As we reported on earlier this year in "Flavors (and inclusions) rule the ice cream market" unique flavor combinations and out-of-the-box flavors are the “thing” in ice cream. For example, sweet and salty, heat paired with sweet, exotic flavor combinations, alcohol-inspired flavors, and a lot of seasonal flavors are just some of the latest flavor trends showing up in ice cream freezers and even on restaurant menus. Processors are looking for flavor inspiration in a variety of places, from restaurants and chefs to bars and coffee shops. Flavor rules the market.

Most popular ice cream flavors, by the numbers

Though many of the standard ice cream flavors still win at the grocery store, there is room for innovation and consumers are open to it.

According to data from MyWebGrocer (a provider of digital solutions to grocers and CPG brands) these are the most popular flavors in order:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Vanilla
  3. Mint Chocolate Chip
  4. Vanilla Bean
  5. Cookies and Cream
  6. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  7. Butter Pecan
  8. Natural Vanilla
  9. French Vanilla
  10. Chocolate Strawberry
  11. Chocolate Chip
  12. Peanut Butter Cup
  13. Cookie Dough

Interestingly, butter pecan and chocolate strawberry flavors gained the most percentage of sales YOY (27.7% and 312.6%, respectively), so these flavors are becoming trendier, according to MyWebGrocer. On the flip side, chocolate chip, peanut butter cup and cookie dough flavors declined  in sales (down 9.8%, 0.6%, 7.3%, respectively).

But, when you look at what’s happening in restaurants, you can see consumers are open to change and adventure with the popular frozen dessert. Some of the fastest growing flavors on restaurant menus across the United States include watermelon, pumpkin, peppermint, spiced, kiwi, Amaretto and pomegranate, according to Chicago-based Technomic, a research firm specializing in foodservice trends.

A “hot” new ice cream flavor trend

Just as we reported how savory flavors are showing up in the cultured aisle, it’s happening with ice cream as well. There has been an increase in savory flavors and flavors with heat, said to Matt Thornicroft, assistant marketing and communications manager for Pierre’s Ice Cream Co., Cleveland. He cited consumers “growing appetite for adventure,” when it comes to their food and dessert.

Keeping on point with this trend and others, Pierre’s added to its Signature Collection at the end of last year with the first in its Chef’s Signature series. Cleveland celebrity chef Steve Schimoler designed the first two flavors — Croppy Road (chocolate ice cream with chocolate covered marshmallow cups, almonds and a smokey salted caramel swirl) and Holé Molé (cinnamon ice cream blended with chili choco chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and a molé fudge swirl.)

Thornicorft explained, “With Holé Molé, a flavor inspired by a signature dessert of the same name served at Chef Steve’s Crop Bistro restaurant, the heat is a part of the experience, but not so much that it overwhelms or overshadows the other flavors.” Read more about this “hot” flavor trend and others here.

Unique flavor pairings and savory/spicy aspects can also be found in the new Artisan Ice Cream Collection from Oakland, Calif.-based Häagen-Dazs. Included in its six-flavor collection are Applewood Smoked Caramel Almond, which features swirls of smoked applewood caramel sauce combined with roasted, salted almonds in a sweet cream ice cream; and Spiced Pecan Turtle features roasted pecans with cinnamon and chilies and swirls of caramel sauce with chocolate ice cream. Learn more about this new ice cream collection here.

On trend a couple years ago, Magnolia ice cream (produced by Ramar Foods) Pittsburg, Calif., released an avocado flavor in its tropical ice cream line. The company suggested pairing the ice cream with cinnamon-flavored pita chips. It already had unique flavors like Thai tea, purple yam and lychee in its line.

Check out more unique ice cream flavors and some of the latest new products in 10 must-try ice cream products.