The Origins of Ice Cream
While sweetened and flavored ice beverages were enjoyed in ancient times (including by King Solomon and Alexander the Great), it wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) that the shift from ices to ice creams occurred. This early ice cream was made by heating milk with flour, adding aromatic camphor, and lowering a container of the mixture into icy water until it froze.
However, ice cream as we know it wasn’t developed until much later, in the 17th century. This was a time of great culinary innovation in Italy and France that led to a variety of ice drinks being frozen to create desserts. The addition of milk and cream, plus new mixing techniques to create a lighter texture, were the final steps that gave us America’s favorite frozen treat.
The U.S. Ice Cream Market Today
Today ice cream is the most popular frozen dessert in the U.S. Last year the ice cream and frozen novelties market did especially well, growing 16.3% due to increased at-home ice cream consumption during the COVID lockdown.1 Sales are forecast to decline just slightly this year as the lockdown ends before returning to pre-COVID growth levels in 2022, according to Mintel.2
In exploring why consumers are buying ice cream and other frozen treats more often than before, Mintel’s research shows the top reasons are: being at home more often (53%), treating myself (49%), and for comfort (44%).3 To retain consumer engagement post-COVID, brands can look to some of the top trends in ice cream and tap into consumers’ growing interests in dairy alternatives, health benefits, and innovative flavors.