By Pat Pape
It’s a scientific fact. If you want happy customers, have plenty of ice cream on hand.
Research has found that noshing on ice cream activates the “happy zones” in the human brain. During a study sponsored by Unilever, maker of several ice cream brands, neuroscientists at London’s Institute of Psychiatry scanned the brains of people eating vanilla ice cream. They discovered that swallowing the frozen treat had an immediate effect on areas of the brain that indicate happiness.
A less scientific example of this phenomena was the 2020 pandemic. When people were forced to change their familiar routines and isolate themselves to avoid contracting COVID-19, c-store ice cream sales soared. That trend continued—to a lesser extent—into 2021.
“The ice cream category saw huge gains in 2020, up by double digits in both sales and gross profit per store annually,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS. “Ice cream sales were 0.89% of all in-store sales, which was up 0.15 points from 2019. The total category brought in $26,033 sales per store in 2020, a huge increase of 21.4% year over year. Plus, the category averaged margins of 45.97% and accounted for an average of $11,967 gross profit dollars in 2020, an increase of 20.2% from 2019.”
Expect to see more consumers reaching for frozen treats in coming months, according to Zach Waite, director of strategic growth, Hershey’s Ice Cream. “Consumers have been eating at home a lot over the last two years,” he said. “I believe a shift back to more eating out and [selecting] items that are easy to eat on the go will be strong for the foreseeable future.”
See what those trends were last year and how you can get ice-cream ready in this month’s Category Close-Up column.
Learn how key categories performed in c-stores in 2021 and get a look at what’s ahead at the NACS State of the Industry Summit, April 12-14, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Chicago. Register for the SOI Summit today, then look for exclusive coverage in the June issue of NACS Magazine.
Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at patpape.wordpress.com.