Ice cream innovated for convenience and portion control

by Allison Sebolt
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While portability long has been an attractive quality of frozen novelties, the category has drawn strength recently from newer characteristics ranging from portion control to ethnic or natural ingredients.

Mintel International, Chicago, predicted the frozen novelties market will reach $2.6 billion in 2008, and the research firm is predicting annual growth of 1.5%. Krista Faron, senior analyst with Mintel Research Consulting, said this is especially notable when compared to the traditional ice cream market, which is forecasted to decline year-over-year.

"This is really a bright spot in the overall industry where the growth is fairly small but steady and is running counter to some of the negative growth trends we expect to see in the ice cream market," Ms. Faron said.

Ms. Faron said there is a convergence of market forces that have led to the growth of the frozen novelties segment.

"When you think about portion control and convenience — those are attributes that don’t necessarily lend themselves well to ice cream, but they lend themselves very well to frozen novelties," Ms. Faron said.

Ms. Faron added there are simply more opportunities for innovation with frozen novelties, such as 100-calorie packaging and individual portion sizes.

"These products are able to offer something that perhaps ice cream can’t, and that allows them to be more competitive with other categories outside of frozen desserts that have cannibalized some ice cream sales," Ms. Faron said.

She also noted many of the trends currently influential in the ice cream market are translating over to the frozen novelties segment. This includes churned formulations, combinations with well-known candy brands, popular flavor varieties, and the rise of ethnic products.

In terms of the ethnic market, a product called paleta has been increasing in popularity. Paletas are Latin-inspired ice pops that may be milk or ice based. Ms. Faron said as the Hispanic population in the United States grows, frozen novelties targeted to this group will become more readily available in supermarkets.

Another area of innovation in frozen novelties is in fruit-based products, which represent a healthier version of indulgence. For example, Del Monte Foods, San Francisco, has a product called Fruit Chillers, which are frozen sorbets containing three-fourths of a serving of fruit per cup and are fat-free. There is also

Breyers All-Natural Pure Fruit Pomegranate Blends, a frozen ice bar with flavors such as pomegranate blueberry, pomegranate mango and pomegranate mixed berry.

Breyers, Green Bay, Wis., also has various candy-inspired ice cream poppers, including Heath, Hershey, Oreo and Reese’s varieties. Each variety has about 60 pieces in a package.

Blue Bunny, Wells’ Dairy, Le Mars, Iowa, has 100-calorie bars in flavors such as raspberry and orange crème, fudge and vanilla fudge, and English toffee and butter pecan. There are also Doubles, which are individually wrapped bars that combine two kinds of ice cream dipped in chocolate. The Doubles line has three varieties: peanut butter cup, smores, and banana split. The Personals line from Blue Bunny offers smaller portioned sizes in flavors such as banana split and turtle sundae.

"Americans eat a lot of ice cream, but there is always the risk of overindulging when it comes to traditional ice cream," Ms. Faron said. "Portion control simply isn’t part of that value proposition. The fact that moderation is built into these products does make them appealing to consumers who are a bit more health conscious."

One of the most notable frozen novelty in recent years introductions marketed to women are the Skinny Cow products from Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings, Inc., Oakland, Calif. Specifically, the Skinny Dippers are 80 calories per frozen pop and come in vanilla, caramel and mint flavors. The Skinny Cow brand also offers cones and sandwiches in portioned packaging.

While the products do offer the benefits of convenience and portion control, they often cost more than regular ice cream products. Ms. Faron said because of the balance between good nutrition and taste, manufacturers have been able to justify the price premium.

While such products are growing in sales dollars and gaining market share, Ms. Faron said she doesn’t foresee a time when frozen novelties will outgrow the traditional ice cream market. She said ice cream is such an integral part of American food culture that it will never go away.

According to The Nielsen Co., New York, total frozen novelties sales in channels excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for the year ended Aug. 8 were $2,331,806,772, up 3.6% from $2,251,286,267 during the previous year.

According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, there were 350 new novelty products introduced in 2007, down from a high of 426 products in 2006. In 2008 through Sept. 10 there have been 220 new products introduced. The top claims for such products include kosher, low/no/reduced fat, all-natural and low/no/reduced calorie. Top flavors introduced, much like the traditional ice cream market, are strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, vanilla and chocolate and cherry.

In terms of who eats the most frozen novelties, Ms. Faron said age and income don’t play much of a determining factor, but gender does seem to be influential. Sixty-four per cent of women consume novelties versus 54% of men. Overall, Mintel noted novelties have a strong reach across various consumer groups, including children, adults, diet-conscientious and indulgence-seekers.



Top 10 claims for frozen novelty products launched in the U.S.

Claims Number of new products


1. Kosher 185

2. Low/no/reduced fat 77

3. All natural 53

4. Low/no/reduced calorie 44

5. Premium 43

6. Low/no/reduced allergen 39

7. Organic 31

8. Co-branded 25

9. No additivies/preservatives 21

10. Ethical - environmentally friendly package 20

Source: Mintel Global New Products Database

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Dairy Business News, September 2008, starting on page 8. Click here to search that archive.

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