Flavour is king, but is not the only trend in ice cream

Flavour is the single most important choice factor and purchase driver for ice cream shoppers, according to Innova Market Insights, but there are other trends in ice cream development that help to build further competitive edge. These include non-dairy formulations, low sugar recipes, cleaner labels, and ethical ingredients.

Non-dairy ice cream has been booming in recent years. Innova Market Insights revealed that launch numbers rose at a CAGR of almost 30% over 2016-2020, and non-dairy lines now account for 10% of all ice cream introductions. This rises to as much as one-quarter of all activity in North America and one-fifth of launches in Australasia.

Low sugar formulations have also gained ground, reaching penetration of 6% of launches in 2020, as Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, elaborated: “The development of more natural sweeteners has attracted more attention to sugar reduction.

“Artificial sweeteners have steadily loss ground, and erythritol, stevia and monk fruit are now the top three choices in low sugar and sugar-free ice cream.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to clean label development, shorter and simpler ingredients lists are popular. Some brands have even flagged the number of ingredients, or the full ingredient list, on their packaging.

Although these are all notable trends in ice cream development, flavour is still king. Even where alternative positionings are used to target specific consumer interest, taste choices remain vital. In fact, they can be even more important in healthier recipes, helping to cement an indulgent image. For instance, salted caramel is one of the biggest winners in recent flavour development, rising to fifth in the flavour rankings in 2020. However, its penetration in non-dairy ice cream is more than twice as high as in regular dairy ice cream.