McConnell's Fine Ice Creams, a maker of indulgent products made from the finest ingredients, has recently introduced at grocery a line of flash-frozen cookies, which the company has offered in its scoop shops for years. (PHOTO BY TANA GANDHI)
They may be primarily thought of as warm-weather indulgences, but ice cream and frozen treats are popular year-round — in spite of evolving consumer diets, lingering supply chain woes and even inflation.
Raising the Bar
Aware of consumers’ unshakeable love for sweet frozen treats, Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market teamed with Casper’s Ice Cream to showcase the latter company’s Jolly Llama Half-Dipped Yogurt Bars across the grocer’s nearly 400 stores in 23 states. The recently launched line comes in Strawberry ’N Cream, Cool Mint Chip, Coffee Espresso, Lemon Cheesecake and Chocolate Fudge flavors, all containing just 100 calories each.
“In early June, Sprouts began introducing exclusive products to consumers under its New for You labeling program,” notes Reed Damon, chief marketing officer of Richmond, Utah-based Casper’s. “We were thrilled to find out that Jolly Llama would be included in the August edition of this exclusive program. Sprouts shared that it is focused on putting unique products in front of its shoppers, and this partnership helps build our credibility. Additionally, to entice the trial, Sprouts is offering the yogurt bars to their consumers at a promoted price of $4.99 every day for the remainder of 2023.”
According to Damon, “Over the last few years, we’ve noticed a shift in consumers seeking out frozen options that can accommodate a range of dietary needs, as well as healthier options. ... With Jolly Llama, it is really about the intersection of better-for-you and indulgence.”
As for the varieties offered in the Half-Dipped Yogurt Bars line, he observes: “Ice cream fans are constantly looking for new flavors. … Continuing to provide delicious and high-quality products while also ensuring these products continue to satisfy cravings with multiple textures and bold flavors will always be a trend we focus on.”
This past August, the Jolly Llama Half Dipped Yogurt Bars line from Casper's Ice Cream was exclusively featured at Sprouts Farmers Market stores.
Accent on Indulgence
Despite better-for-you innovations in this space, the desire for old-school decadence persists — albeit with a difference.
“The McConnell’s customer wants an indulgence,” emphasizes Michael Palmer, owner and CEO of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, a dairy whose product lineup includes a new line of scratch-made organic ice creams. “They trust that we’re going to deliver on the finest ingredients, with flavor profiles that range from classic to more foodie.” Palmer adds that novel seasonal flavors can help keep interest alive when the weather cools.
A key part of McConnell’s business is retail partnerships with such grocers as Encino, Calif.-based Gelson’s, which operates 27 upscale grocery stores in Southern California. “Over many years, they’ve been incredibly supportive,” affirms Palmer. “From a strategic standpoint, they offer valuable insight — relative to the category, certainly, but also in terms of what’s valuable to them and their customer base. … Their deep understanding of our customer has really helped us when it’s come to crafting our go-to-market strategy for some of these new products, whether launching products in new categories or, literally, making key merchandising decisions, from packaging to flavor profiles.”
Along with wellness and personalization, Palmer believes that going forward, sustainability will be an important trend in ice cream and frozen treats. “Packaging is a particular area of interest,” he says. “Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their choices.”
Who says that frozen treats need to be only ice cream, yogurt or their plant-based equivalents?
McConnell’s, for one, has debuted a line of 100% made-from-scratch cookies at grocery. According to Palmer: “[T]he cookies are fully baked and flash-frozen, allowing them to be conveniently ready after heating for just a few minutes in the oven. This is something we wanted to do to address consumers’ desires for an elevated yet effortless indulgence we’ve offered in our scoop shops for years.”
Then there’s Sebring, Fla.-based CitraPac Inc., which aims to disrupt the frozen fruit category with Nature’s Premium Fruit Pearls, a cryogenically frozen all-natural snack featuring a combination of real fruit, or fruit and creamy yogurt. Read more about this product in "Progressive Grocer Names Best New Products of 2023."