The British ice cream market got a big boost last year thanks to soaring temperatures in June and July. As a result, Mintel’s Market Size and Forecast report notes a sharp rise in ice cream sales during 2018’s heatwave, with the market currently estimated to be worth £1.4 billion – up 26% from 2013.
“The scorching 2018 summer has been a boon to the ice cream market, fueling sales growth at a time when cost pressures are putting a squeeze on operators,” said Anita Winther, a research analyst at London-headquartered Mintel.
Iceland, the frozen food retail specialist, rings up ice cream sales of around £100 million a year. Its increased market share, which has risen 12% in the last 12 months, highlights the market’s clear growth.
The ice cream sector has evolved way beyond the basics, with unique flavors hitting the market all the time. As the sweet treat is enjoyed year-round it is vital that flavors are continually updated to appeal to consumers, which is why the focus is increasingly on innovation with new players coming into the field.
Lotus Biscoff recently entered the frozen realm with premium individually wrapped, ice cream stick products. Made from real dairy ice cream, these new entries feature the same unique flavor synonymous with the company’s much loved coffee biscuit.
“The ice cream is wrapped in a layer of Lotus Biscoff spread and coated in a crisp layer of Belgian milk chocolate and crushed Lotus Biscoff pieces,” said Frances Booth, category marketing manager at Lotus Bakeries. “With luxury and indulgent brands continuing to drive the sector's growth, the new ice cream sticks are a must-stock product for the upcoming seasons.”
Although sophisticated flavors such as salted caramel or honey and fig are in high demand, nostalgia among adult consumers means that playful flavors, such as New Forest Ice Cream’s (NFIC) Candy Floss, should be big sellers this year. Available wholesale, the Candy Floss four-liter retails for £12.65, while the 4.75-liter tub goes for £14.75.
“Everything from fun, colorful toppings and vibrant sugar-sleeved cones to pastel colors are great ways to incorporate this trend,” said Christina Veal, director at Lymington, Hampshire, England-based NFIC. “Our latest Candy Floss ice cream has a perfectly pink pastel color combined with strawberry sugar crunch pieces to deliver that sweet pop.”
Although Salted Caramel is by far Iceland’s biggest selling flavor, it’s followed closely by Bubblegum, which is made in Italy and costs £1.75 for a 900-ml tub.
“Our customers prefer the fun flavors,” said Charlotte Durant, Iceland’s senior buyer for ice cream and desserts.
Summer and cocktails go hand in hand in Britain, which is why some manufacturers have introduced alcoholic flavors into their ice cream and sorbet lines. Ocado offers Speakeasy’s Limoncello Alcohol Infused Ice Cream and NFIC has a Gin & Pink Grapefruit sorbet which features delicate botanicals cut with the sharpness of pink grapefruit – the perfect treat for imbibing adults to enjoy.
“Alcoholic flavors are a great balance between enjoying a dessert and having a refreshing beverage or cocktail,” said Veal. “Offering ice cream and sorbets infused with alcohol means that customers don’t have to choose between the two as they can enjoy the best of both worlds.”
The rise of veganism has seen more free-from ice cream variants hitting the market. Although dairy ice cream is the most popular type of frozen dessert, eaten by 75% of adults, the buzz surrounding non-dairy options has resulted in 11% of British consumers choosing plant-based options.
“Vegan diets are continuing to grow in popularity, therefore the need to offer quality alternatives on all menus has never been greater,” said Veal. “It is incredible how many people opt for dairy alternatives wherever they go, whether this is down to diet or lifestyle choices or simply just because they are interested in trying something new. Therefore, we always recommend having a couple of key flavors on hand to ensure you’re appealing to all consumer needs.”
NFIC has introduced its first vegan range in two flavors: Vanilla Pod and Salted Caramel ice cream.
“We stock two dairy-free option in brands in our The Food Warehouse stores,” said Iceland’s Durant. “The volume is still relatively low but we are working on an own label vegan ice cream offering for next year.”
ASDA sells Magnum Vegan Classic ice cream for £3.50 per pack of three.
Ice cream is viewed by many as a treat and as such little thought is generally given to its health credentials. In fact, according to Mintel, 71% of consumers do not believe they eat enough ice cream to be concerned whether it’s unhealthy.
However, many people do focus on health, and with the UK government targeting sugar levels in food an increased number of low calorie variants have hit the market. Low calorie ice creams are predicted to drive sales, with 44% of ice cream eaters encouraged to consume more by such variants, according to Mintel.
“Lower calorie ice cream brands have caused a stir in 2018, building up a not insignificant market penetration,” said Winther. “While the lower calorie proposition has potential to bolster category volume sales and help it withstand the ongoing war on sugar, these products’ relatively high price and poor image as indulgent remain barriers to uptake.”
Consumer interest in health issues has also resulted in increased demand for more single portion ice cream cups, with 57% of ice cream eaters looking for products which deliver convenience and indulgence, reports Mintel. The fact that single cups offer greater portion control will appeal to consumers and Public Health England.
Halo Top, which is sold in the United States, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan and Austria, is now available in the United Kingdom. Claiming to have the same great taste as regular ice cream, this product line contains two-thirds less calories. However, health seemingly comes at a price, costing a hefty £5 a tub in ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons stores.
ASDA has also jumped on the bandwagon with its range of high protein, low calorie ice cream. Available in three flavors: Birthday Cake, Vanilla and Peanut Butter, these products come in at under 400 calories a tub. Priced at £2.50 they are a wallet-friendly low calorie option.
Cookie Dough ice cream, another low calorie offering from ASDA, serves up just 199 calories per half tub.
Although the UK ice cream market’s recent boom can be attributed to the hot weather experienced last summer, innovation within the sector has certainly contributed to increased consumer spending. – Reported by Sarah Welsh