Frozen Desserts Enter a New Age

January 16, 2015

Swing doors open to higher performance opportunities, ushered in by product quality and transparency trends.

The frozen desserts case could heat up soon, thanks to simpler quality ingredients, innovative flavors, and transparent labeling practices  - as represented by several new and established brands.

  • DF Mavens – Its gourmet ice cream formulas build on bases of almond milk, coconut or soy.  Its products are all dairy-free, gluten-free, Kosher, and have no preservatives or cholesterol; some have no sugar added.  
  • Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto – Recently bought by Unilever, this brand has a short ingredients list, high-end BPA-free see-through packaging, and 26 flavors to meet Millennial demand for new, exciting tastes. Its gelatos have 30% less fat than regular ice cream; its sorbettos are dairy-free and fat-free; neither has high fructose corn syrup.
  • Marie Callender’s pies, from ConAgra, feature pastry shells and crust made from scratch.  In one example of transparency, the brand’s razzleberry pie package states where its raspberries and marionberries are grown.  

These initiatives help breed greater trust, willingness to trial, and openness to spend more for what shoppers consider a well-deserved affordable indulgence, says F3.  Some of these new items can retail for up to $7.99 per pint - while neighboring super-premium ice cream and yogurt pints (which were once the ones to push the category price and quality envelope) sell for about $3.99 everyday and as low as $2.50 on sale), and larger 48-ounce containers sell often on promotion for between $2 and $3.

As specialty pints find shelf space behind glass doors, F3 notes, the impact on category performance per cubic foot could be dramatic, a result of their higher prices and smaller footprints per package.  Also, F3 believes the more transparent frozen dessert makers become about their ingredients, the more easily consumers could include this category in their meals and snacks at home – as they overall aim to eat smarter.

If flavor trends from other dessert categories eventually migrate to the frozens case, chocolate could be paired with flavors that grew by double-digits on restaurant dessert menus in 2014.  These flavors include “salts, blood orange, pomegranate and olive oil,” wrote Maeve Webster, senior director, Datassential, in a column for SmartBlog on Food & Beverage.  The trends firm further said consumers often “enjoy their desserts at home” – 66% say this is true for cakes and 59% for pies. Also, 19% say the “last pie, tart or cobbler” they ate was a frozen option.

Meanwhile, U.S. multi-outlet sales data from IRi, a Chicago-based market research firm, indicate mixed trends in frozen desserts for the 52 weeks ended November 2, 2014 in supermarkets, drug stores, mass market, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains.  For example:

  • Frozen ice cream and sherbet dollar sales were up 0.9% to $5.74 billion in this time frame.  Ice cream dominates this segment, up 2.4% to $5.0 billion.  Meanwhile, novelties slid 0.8% to $3.5 billion; sherbet/sorbet/ices fell 6.7% to $194.1 million; and yogurt/tofu dropped 8.2% to $324.2 million.
  • Frozen cheesecake dollar sales were down 6.1% to $130.4 million.  Sweet goods slipped 6.4% to $215.3 million.  Pies dipped 1.4% to $524.2 million.