Some of today’s coolest desserts and sweet treats can be found in the frozen food aisle. With new product introductions catering to consumers in search of cleaner ingredients, free-from labels, nondairy offerings and other alternatives to tradi- tional ice cream, mousse and novelties, shoppers are rediscovering the aisle with renewed gusto. “We’ve seen a real comeback in the frozen food aisle,” says Julie Henderson, VP of communications for the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods
Association, Harrisburg, Pa.
“We saw growth for the first time in five years during
March Frozen Food Month,” she says. The frozen food
department saw a unit gain of 1.9% for the five weeks end-
ing March 31, 2018. And ice cream and novelties are the
second and third highest-selling categories in all of frozen.
“Both categories have shown sales gains and are long-term
Annual ice cream category sales hit $6.2 billion as of
the end of June 2018, up 2.2% from last year, according to
Nielsen, which names Unilever, private-label products and
Nestle as the biggest ice cream manufacturers.
But while Nielsen finds traditional ice cream remains the
category front-runner, nondairy ice cream saw the most
growth, up 33% in late June as compared to last year.
Fueled by lactose-intolerant consumers, vegetarians,
vegans and those simply looking to reduce their dairy
consumption, sales of nondairy ice cream have swelled in
“Nondairy is not just a fad—it’s become a part of the
consumer’s lifestyle. And it’s a growth engine for the ice
cream category,” says John Henry Siedlecki, senior brand
manager for South Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s,
part of Unilever.
Ben & Jerry’s entered the nondairy space several years
ago with the aim of delivering greater indulgence. “We saw
a real need for products that deliver on taste and texture,
with chunks and swirls and unique flavors,” Siedlecki says.
With two new recently introduced nondairy flavors—
Peanut Butter Half Baked and Cinnamon Bun—Ben & Jerry’s continues to elevate the dairy-alternative experience.
“When we started with nondairy in 2016, the category was
about 1% share of the total category. Now it’s grown to over
3% share of the total packaged ice cream category,” says
Siedlecki, who points out that sales of nondairy ice cream
were well over $200 million for the 52 weeks ending September 2018.
“There is a trend toward consumers becoming more
interested in plant-centric eating for a variety of reasons,
including food sensitivities, environmental or ethical reasons, and general wellness,” says Kiersti Bird, associate
brand manager for So Delicious Dairy Free, Springfield,
So Delicious recently expanded its offerings in the frozen, dairy-free dessert category with So Delicious Frozen
Mousse. At only 300 to 330 calories per pint, So Delicious
Mousse delivers a decidedly creamy and fluffy texture in a
variety of flavors.
Whether it refers to free from gluten, growth hormones,
artificial colors or dairy, “free-from” offerings in the frozen dessert space are leading innovation and new product
trends, according to the Packaged Facts report Ice Cream
and Frozen Desserts in the U.S., 9th Edition. “Invariably
this avalanche of new, free-from introductions will help the
market overcome some of the lukewarm sales growth of
recent years,” says Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts.
When it comes to free-from ice cream and novelties,
Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Markets is one grocer
Shoppers flock to the frozen food aisle seeking alternatives to
traditional desserts and indulgences. By Jennifer Strailey
Sales increase of
nondairy ice cream
in June 2018
Source: Nielsen; percent
change from 2017
FRIDGE & FROZEN