It may be National Ice Cream Month, but ice cream needs all the help it can get. According to recent data from Chicago-based Mintel and Information Resources Inc. (IRI), we’re not eating enough ice cream, as the array of frozen dessert choices (like pies and frozen yogurt) keeps expanding.
Sales of ice cream and frozen novelties grew only 9% from 2008 through 2013 to $11.2 billion. A slow climb, according to Mintel, that equates to a loss of 1% when adjusted for inflation. Backing up this slow growth trend is recent data from IRI; the ice cream/sherbet category showed dollar sales up 1.1% to $6.1 billion, with units also up 1.1% to 1.6 billion, in the 52 weeks ended May 18, 2014.
The ice cream segment still leads overall within the ice cream and frozen novelties category, but that’s more from familiarity, not sales, said Mintel.
Also, one has to wonder what ice cream processors are thinking. They are opening plants as production plummets. Annual ice cream production has been dropping steadily, from 891 million gallons in 2007 to 785.3 million gallons in 2012. During that time, the number of ice cream plants rose to 406 (in 2011) from 357 in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistical service.
Despite this, ice cream processors continue to innovate. According to the Dairy Foods 2013 Ingredients Study, ice cream processors say they plan to develop an average of 13.4 new products in the next 12 months. The top five flavors they plan on using are strawberry (82%), mango (64%), raspberry (59%), banana (57%) and cherry (56%). The study did not ask about chocolate or vanilla flavors, but 66% of respondents said they plan to increase purchases of cocoa, chocolate and other ingredients.
To learn even more about how ice cream has fared over the last year, check out our State of the Industry report from last November: Ice cream forecast: bakery aisle inspires new flavors.
Check out some of the best new ice cream products released this year here: Best new flavors and ice cream products for Ice Cream Month.