The Ahhh Factor


Frozen desserts hit the sweet spot for consumers.

Once upon a time, dessert was the sweet ending to a satisfying repast. Today, given Americans’ penchant for snacking and their collective sweet tooth, desserts run the gamut in form, format and eating occasion.

As a nation, we’re certainly sweet on frozen sweets. According to Chicago-based market research firm Mintel, U.S. sales of ice cream and frozen novelties have grown to $11.2 billion, a 9 percent uptick from 2008 to 2013; a deeper dive of Mintel’s data shows that sales of frozen yogurt and frozen novelties are showing greater strength than traditional ice cream and sherbet.

Meantime, sales of other frozen desserts (i.e., non-ice cream and novelties) are holding steady, down a scant 0.14 percent from December 2012 to December 2013, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

While overall ice cream and frozen desserts are respectable, manufacturers are looking to bolster the overall category even more at a time when other snack foods are vying for consumers’ share of stomach. To that end, new varieties of ice cream, ice cream novelties and other frozen desserts, spanning pies, cakes, cheesecakes, pastries and whipped toppings, are rolling out.

Exemplifying consumers’ tendency to eat out of both sides of their mouths, as it were, when it comes to indulgence and health, consumer interest in, and manufacturers’ development of, better-for-you frozen desserts continues.

One case in point is the line of better-for-you mini cakes called Vitacakes, from New York-based Vitalicious Inc., which saw sales jump more than 155 percent to a little more than $2 million a year, by IRI’s measurement. The cakes have 50 calories, with 2 grams of protein, 15 vitamins and minerals, and 1 gram of fat.

Longtime brands are also enhancing their portfolios with new better-for-you options. Turkey Hill Dairy, based in Lancaster County, Pa., recently relaunched its line of All Natural ice creams with new packaging and flavors, and added a series of Limited Edition Greek Frozen Yogurt made with low-fat yogurt and featuring 67 percent more protein than the company’s traditional frozen yogurt. “Our products are inspired by simple, wholesome and delicious flavors, as well as by listening to what our consumers want,” says President John Cox.

Another hallmark of the better-for-you dessert sector is the incorporation of flavors that appeal to consumers who like the indulgence of desserts without being reminded that they’re on a diet. To that end, Turkey Hill’s Greek Frozen Yogurt offers flavors such as Baklava, Lemoni Biskoti, Raspberry Chokolata and Sea Salt Caramel Truffle, while the brand’s All Natural flavors now include Sea Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean & Chocolate.

As is evident across the frozen food spectrum, more authentic ethnic flavors have emerged in the frozen dessert category as well. Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods, for its part, recently rolled out Bertolli desserts imported from Italy, including Tiramisu, Lemoncello, Triple Chocolate Strata Cake and Cappuccino Strata Cake. Blue Bell Creameries, in Brenham, Texas, has also gone Italian, with a creamy, cake-bit-studded variety appropriately dubbed Italian Cream Cake.

In keeping with the clamor for Latin-influenced varieties, Turkey Hill has introduced a limited-time Fried Ice Cream product, inspired by the popular Mexican dessert, while Walmart stores have been carrying new Taco Bell Cinnamon Nachos and Chocolate Taco frozen dessert kits.

“Our products are inspired by simple, wholesome and delicious flavors, as well as by listening to what our consumers want.”
—John Cox, Turkey Hill Dairy

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