Frozen Treat Sales Heat Up

Consumers find comfort in a sweet, cold indulgence—and healthy alternatives.

November 04, 2021

Ice Cream

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Frozen treats have increased in popularity, and consequently sales, among consumers as they seek out comfort food during the pandemic, reports SmartBrief. Fifty-nine percent of consumers reported they have bought frozen desserts as a snack, and 38% said they are snacking on them more than they were pre-pandemic, according to Mintel research.

Mintel also found that about half of consumers are eating frozen desserts to treat themselves and feel comforted.

“In 2020, sales of the category started gaining traction earlier than in previous years and stayed higher going into the colder months,” said Jayme Gough, research manager at NACS, in a recent NACS Magazine article. “This may be attributed to trip consolidation to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 or customers’ needs for indulgence to cope with the stresses of the year. Whatever the cause, CSX monthly over-time-data showed packaged ice cream and novelties sales pulled away from the sales trends of the past three years starting in April and spiking in July before dipping down toward the winter months.”

Along with the increased demand for frozen treats, unique and unusual flavors have popped onto the scene. Ice cream company Van Leeuwen collaborated with Kraft Heinz earlier this year to create a limited-time macaroni and cheese flavor, which was available in both packaged form as well as at Van Leeuwen shops. The product was a hit and sold out within 15 minutes of being online. Van Leeuwen is creating an oolong tea flavored ices that features jasmine flower essence next.

Non-dairy options for frozen treats, particularly ice cream, is a trend worth noticing. According to Innova Market Insights’ Non-Dairy Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt in North America analysis, the continent holds the majority market share of non-dairy launches, and vegan labeling is the top positioning for ice cream launches in the U.S. for the subcategory, reports SmartBrief. The top non-dairy ice cream flavors in the U.S. and Canada are milk chocolate, chocolate chip and vanilla, according to the report. Trending flavors include salted caramel, coffee, strawberry and banana.

“From the convenience channel perspective, consumers have two preferred formats: pints and bars,” Patricia Biswas, channel marketing manager for Wells Enterprises, maker of Blue Bunny and Halo Top ice creams, told NACS Magazine in the article. “In fact, 62% of ice cream sales at c-stores came from these two formats last year. Pints grew 29.2% and bars 10.1% in dollar sales versus a year ago.”

Read more about the 2020 performance of the packaged ice cream and novelties category, as well as how retailers can score with private labels, in “Hot Sales, Cool Treats” in the April 2021 issue of NACS Magazine.