woman eating ice cream on exercise ball

What's Trending in Ice Cream This Holiday Season?

With retail ice cream sales up from the new stay-at-home lifestyle, manufacturers may be wondering how to keep their captive audience engaged. From new flavors like Ruby Cacao to functional CBD ice creams, check out the coolest ice cream trends this holiday season.


Take a look at some new trends in ice cream:

  • Comfort flavors
  • Plant-based options
  • Bright colors
  • Exciting new flavors
  • Handheld treats
  • Ice creams with functional benefits

Shifting Consumer Trends During COVID-19

The pandemic impacted consumer trends in food and beverage in unpredictable ways, with many manufacturers spending the early months struggling with day-to-day uncertainty. Now, as consumers have settled into the new normal, it's clear that some new trends are emerging.

For example, comfort foods became increasingly important to consumers during this stressful period. At the same time, consumers have become more concerned about staying healthy and more aware of ingredients and nutrients that can support their immunity and overall health. Snackable foods are also very important to consumers right now since they help lighten the meal prep load for themselves and their families while they work from home.

With these new consumer priorities in mind, let’s take a look at this season's ice cream trends.

Nostalgic Flavors

With more consumers seeking comfort foods, ice cream is well-positioned as a favorite childhood treat. But within the ice cream category, nostalgic flavors, in particular, are resonating with consumers. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies and cream, chocolate chip, and cookie dough are all flavors that hit the mark. Manufacturers can also double down on decadence with richer versions of old standbys like chocolate fudge or dark chocolate.

Plant-Based Ice Creams

The health halo around plant-based products can make a real difference at times like these. Consumers who see plant-based ice creams as a better-for-you treat are often drawn to their healthy, plant-based ingredients. These include coconut, almonds, oats, and more recently, avocado and banana. The different flavors, colors, and textures these ingredients provide also add appeal.

avocado ice cream

Bold Colors

Ice cream with strong visual appeal is also on-trend, especially for parents buying ice cream for their kids. Bright colors instantly add a fun factor and engage more of the senses for a more memorable experience. Especially popular are the vivid color combinations found in mermaid ice cream (purple and turquoise), cotton candy ice cream (pink and blue), and unicorn ice cream (assorted pastels plus sprinkles or glitter). Black cherry and matcha ice cream are examples of eye-catching options for adults.

Adventurous Flavors

While adventure-seeking through foods has traditionally been associated with Millennials, cooped-up consumers of all ages could use a little culinary excitement these days, especially with so many restaurants closed. Exciting or novel ice cream flavors include global flavors (like black sesame, matcha, and mango), spice flavors (like cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger), and boozy flavors (like rum, whiskey, and Irish Cream). Haagan-Dazs Ruby Cacao and Trader Joe’s Ube Purple Yam ice cream represent some of the most recent flavor innovations in ice cream.

Handheld Ice Creams

Ice cream in a snackable format checks all the boxes for consumers by offering convenience, indulgence, and portion control. Traditional ice cream bars, sandwiches, and cones, as well as newer shapes and sizes like Ben & Jerry’s Pint Slices, Magnum Mini Ice Cream Bars, and Bunny Snacks by Blue Bunny fill this need. This trend may also provide a boost to mochi ice cream, which combines global culinary adventure with snackable convenience.

ice cream bars

Functional Ice Creams

One of the dairy trends carrying over into ice cream is products that provide functional benefits. Examples of functional ingredients that can be found in ice cream are probiotics, prebiotic fibers, turmeric, and CBD oil. This is an exciting area since the popularity of ice cream can enable the health benefits of functional ingredients to reach a large number of people.

Keeping Up with Consumer Trends

During these uncertain times, consumers can take comfort in knowing their favorite foods are there for them and that food manufacturers are also responsive to their changing needs. Staying on top of consumer trends is key to delivering the products consumers are looking for.

As a leader in dairy ingredients, you can count on Glanbia Nutritionals to provide the up-to-date solutions and information you need to create dairy products that will succeed in today’s market. Contact us to learn more about our line of dairy products today.

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