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Ice Cream in the Food Culture

The food culture has never been so dynamic and consumer behavior around food never more fragmented. Here at Denali, the primary outlet for our ingredients is ice cream, so we stay alert to what the consumer is requesting, and track and compare that to what they are actually consuming.

Ice cream is America’s favorite indulgence with an approximate 90% household penetration and well over $6B in annual purchases of packaged ice cream. However, the food culture has influenced consumption volume and splintered consumption behavior. On one hand, indulgence and experience remains the primary consumption driver, as is evident in recent years’ growth of super premium ice cream, gelato, artisan and limited-time-only (LTO) offerings. On the other hand, claims and attributes have also become purchase drivers, clean label being the primary claim, followed by several others that are emerging: non-GMO, rBST Free, dairy-free, organic, etc. Recently, consumer migration to healthier foods with higher nutritional value has found its way into ice cream, showcased specifically by the fast emergence of a low calorie/protein added sub segment.

Category fragmentation has brought many challenges for brand managers, marketers and R&D scientists. However, based on actual consumer behavior, over 80% of total (gallonage) consumption is still standard ice cream and it should remain the core focus. Connected to this, the primary ingredients consumed in ice cream remain the same as well: chocolates, fudges, caramels, peanut butter, chips/flakes, cookie doughs and brownies.

Looking forward, we are keenly aware of added sugar consumption in the U.S. and the impact it is having on consumer purchase behavior across all categories in the grocery store. The government is also active in this, changing label laws on added sugars and assigning larger standard serving sizes. Time will determine if the “War on Sugar” will result in additional reductions in ice cream consumption.

Regardless of your brand’s market position or claims, Denali can formulate to them. The experienced Denali R&D Team is solution driven, from base mix stabilization and texture, to ingredients with new claims, to what is next in flavor and ingredient innovation.

Remember, wherever the food culture may go, ice cream will remain America’s favorite indulgence!

-Jon Vander Woude, VP of Marketing