James Thompson
James Thompson is a Research Analyst in Ireland involved in the production of reports covering a range of sectors including food and drink, lifestyle and retail.

Despite the colder season, ice cream remains a favourite treat across the world, with Mintel’s upcoming Ice cream and Desserts Ireland 2017 Report showing that over four in five consumers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland eat it any time of the year. The precise origins of the dessert are frequently debated with rival claims from Italy, Greece, Iran, India and China. The product has attracted a following from every generation and market segment of consumers and, as one of the few truly global foods, a number of leading brands have conquered the most lucrative markets.

However, despite their combined vast product portfolio, there is a notable absence of brands experimenting with savoury ice cream flavours. There are examples of regional preferences for savoury flavours around the world such as Olive Oil (Italy), Kinako (Japan) and Ube (the Philippines), yet to date there appears no prominent examples of a leading consumer brand of savoury ice cream. For ice cream manufacturers, much of the innovation in the market is focussed on altering serving sizes, provenance of ingredients and making the product visually appealing for social media, but no significant strides have been made to stimulate the consumer palate in innovative ways.

Mintel’s UK’s Consumer Snacking 2017 Report detailed how savoury advent calendars had been launched in the UK to stimulate demand amongst adult consumers. The report also pointed to popcorn as an example of a snack which has been able to use spicy and savoury flavours, as demonstrated by brands such as Jolly Time and Lord Poppington’s. More recently, dessert pizzas have become popular with major brands such as Goodfellas, Dominos, Dr. Oetker and others launching their own version of chocolate spread pizza.

Not just for kids: savoury ice cream can target adults

Currently, most examples of savoury ice cream flavours are only available from gourmet ice cream parlours, restaurants and gastro-pubs, rather than artisan food retailers and large supermarkets. Concerns with excess sugar, which are currently aiding the growth of sorbet in comparison to ice cream, could play in favour of a commercial range of savoury flavours.

Developing a recognisable, premium savoury ice cream brand could help drive growth in mature markets by combining the features of a sophisticated flavour, reduced sugar content (or perception of), and locally sourced, authentic ingredients. Many of the most popular brands of ice cream use flavours derived from ingredients which are seldom native to their retail markets, such as chocolate and vanilla, so developing an ice cream which combines good-quality dairy ingredients with seasonal and local flavours could be an appropriate strategy for brands to cultivate sales from dormant market segments.

While not everyone will be excited about the idea of savoury ice cream, consumers are generally getting more and more adventurous, so the time might be right to test their taste buds. Sure, savoury ice cream may not be enough of an indulgent treat for most ice cream eaters to ditch their beloved chocolate or caramel tub, but this is an era in which younger consumers are willing to take risks with their flavours, hungry for something genuinely innovative and new – especially if the flavours actually work.

Few can accuse the ice cream industry of being unadventurous or risk-averse, but the lack of a recognisable brand of savoury flavoured ice cream seems a glaring omission on the part of the large brands.

James Thompson is a Research Analyst with a BA (Hons) and Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing. Upon joining Mintel in January 2017, James has been involved in the production of market intelligence reports covering a range of sectors including food and drink, lifestyles and retail.