Ice Cream Hot Amid Cold Economy

Ice cream retailers are scooping up the profits despite a chilly economy, with the U.S. ice cream market expected to reach $6.8 billion in 2010, according to the Mintel Global Market Navigator.

Meanwhile, the combined value of the top five European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) stands at £4.6 billion, up from £4.1 billion in 2008, Mintel reported.

The Mintel Global New Products Database found that premium lines accounted for 9 percent of global ice cream product launches in the last six months, while economy lines represented 4 percent of global launches. Even though ice cream is often seen as an affordable, sweet indulgence, consumers still express an interest in healthier products. Manufacturers have answered, with 13 percent of all product launches touting a “no additives/preservatives” claim.

“The strongest ‘healthier’ trend in ice cream has been the removal of additives and preservatives, rather than the limiting of fat, sugar or calories,” said Mintel analyst Ana Lourenco. “There’s definitely an opportunity for more on-trend superfruit or antioxidant-rich formulations to help make ice cream appear better for you.”

What’s on the outside is just as important as what’s on the inside. Packaging developments are focusing on more eco-friendly or recyclable materials. In the last six months, 13 percent of ice cream products featured an environmentally-friendly packaging claim, a 6 percent increase (in terms of share launches) on the previous period, with actual launches doubling.

“Consumers are clamoring for more eco-friendly products in all food and drink categories, and ice cream is no exception,” Lourenco said. “Companies with environmentally-conscious packaging and practices may be able to get a leg up on their competition.”

Germany boasts the most enthusiastic ice cream lovers, with residents shelling out £19 per person on the creamy treat each year. However, all European countries are in agreement when it comes to their favorite flavor: chocolate. Mintel GNPD found that more than a third (32 percent) of the total ice cream products launched in the United Kingdom in 2009 were chocolate flavored, compared with 31 percent in Spain, 22 percent in Italy, 17 percent in Germany and 16 percent in France.

In the United States, vanilla is the top flavor of choice, accounting for 11 percent of ice cream product launches in 2009. Chocolate is a close second, with 8 percent.

Mintel is a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence, with offices in Chicago, New York, London, Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo.

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