U.S. Ice Cream Market Tops $25 Billion

Edvard Munch’s iconic “The Scream” just sold for a record $120 million at auction in New York, but that’s peanuts compared to the very voluble demand for ice cream, as indicated by Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts in the U.S., a just-released market research report from Packaged Facts.

According to Packaged Facts, sales topped $25.1 billion in 2011, up 2.4% over the previous year—representing a small upswing after two years of flat sales.  Because ice cream and frozen desserts purchased in foodservice channels have a higher ticket price per serving than do their counterparts purchased in retail channels, foodservice is the larger of the two sectors in dollar terms, accounting for 57% of overall sales.  Within the retail mass market for packaged products, packaged ice cream is the largest category, accounting for 55% of total retail sales, followed by frozen novelties at 36%.  The fastest dollar growth, however, came from the frozen yogurt/tofu specialty segment.

In the mature U.S. marketplace for ice cream and frozen desserts, according to Packaged Facts publisher David Sprinkle, marketers, retailers, and foodservice providers can grow their businesses by creating and marketing products that speak to today’s consumers on an emotional level. Along with localized strategies and niche products representing true differentiation, integrating new media into the marketing mix can create buzz and communicate brand attributes that are responsive to the desires of economic downturn-weary Americans wanting to indulge without breaking the bank.

Ice cream and frozen desserts is a highly competitive market, with two multinational conglomerates—Nestlé and Unilever—at the top of the heap. Across the country, nonetheless, are hundreds of regional and local competitors that often go head-to-head with the industry giants in particular geographic markets, with many local and regional brands commanding the loyalty of generations of customers. In addition, a slew of niche companies run by entrepreneurs are making more than a blip on the radar screen with innovative and truly differentiated products.  Also in the mix is a generous swirl of private label, with the improved quality of store brands making them an attractive price/value alternative to premium brands.

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