3 trends in ice cream

+ how to choose THE one (trend, not ice cream!)

By Maria Pavlidou, partner, and senior strategy consultant

With summer still on in Europe and temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in many of our hometowns, our mind inevitably keeps wandering off to ice cream! The HMT team members have been taking holidays and reporting on all sorts of exciting brands that they discover in their vacation destinations! So now that it’s my first week back behind my computer (physically, as I catch my brain sometimes still in the Greek islands), I couldn’t help but wonder: what are the trends in ice cream? How has this category evolved and what are the opportunities? We did some research and identified 3 trends that we bring to you with tips to identify which is the right one for your brand.


Artisanal ice creams are handmade with natural ingredients that are made free of any preservatives, artificial additives, emulsifiers, or stabilizers. These products are mostly made in small batches and have a shorter shelf life. With increased consumer health- consciousness, comes the need for homemade ice creams that are rich in natural ingredients and are hand-made without preservatives. We have seen (and proudly worked with!) some great brands who are back to producing ice cream like you would do it at home.

Is this trend right for your brand?

What we love about artisanal ice cream is that there is usually a true passion story behind the people who make it and a real purpose. The consumer demand is there and it is an opportunity to commend higher prices in a crowded market. But it needs to be authentic and not only a brand differentiation strategy. It is also probably more suitable for mature markets where consumers are savvy.

2. Sustainable and plant- based

Indulgent flavours and textures will always drive the ice cream category. However, there’s the big impact of plant-based diets which affects the ice cream category. The growth in plant-based ice creams goes hand-in-hand with consumers’ and producers’ environmental concerns. Optimising processes is a key concern for many producers, along with challenges such as sustainable refrigeration and delivery methods.  As plant-based ice creams are becoming more indulgent, they are trying to mimic full fat, dairy-based ice creams. That in itself requires real innovation. With so many new plant proteins to choose from, it feels a bit like playground for developers. Of course each protein source has its own challenges, but also represents new textures and new ways of presenting ice cream.

Is this trend right for your brand?

If you already have a classical ice cream assortment in your portfolio, it is a good idea to experiment with plant- based variants. Choose an expert manufacturer who can help with the technical production challenges and play with flavors and presentation. This trend is suitable for mature as well as emerging markets. And the target audience is probably still the “lifestyle stakeholders” as we call them in our FourFactors® methodolody (or the early adopters if you like), although is many markets the trend has already moved towards early mass. So if you are looking to innovate in ice cream and you still don’t have a plant- based variant in your portfolio, this would be a safe way to start.

3. Feel good ice cream

And doesn’t all ice cream feel good anyway?? I mean, it’s the definition of the category! However, in today’s market, it’s not uncommon to see consumers preferring brands for functional benefits and added goodness. Added functional ingredients in ice cream can include probiotics, protein, fiber and we have even seen CBD variants. Now ice cream can offer indulgence and an added sense of well-being.

Is this trend right for your brand?

This trend is definitely not for the mass market. You should consider it if your target audience are the “technology stakeholders” as we call them in our FourFactors® methodolody, those who have a specific condition and can only eat a certain type of ice cream. Or it would also be suitable for the “lifestyle stakeholders” or early adopters who are always looking for something new and trendy to try (or Instagram!).

We hope you are still not holidays but if not, we hope you enjoyed reading about ice cream! And if you want to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out and drop me a note at maria@thehmt.com and we can schedule an one hour free session to go through any brand challenge you might have. And if you like what you just read, sign up to our newsletter for more!