Ice cream is big business in the United States. According to the Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association, it is an $11 billion industry that supports 26,000 direct jobs and generates $1.6 billion in direct wages.
But consumers have been purchasing a bit less of the frozen treat — at least at the packaged retail level — recent sales data suggest. Dollar sales in the ice cream/sherbet category dropped 0.8% during the 52 weeks ending April 21, 2019, to $6,809.6 million, data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI show. Unit sales took a 0.5% dive to 1,801.6 million.
Sales of ice cream, sherbet tumble
Dollar sales within the ice cream subcategory fell 1.1% to $6,088.5 million, while unit sales declined 0.8% to 1,600.6 million.
But a few ice cream brands among the top 10 bucked the downward trend. Häagen-Dazs (Nestlé USA) posted the most impressive gains: a 7.2% increase in dollar sales and an 8.0% rise in unit sales. And Blue Bell (Blue Bell Creameries) realized 4.0% and 1.6% gains in dollar and unit sales, respectively.
On the flip side, better-for-you brand Halo Top (Eden Creamery LLC) — which posted triple-digit growth during the previous 52-week period — was the biggest loser. Dollar sales fell 34.2%, and unit sales dropped 28.9%.
In the much smaller sherbet/sorbet/ices subcategory, dollar sales tumbled 2.7% to $189.1 million. Unit sales plunged 1.6% to 62.9 million.
The top performer among the top 10 brands was Baskin-Robbins (Boardwalk Frozen Treats LLC), which posted 76.2% and 82.2% dollar and unit sales gains, respectively. Blue Bell’s sales took off, too; the brand saw a 57.7% jump in dollar sales and a 63.6% increase in unit sales.
The Häagen-Dazs brand was less fortunate. It posted 17.1% and 17.7% declines in dollar and unit sales, respectively.
Frozen yogurt a bright spot
The frozen yogurt/tofu subcategory, meanwhile, was the one positive within the ice cream/sherbet category. Dollar sales climbed 9.0% to $319.9 million. Unit sales increased 8.3% to 77.1 million.
Making the biggest jump here among the top 10 was Häagen-Dazs, posting 385.6% and 392.1% dollar and unit sales gains, respectively. Close behind was Halo Top, with a 258.0% increase in dollar sales and a 284.3% gain in unit sales.
A couple of brands posted steep declines, however. Blue Bunny (Wells Enterprises Inc.) saw a 21.4% decrease in dollar sales and an 18.4% drop in unit sales. And Coconut Bliss (Bliss Unlimited LLC) posted 15.1% and 17.7% dollar and unit sales declines, respectively.
Novelties take off
The novelties category also saw strong gains — a notable change from its lackluster performance in the previous 52-week period. Overall, dollar sales were up 5.8% to $5,276.3, and unit sales were up 3.4% to 1,584.0 million.
In the largest subcategory, frozen novelties, Blue Bunny led the way in growth among the top 10 brands. It posted 15.8% and 16.4% gains in dollar and unit sales, respectively. Häagen-Dazs came in second, with a 13.8% increase in dollar sales and an 11.5% jump in unit sales. (It’s worth noting that there were no “big losers” among the top 10 brands: None of them posted double-digit dollar or unit sales declines.)
The ice pop subcategory also returned impressive results, with dollar sales up 11.0% to $161.8 million and unit sales up 2.2% to 69.1 million.