Flavor is king while dairy-free and reduced sugar offer competitive edge for ice cream, says Innova Market Insights
16 Mar 2021 --- Flavor is the single most important choice factor and purchase driver for ice cream consumers, according to Innova Market Insights. However, the market researcher flags that there are other significant trends in ice cream NPD that are building a further competitive edge, including non-dairy, low sugar and ethically sourced ingredients.
The non-dairy ice cream space has been flourishing in recent years. According to data from Innova Market Insights, launch numbers rose at a CAGR of almost 30 percent over 2016-2020, and non-dairy lines now account for 10 percent of all ice cream introductions.
This rises to as much as one-quarter of all North American activity and one-fifth of launches in Australasia.
Low sugar in the spotlight
In particular, sugar reduction has been successful in ice cream, emphasizing bolder on-pack calorie counts.
Last month, for instance, Swedish brand Nick’s scooped up US$30 million in financing for its sugar-free frosty treats made with EPG, a patented fat replacer that gives the ice cream great taste and texture despite being low-calorie.
“Several brands, such as Halo Top, have established themselves firmly on a low sugar platform,” Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, previously explained.
Low sugar formulations reached a penetration of 6 percent of launches in 2020.
“The development of more natural sweeteners has attracted more attention to sugar reduction,” explains Williams.
“Artificial sweeteners have steadily lost ground, and erythritol, stevia and monk fruit are now the top three choices in low sugar and sugar-free ice cream.”
Eye on ingredient lists
Meanwhile, when it comes to clean label development, shorter and simpler ingredient lists are popular. Some brands have even flagged the number of ingredients, or indeed the full ingredient list, on their packaging.
Although these are all interesting trends in ice cream development, flavor is still king, flags the market researcher.
Even where alternative positionings are used to target specific consumer interests, taste choices remain vital.
They can be even more critical in healthier recipes, helping to cement an indulgent image.
For example, salted caramel is one of the biggest winners in recent flavor development, rising to fifth in the flavor rankings in 2020.
However, its penetration in non-dairy ice cream is more than twice as high as in regular dairy ice cream.
An evolving sector
Last month, an Innova Market Insights’ report emphasized the drive toward healthier food choices will remain robust in sweet treats throughout this year. Indulgent taste is essential to confectionery, sweet bakery, ice cream and desserts, which brings on challenges in “better-for-you” reformulations, the market researcher revealed.
Meanwhile, consumers are snacking more than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic and are increasingly looking for healthier options that feature simple, all-natural ingredients. Chaucer Foods recently spoke with FoodIngredientsFirst about the trends impacting the ice cream and dessert category.
In this month’s beverage edition of The World of Food Ingredients, you can read how the pandemic has driven “unprecedented” demand for ice cream on page 12.
Edited by Elizabeth Green
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