The take home ice cream category seems to be dividing into two quite different segments. While some products are keen to emphasise their premium and indulgent nature, others are positioned as ‘healthy’ or ‘diet’. Indeed, despite the traditionally indulgent nature of ice cream, it is low-carb products that have boosted new product introductions in the sector recently, as Mintel reports.

The Desserts & Ice Cream category has shown strong growth in new product introductions over the last two years, with the shelf-stable desserts segment showing particularly strong growth. Among the current trends in the category are the use of rich and exotic ingredients in premium, indulgent products. Elsewhere, spicy and unusual ingredients are used to give a novel twist to products, while character merchandising and added “bits” are used to target children. Another important trend in the sector has been brought about by the increase in the number of health conscious consumers, resulting in an increase in low-calorie, low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb and non-dairy options.

Launch activity
The Desserts & Ice Cream category is dominated by three segments: Frozen Novelties/Impulse Ice Cream (accounting for around 26% of all introductions); Take Home Ice Cream (around 25% of all introductions); and Chilled Desserts (around 21% of launches). All sub-categories registered an increase in new product launches from 2002 to 2003, with significant increases in the Shelf Stable Desserts and Dessert Toppings sub-categories; and less spectacular increases in Take Home Ice Cream (only 6%).

In North America, a significant number of low-carb ice cream introductions were an important factor for a very strong first quarter in 2004 (with around 63% of all introductions). Overall, in the period of the review, North America and Europe each accounted for around 39% of the market. Nearly all regions showed an increase in the number of introductions from 2002 to 2003, apart from Asia Pacific, which had a decrease of around 9%.

Product trends

Indulgence is a pleasure
Ice cream is a naturally indulgent food, traditionally laden with fat and calories. Despite an increased awareness of health matters and a move towards healthy foods and lifestyles in most food categories, ice cream continues to move towards ever more indulgent, premium and super-premium varieties. Consumers demand quality and rich flavours, especially when ice cream is consumed only as an occasional treat. Indulgent ice creams are filled with extra goodies and hidden surprises like a hint of alcohol, fruity syrupy swirls and extra chocolate chunks. Traditionally, indulgent varieties in ice cream have very descriptive and sensual names, which will start that treat feeling from the moment the consumer takes the product from the supermarket shelf. Organic products account for only a small percentage of the market (around 3% of all new introductions in the period under review) but still convey a higher quality/healthy image while also providing indulgent flavours.

Desserts & Ice Cream Introductions by Sub-Category


Jan-Mar 2004

Chilled desserts



Dessert toppings



Frozen novelties / impulse ice cream



Other frozen desserts



Shelf-stable desserts



Take home ice cream







Source: Global New Products Database (GNPD)
Note: Numbers include new brands and line extensions, but do not include packaging changes and products flagged as new and improved.

Original and speciality flavours
Although vanilla and chocolate remain the most used and traditional flavours, there is a continuing trend for the use of more exotic ingredients that provide a hint of originality and sensual flavours. Emerging spices used in the segment include ginger, saffron and cinnamon; and more unusual flavours include tea and sweetcorn (although these are somewhat established in Asia). Cheeses such as ricotta are also entering the segment and joining other popular Italian cheeses such as mascarpone.

In Germany, Nestlé introduced, under its Mövenpick range, Crème Ricotta Pfirsich, a combination of ricotta cheese with peach ice cream and peach pieces, while in Switzerland, Nestlé launched Mövenpick Gingerbread Ice Cream, a seasonal winter all natural ice cream with gingerbread sauce and gingerbread biscuit pieces. In Mexico, Nestlé launched a take home ice cream under its Nestea ice tea brand (impulse versions under this brand are already available).

In France, Monoprix introduced Pain d’Épices Crème Glacée, ice cream with spiced bread chunks and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and white pepper among others).

