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What’s cold and sweet and doing quite well? The answer isn’t a Disney movie about young princesses in an icebound kingdom — it’s about frozen desserts in today’s retail case, including ice cream, novelties, gelato, flavored ices, pies, cookies, cookie dough, and all kinds of other frozen dairy-based and nondairy desserts.
According to data from Chicago-based IRI, there’s a bit of a seesaw going on in frozen desserts, but overall, retailers are ringing up healthy sales of cool or reheatable treats that satisfy their customers’ sweet tooth. Bright spots include frozen cookies (up dramatically in the past year, to nearly $2.6 million), frozen pudding/mousse (up substantially, to more than $470 million) and the comfort-food staple of ice cream and sherbet (up almost 1.4 percent to more than $5.7 billion). Segments holding steady include frozen pies, with sales up almost 1 percent since this time last year, and frozen novelties, edging slightly down, around 0.16 percent.
More Than Just Vanilla
While vanilla is still a top flavor in ice cream and other frozen desserts, it’s definitely not a vanilla marketplace in the other sense of the word. From green tea ice cream from brands like Mr. Green Tea, to pretzel-laden Crave bar novelties, to Dole Dippers chocolate-covered frozen fruit pieces, variety is the spice of frozen dessert life.
In addition to expanding into bold new flavors and formats, manufacturers are finding other ways to bolster sales and interest of their frozen dessert products. For example, Pierre’s Ice Cream Co., based in Cleveland, has teamed up with a local celebrity chef to create flavors for its new line of Pierre’s Chef’s Signature Ultimate Ice Cream Pints; as one might imagine, the varieties are culinary-inspired, with varieties like Holé Molé, featuring cinnamon ice cream mixed with chili chocolate chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and a molé fudge swirl. Specialty ice cream varieties from small-batch manufacturers, usually sold in pints, are also making their way into freezers of supermarkets that want to distinguish their offerings, including ice creams from local or regional niche companies.
The freezer is also a place to offer convenience to consumers. Solon, Ohio-based Nestlé USA has introduced Nestlé Toll House standup, resealable pouches of frozen cookie dough, with a longer shelf life than its refrigerated prepared cookie-dough counterpart.
Mirroring the overall trend in the frozen food sector, the frozen dessert category and its subcategories are also being shaped by consumer interest in better-for-you, free-from and organic and/or natural options. Mainstream and smaller-scale frozen dessert makers alike continue to offer better-for-you or free-from products to consumers, ranging from co-branded Weight Watchers ice cream to Skinny Cow to lighter lines from traditional brands like Edy’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Breyers. Another example is the addition of more Greek-style frozen yogurts and Greek-style frozen yogurt novelties, from well-known yogurt brands like Yoplait, a brand of Minneapolis-based General Mills, and Greek yogurt brands like Boston-based Yasso.
Likewise, similar to snacks, meals and entrées, vegan frozen desserts are entering the market or expanding. Escondido, Calif.-based Arctic Zero is one example. The whey protein frozen dessert recently received a makeover: a redesigned container that features more product information on the lid for easier scanning. The brand has added new varieties, too, like Salted Caramel, Orange Dream and Toasted Coconut.
In addition to expanding into bold new flavors and formats, manufacturers are finding other ways to bolster sales and interest of their frozen dessert products.