Feeling nostalgic for that banana split, or maybe a classic candy bar or some S’mores? Then you might want to look to the frozen dessert aisle at the grocery store. When it comes to frozen desserts, processors and experts say those nostalgic flavors we remember from our youth are making a comeback in a big way.

If you walk into a self-serve frozen yogurt bar, take a look at the flavors being offered and you’ll find options like cotton candy, cake batter, banana split and other popular flavors from the past. The same goes for what you see in the frozen section at the grocery store.

“Nostalgic flavors are coming back, including coconut, pineapple, and lemon flavors mixed with pudding cakes,” said John Crocco, global business development director of Bakery at Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn., which specializes in the sales and marketing of private label consumer products. “Plus, great new twists on old favorites like Blood Orange Creamsicle and Tahitian Vanilla flavored cakes, Citrus pound cake, or pineapple upside down cake with Cherry Amaretto ice cream.  We’re also seeing a rise in spice flavors including rums, toffees, hazelnut, etc.”

According to Christine Bellamo, director of global business development for Dairy/Frozen at Daymon Worldwide, flavor plays a central role in consumers’ purchase decisions.

“More than two-thirds of the frozen treats category shoppers cite flavor as one of the most important reasons for choosing the products they buy,” Bellamo said.

As consumers continue to seek out easy, indulgent desserts, the refrigerated and frozen dessert category is growing, according to Bellamo. But flavor isn’t the only thing driving the growth, its portion control as well.

“This category has come a long way, particularly in the past few years.  Manufacturers are coming out with single-serve and multi-pack servings with cleaner ingredient labels so consumers can feel confident about their choices and their portion sizes,” said Crocco. “Smaller portion options, like single-serve and multi-packs offer customers an easy way to control portions, and indulge without feeling terribly guilty.”

Bellamo said single-serve isn’t necessarily all about calories. “30% of consumers seek out single-serving options indicating that consumers may be making their choices more on the amount of a treat (single-serve versus multiple servings) rather than a portion determined by the number of calories,” she said.

Also making a comeback? Pies. “Pies are increasing in popularity for the bakery category, including frozen and refrigerated pies.  We’re seeing single-serve, half pies, five-inch pies and hand-held pies,” said Crocco. “There will be a lot of pie activity in the dairy dessert section of the case, such as single-serve cream pies, meringue varieties, tortes, soufflés and flans.”

Crocco said expect more innovation to come.

“Overall, we’ll continue to see a lot of migration of product innovation and variety coming from the In-Store Bakery department, with versions of traditional bakery dessert items appearing in refrigerated and frozen dessert sections, and the super dairy aisles,” he said. “As a result, refrigerated and frozen dessert sections will grow tremendously over the next few years with exciting new product offerings and flavor varieties.” 

In this report we look at two frozen dessert processors and how they’re staying competitive:

  • The iconic Eli’s Cheesecake Co., gets innovative with flavors and continues to focus on quality.
  • Edwards frozen desserts a brand of Schwan’s Consumer Brands Inc., which is a subsidiary of The Schwan Food Co., focuses on indulgence, one layer at a time. 

As frozen yogurt continues to dominate the frozen dessert category, processors like these two look to their strengths to grow in this competitive environment.