The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has many consumers reaching for small indulgences to brighten their days. That reality has been a boon to the frozen novelties category, which Chicago-based market research firm IRI breaks into three subcategories: frozen novelties, ice cream/ice milk desserts and ice pop novelties.

The overall category saw dollar sales climb 18.1% to $6,662.8 million during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 27, 2020, according to IRI data. Unit sales jumped 10.6% to 1,826.2 million.


Big gains for largest segment

The most impressive growth occurred within the frozen novelties subcategory. Dollar sales shot up 18.5% to $6,108.5 million, while unit sales rose 10.8% to 1,720.5 million.

Nestlé was the star among the top 10 brands. Its dollar and unit sales skyrocketed 49.6% and 23.4%, respectively. Blue Bell also impressed. The brand posted a 37.3% dollar sales increase and a 33.1% unit sales gain.

With the exception of Blue Bunny (up 1.0% in dollar sales, but down 2.9% in unit sales), all top 10 brands recorded double-digit dollar sales growth.


Sweet time for dairy desserts

The news was also rosy for the smaller ice cream/ice milk desserts subcategory. Dollar sales rose 14.2% to $311.0 million. Unit sales increased 12.3% to 17.4 million.

Two top 10 brands realized triple-digit growth, albeit on relatively small bases. Rich’s saw 764.2% and 782.7% gains in dollar and unit sales, respectively. And Hershey’s dollar and unit sales both rose 102.0%.

Although four of the other top 10 brands posted double-digit dollar and unit sales gains, the picture was not as positive for the remaining brands. The underperformer of the bunch was Jon Donaire, posting a 20.3% decline in dollar sales and a 22.8% decrease in unit sales.


Ice pops shine, too

The smallest subcategory — ice pop novelties — had reason to celebrate as well. The segment’s dollar sales jumped 12.5% to $203.2 million. Unit sales improved by 6.5% to 88.2 million.

Five of the top 10 brands realized double-digit dollar and unit sales gains. The two standouts here, with dollar and unit sales both up more than 20%, were Otter Pops and all Gramic Enterprises’ brands. Otter Pops realized 35.3% and 27.7% dollar and unit sales gains, respectively. And Gramic Enterprises recorded a 20.9% increase in dollar sales and a 21.3% upsurge in unit sales.

The situation was not as positive for Kool Pops. The brand turned in the worst performance among the top 10, with dollar sales falling 24.9% and unit sales tumbling 21.8%.