Ice-cream sales soar as Britons continue their love affair with cool

Upmarket gelato and indulgent new vegan flavours are among this summer’s hottest ice-cream trends as consumers seek out more artisanal and healthier versions – but don’t worry; there’s still plenty of room in the freezer for childhood favourites like Fab lollies.

Last week’s high temperatures boosted ice-cream sales in the UK, but they were up 3% over the past year anyway as Britons increasingly eat ice-cream throughout the winter as well as in summer. The arrival of major new low-calorie brands such as Halo Top as well as a growing number of niche brands such as Sambazon – which claimed a first with its scoopable açaí berry puree this year – and luxury gelato brand Remeo Gelato are fuelling interest in a market worth £1.1bn a year.

ice-cream sales

Isabel Bourke, an analyst at Kantar, which tracks grocery market trends, said ice-cream had become a “goldmine” for food manufacturers as consumers became more adventurous in their tastes. “Shoppers are really open to trying new things, and that makes it a goldmine for manufacturers who can have more confidence in bringing out new products,” she said.

“Some of the most successful launches across the entire food and drink sector are in ice-cream – like Halo Top – and a lot of success comes from trend-led products that appeal to younger customers, especially if it’s brightly coloured or has a fun design that might look good on Instagram.”

With its clever digital marketing campaigns that hook in millennials, Halo Top has hauled itself into the UK’s top 10 ice-cream brands by sales value despite only arriving in 2018. The American brand has won legions of followers by billing itself as a “low-calorie, high-protein and low-sugar” alternative to mainstream brands, with a recipe that uses the sugar substitute stevia.

But despite the growing number of options on the market, the blockbuster ice-cream brands in the UK market remain old faithfuls like Magnum – the country’s favourite, according to a recent YouGov poll. The Unilever-owned brand is certainly the biggest-selling brand in the UK, with Britons munching their way through £192m worth in the year to 26 January, according to data compiled by analysts at Nielsen. Surprisingly, the Fab lolly – which has been around since 1967 – came joint second in the YouGov poll, tying with Solero in the hearts of the 1,000 consumers surveyed.

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There is also evidence of the growing popularity of veganism, with sales of “free-from” products, which includes vegan options, up 26%. Ben & Jerry’s is among the brands that have created vegan versions of its popular flavours such as chocolate fudge brownie.

“Health trends are making their way into ice-cream like they are elsewhere, and a lot of shoppers look to the sector for something that feels indulgent but also healthy – things like reduced-calorie options or even brands with added protein, which they can incorporate into their diets more frequently.”

As in other parts of the food market, consumers have shown themselves willing to pay more for upmarket products, encouraging new brands to enter. The Kantar numbers show that sales of luxury ice-cream brands, such as Häagen-Dazs and Green & Black’s, jumped 8% in the past year.


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