Ice cream trends are hot -- and getting hotter

When New York’s Museum of Ice Cream pop-up concept opened last month, all 30,000 tickets sold out in 5 days. Co-creator Maryellis Bunn told the New York Times that she looked at other subjects for her museum, “but nothing is going to foster the same joy that a scoop of ice cream does.” She’s right – more consumers told us their ice cream consumption is increasing compared to any other dessert we tested – 1 out of 3 consumers say their ice cream consumption greatly or slightly increased in the past year.

This summer alone has seen a number of unique ice cream trends popping up across the country. Bubble waffle ice cream cones started appearing in New York, Chicago and Toronto, followed by Thai ice cream rolls. Donut ice cream cones, a modern take on a Slovak dessert, briefly took over Instagram, as did insane, over-the-top milkshakes. New York-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel – the inventor of the Cronut – made news for his Crème de la Corn, sweet corn-flavored ice cream served on grilled corn, which he unveiled in Tokyo.

It’s not just in on-trend urban areas – consumers will find unique dessert flavors across the country, in every segment. Olive oil has grown 154% on restaurant dessert menus in the past four years, while bacon has increased 137%, according to Datassential MenuTrends. Operators are also increasingly catering to special diets, as vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan desserts all increased their presence over the past four years.

On the whole, however, most consumers still prefer the classics. When building a sundae, consumers’ top ice cream flavors are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, while the most-preferred toppings are hot fudge, whipped cream and caramel sauce. Ice cream is still a comforting indulgence – five out six consumers’ last ice cream was eaten at home. While outlandish ice cream flavors like spicy pineapple cilantro and wasabi sesame soy may get all of the attention (Datassential covered them in our issue of "Creative Concepts: Modern Ice Cream Parlors"), the fastest-growing ice cream flavors on dessert menus today are salted caramel, chocolate hazelnut and peanut butter cookie. Seasonal flavors, like cranberry and pumpkin cheesecake, are also growing.

Two years ago Datassential took a comprehensive look at the dessert market in our first MenuTrends Keynote Report on desserts. But dessert trends are moving fast, so we’re diving into the latest insights with our brand new report, with opinions and attitudes from over 2,500 consumers and 320 operators. In addition to insights on cake and cheesecake, pie and cookies, this year’s report also covers the entire frozen dessert category, including ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, soft serve, Italian ice, milkshakes and floats.

Dessert is a category that few decision-makers can ignore – after all, over 85% of consumers eat a dessert within any given week. Datassential’s newest MenuTrends Keynote: Desserts covers it all – frozen desserts, cakes, cookies, pies, and beyond. We look at preparation methods, consumption, drivers and barriers, preferences, trending flavors and so much more, all broken down by demographic groups. Do you know which age group is more likely to make dessert from scratch, and which group is more likely to splurge on dessert? Find out in the report.

Mike Kostyo is the senior publications manager of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. To purchase the MenuTrends Keynote Report: Desserts mentioned in this article, contact Datassential managing director Brian Darr at brian.darr@datassential.com.

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