Through familiarity and an array of offerings, ice cream is the leading frozen treat in the ice cream and frozen novelty market, representing 54 percent of sales in 2013.

However, according to new research from Mintel, frozen yogurt is picking up steam and might just require more room on the freezer shelf soon.

Indeed, due largely to new product releases that are spurred by consumer interest in health and the popularity of yogurt offerings in the foodservice arena, frozen-yogurt sales saw a 74 percent increase between 2011 and 2013, a monumental increase compared to the minimal 3.9 percent increase of ice cream.

Overall, sales of ice cream and frozen novelties grew 9 percent from 2008 to 2013 to $11.2 billion, equating to a loss of 1 percent when adjusted for inflation.

While ice cream is the most popular segment by far in the sector (consumed in 89 percent of U.S. households, according to Mintel’s research), the segment posted minimal sales growth, going from $5.7 billion in 2011 to $5.9 billion in 2013. In contrast, the frozen-yogurt sector grew from $279 million in 2011 to reach $486 million in 2013.

“While ice cream remains the largest segment of the ice cream and frozen novelties market, sales dipped following the economic downturn,” says Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst at Mintel.

“The expanding array of snack options, as well as a lack of product innovation, contributed to this performance,” she adds. “In contrast, the frozen-yogurt segment has benefitted from a perfect storm of factors, including the growing popularity of yogurt among U.S. consumers, the growing acceptance of frozen yogurt as a snack, and a perception of a higher health profile that coincides with increased attention placed on better-for-you products.”

The majority of consumers (73 percent) believe that ice cream and frozen novelties can fit into a healthy lifestyle, and nearly half (47 percent) agree that low-sugar/fat ice cream and frozen treats are as satisfying as regular varieties.

However, some 53 percent of consumers say they try to limit the amount of ice cream or frozen treats they keep around the house because they are afraid they will eat too much, and 21 percent believe eating these items even once a week is too excessive.

More than half (56 percent) of all ice cream and frozen novelty consumers partake in their sweet treat after a meal as a dessert; however, younger Americans believe any time is good for a cold treat. Indeed, 57 percent of those between 18 and 24 years old eat ice cream/frozen novelties whenever they want, compared to 44 percent of all age groups.

In addition, 30 percent of 18–24-year-olds indulge on frozen treats as a snack between meals versus only 22 percent of all ages. This is perhaps understandable as Mintel’s research shows that young consumers are twice as likely as the average to eat products for mood enhancement (38 percent vs. 19 percent).

“Ice cream and frozen novelty products positioned as having an added value through the offer of functional benefits, as well as reduced guilt through their contribution to well being, can stand apart from the competition on store shelves and garner more attention from consumers,” Bloom says.

Perhaps a benefit of living alone, respondents from single-person households are more likely than larger households to eat frozen treats whenever they want (52 percent vs. 44 percent).

“This is a strong indication that advertisements that depict people reveling in the solo enjoyment of ice cream and frozen treat products should resonate with a large percentage of consumers,” Bloom says.

Consumer Trends, Desserts, News, Outside Insights