ethics. We also knew that the flavor would not only be surprising and shocking, but really really delicious. The color is gorgeous and this cultured dairy gives you an awesome umami taste.
He explained that the product sold out in 15 minutes online and in hours in stores, prompting the company to launch a second limited series added after the success. And, Van Leeuwen doesn’t stop creating innovative flavors there; the company is developing an oolong tea flavor that contains essence of jasmine flower.
“With everything we do, the goal is delicious, we’ll never make a flavor just for the sake of being weird or different,” he said. “Sometimes a different, avant-garde flavor is the result of the quest for delight, but delight is always the main focus.”
Adding and improving vegan offerings is another food and drink trend that is well represented in ice cream products. According to Innova Market Insights’ analysis of non-dairy ice cream and frozen yogurt in North America, the continent holds the majority market share for non-dairy launches and vegan labeling is the top positioning for launches. ice cream in the United States for the subcategory.
Ben Van Leeuwen reports that the Van Leeuwen brand, which already offers many options for vegan frozen desserts made with cashew and oat milk, continues to develop even more non-dairy varieties to “experiment with whole ingredients and explore the fermentation processes that can result in vegan ice cream. cream that incredible depth of flavor that is hard to find outside of dairy products.
In the United States and Canada, milk chocolate, chocolate chips and vanilla are the best flavors of non-dairy ice cream, according to the Innova report, along with other trending flavors like salted caramel, coffee, strawberry and banana.
“We want to keep making great ice cream that makes you feel great, for us that means using great ingredients and obsessing over our formulation and process,” said Van Leeuwen. “I think at the end of the day people love ice cream and the pandemic has brought them closer to their true desires.”
If you liked this article, subscribe to Dairy Industry SmartBrief. It is one of more than 250 free industry-focused SmartBrief e-newsletters.