In Brazil, Unilever launched, under the Kibon brand, Originais do Brasil (Brazilian Originals), a range of speciality Brazilian ice creams, including a limited edition Milho Verde, Green Corn variety.

In the USA, Caribbean Ice Cream introduced Tropical Treets, an ice cream range made with fresh ingredients and real fruit purées and available in more than 50 flavours including Lychee, Saffron, Grapenut, Green Tea, Date and Fig.

Low on calories, high on flavour
Due to its traditional ingredients of full milk, cream, fat and sugar, ice cream has always been considered a treat. Manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of this and are trying to target the health conscious consumer who does not want to abstain completely from ice cream. This is achieved by using skimmed milk, sweeteners or by not adding extra fatty ingredients such as cream. Recently there has been the novel use of olive oil (a ‘better for you’ option). Some of these low fat/low sugar/low calorie products maintain some of the trends occurring in the general ice cream market, for example indulgent flavours). The combination of ice cream with frozen yoghurt or sorbet also helps to reduce the fat and sugar levels. Previously this trend was more noticeable in the US, but is now starting to spread to other regions as obesity is starting to become a worldwide issue.

Fortified and functional
Functional and fortified products in the ice cream market are not widely available, and this is therefore an area with potential for future development. This is especially true considering the popularity of enriched (vitamin/mineral fortified) products in other food markets. Some products are being introduced with added calcium claims and others contain live probiotic bacteria.

Take home ice cream introductions by region


Jan-Mar 2004

Asia Pacific






Latin America



Middle East & Africa



North America







Source: Global New Products Database (GNPD)
Note: Numbers include new brands and line extensions, but do not include packaging changes and products flagged as new and improved.

Non-dairy ice cream and frozen yoghurt
In the past few years, there has been an increased consumer awareness of food intolerance and allergies. “Free from” type foods can be found in most categories, and take home ice cream is no exception. Non-dairy soy or oat-based ice creams and frozen yoghurts are becoming increasingly popular although the market remains somewhat niche. These products tend to be low in cholesterol and thus have a healthier positioning.

Fun ice cream for children
Most take home ice creams are either targeted at all age groups, to be consumed alone or for sharing, and the premium and super-premium varieties tend to be targeted at adults. However, the presence of children in a household is an important factor with regards to the purchase of ice cream. Therefore, some manufacturers are starting to introduce varieties specifically targeted at children, either using well-known cartoon characters in the box design, or by adding shaped sweets and marshmallows to the ice cream.


Vanilla and chocolate still dominate
The traditional flavours for ice cream, vanilla, chocolate and, to a smaller extent, strawberry, still dominate the market. Flavour blends (for example, chocolate & mint; Neapolitan) are also important, as well as added flavour with the use of syrup and sauce swirls/ripples (for example, caramel, toffee, chocolate, raspberry). Fruit flavours are dominant in the sorbet and frozen yoghurt segments, with citrus fruits being one of the most popular. Exotic and unusual fruits are starting to be used to give a premium feel to the product. Coffee flavours are still popular, and tea flavours are starting to make an appearance (tea is already well developed as a flavour for ice cream in Asia).

Ingredients to give extra crunch and flavour
Mostly in the more indulgent and rich ice creams, but also in other products, the inclusion of extra pieces of confectionery, cake, chocolate, nuts or fruit continue to add extra texture and crunch to the product.

The future of the ice cream sector
Looking ahead, Mintel expects there to be continued new product development for ever more indulgent, premium and super premium lines, with added alcohol, chunks, swirls and exotic and original flavours.

Healthy eating trends means there is expected to be an increase in low calorie/low fat/low sugar options with indulgent, rich flavours, while there is also the potential for more functional and fortified products with added calcium, or added probiotic bacteria.

Mintel believes there is room for growth in products targeted at children, with the addition of marshmallow or jelly shapes and characters.

In addition, there may be some growth in recipes inspired by traditional non-frozen desserts and cakes, as well as ice creams linked to confectionery brands.