Market Overview and Trends
North America holds the largest share of the $466 million global plant-based ice cream market, which is forecast to grow nearly 15 percent by 2025.1 Consumers’ interest in plant-based foods, along with product improvements and innovations, have been key factors in this growth.
In the U.S., notable trends in the category include the rise in protein and low or no sugar claims and the emergence of oat-based ice creams.2 With coffee shops across the country transitioning to oat milk as their preferred plant-based milk for lattes, oat has quickly grown popular with consumers who also appreciate its creamy texture.
Plant-based ice creams and frozen desserts appeal to consumers for a variety of reasons ranging from culinary adventure to better-for-you indulgence to environmental sustainability. Here we explore the inherent advantages of plant-based ice creams, as well as the smart formulation and packaging choices that manufacturers are making.
Health and Nutrition Benefits
Plant-based ice creams and frozen desserts have some distinct health and nutrition benefits. They are typically cholesterol-free, and they can also be free of saturated fat as long as plant-based ingredients containing saturated fat (such as coconut) aren’t added to the formula. Plant-based dairy desserts are also safe to eat for consumers with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance.
The health halo around plant-based ingredients (in particular, protein) creates an important opportunity for manufacturers. For many consumers, a plant-based claim signals a healthier option and automatically positions plant-based ice cream as a better-for-you indulgence. Additionally, high protein claims are becoming increasingly prevalent, even among products that don’t generally make a protein claim.
A variety of superfoods that can provide additional impact and interest to consumers are often included in plant-based ice creams. Oats, which are associated with heart health due to their beta-glucan fiber, are becoming popular as are other superfoods such as quinoa, which is known as a complete protein, and flax and chia seed, which are known for their omega-3s.