“Bank holiday weekend is approaching and many consumers will be planning to make the most of the summer break with a traditional ice cream by the seaside. While during a period of economic uncertainty Brits might be saving on their shopping basket, it appears that they have no intention of crossing ice cream off their shopping list. Indeed, new research from Mintel reveals that for Brits, flavour tops price for the most influential purchasing factor. Two in three (66%) consumers compared to 57% who are most influenced by price when it comes to ice cream.

Spurred on by the summer sunshine, the UK ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt market has withstood economic difficulties and Mintel estimates it to reach £1 billion in 2011 – up from £998 million in 2010 and £975 million in 2006. And it appears consumer demand is not set to thaw in the future either – as Mintel forecasts the ice cream market to grow even further, increasing by 11% to 2016, to reach a total of £1.13 billion.

Kiti Soininen, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, says:

” ice cream enjoys a strong market position in the UK. Typically eaten as a treat, the category has benefited from the rising demand for affordable treats brought in by the recession. As consumers are expected to remain cautious, the market looks well-positioned to continue to benefit from this. We all need a quick emotional pick-me-up on occasion – and sometimes we want it in consumable form. “

Eaten by around nine in 10 consumers (89%), the ice cream market has remained resilient to recessionary pressures. Indeed, it seems that the tighter money becomes, the more people look for evenings in and indulging themselves – supporting demand for ice cream. Nearly two thirds (63%) of Brits choose an ice cream as a treat and a quarter (24%) say they eat them on a night in or as a dessert when having guests (23%).

Moreover, it appears today’s consumers expect more than the usual chocolate and vanilla flavour varieties. Just under half (49%) of Brits claim that they like to try new flavours rather than stick to the same one all the time, while a similar number (46%) are interested in unusual or exotic flavours. A further three in 10 (28%) consumers cite high quality of ingredients as purchase driver of the frozen treat.

” our consumer research suggests opportunities for brands to engage consumers through factors other than price. A unique flavour signature, such as the Salted Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream or innovations such as Indian style cardamom and Irish Cream and Whisky flavoured ice cream, could thus be the key to securing brand loyalty. “Kiti explains.

However, even in an indulgent market such as ice cream, health considerations haven’t been out-weighed and remain on the consumer agenda. While only 10% see low or reduced fat as a factor in their choice of ice cream, some three in ten would like to see functional qualities added to their ice cream. Some three in 10 (30%) adults who eat ice cream claim that they would buy products with added health benefits such as probiotics and antioxidants and one in five (20%) would buy products with superfood ingredients (eg baobab, green tea).

And the trend for healthier options is not only limited to the British market. Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows that manufacturers have actively responded to market demand with varied NPD activity throughout Europe. Between January and June 2011, no additives/preservatives was the top claim for new ice cream products launched in Europe, featuring in 21% of products. Other top claims included Premium (7%), Eco-friendly packaging (7%) and low/no/reduced allergen (6%).

“NPD claims in the ice cream market becoming more common are no additives or preservatives and environmentally friendly packaging – mirroring the trends seen in the broader food market. New plans for a zero waste economy were launched by the Government in June 2011 in which it pledged to help food manufacturers to reduce the level of packaging material used in products, which is likely to see such ‘green’ claims gain further prominence. “Kiti concludes.

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