2016’s hot trend in indulgence: Ice cream sandwiches

May 3, 2016
6 min read

The ice cream sandwich is perhaps the most indulgent and waistline-busting format of ice cream. When ice cream isn’t calorific enough, book ending it with chewy, thick cookies will fulfill any treat craving. And in early 2016, ice cream sandwiches suddenly received a new lease on life, thanks to some imaginative – and hugely indulgent – new approaches to innovation. Gourmet ice cream sandwich parlours and food stalls have been emerging in New York, London and Chicago over the past two years, sowing the seeds of a trend which has finally hit mainstream retail. Part of the appeal of ice cream sandwiches is in the presentation, with the cookie or cake parts contrasting with the ice cream centre. This kind of visual appeal is important in this time of social media sharing, as discussed in one of Mintel’s 2016 Global Food & Drink TrendsGood Enough to Tweet.

Various media titles have billed ice cream sandwiches as the hot new trend for summer 2016, and multinational food companies have been taking an imaginative approach to the format. For example, Krispy Kreme in Japan introduced Kool Krispy Sandwich in April 2016, comprising two scoops of vanilla and raspberry ice cream in between two halves of an Original Glazed Donut. The global popularity of the Krispy Kreme chain ensured that this super indulgent launch featured in news sites all around the world, and a strong contender for a wider roll-out.

Ben & Jerry Son of a… ‘Wich Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolatey Chips

In the US, Pop Tarts partnered with restaurant chain Friendly’s in April 2016 to launch its own version of an ice cream sandwich, featuring a Pop Tart either side of the ice cream and toppings like chocolate-covered peanuts.

Meanwhile in Europe, the arrival of Ben & Jerry’s new vegan ice creams has somewhat overshadowed the launch of the Unilever brand’s sandwich range in March 2016. The soft cookie sandwiches are available in a single Cookie Dough ‘Wich pack, and also a sharing format containing eight bite-sized cookie sandwiches. Ben & Jerry’s entry into sandwiches showcases how ice cream sandwiches have been adapted to be a premium ice cream product, rather than a kids’ option, which is how they have traditionally been marketed.

Asia offers a different interpretation

The ice cream sandwich format has seen some imaginative interpretations in markets outside of the US and Europe, potentially inspiring innovation ideas. In Japan, Lotte has the Lotte Ghana Black Chocolate & Cookie Sandwich, under its Ghana chocolate brand. Half of the ice cream is covered in sandwich cookie, while the other half is coated with black chocolate – the cookie dough acting as a kind of stick. Such fusion sandwich/stick formats offer a new approach to mess-free portability in ice cream.

South Korea has a vibrantly innovative ice cream market, and recent ice cream sandwich launches include a Blueberry Sandwich Ice Cream Cake from ice cream brand Binggrae Pangttoa. The cookie parts are substituted for the Castella-style slices of sponge cake infused with blueberry juice, illustrating how fruit juice can be incorporated into ice cream sandwiches. South Korea is also home to the bungeoppang – or ‘carp bread’ – street food snacks. These are like ice cream sandwiches, but feature baked waffles in the shape of a carp.

To boost their appeal to kids, Wall’s in Indonesia introduced a sandwich ice cream last year with a cartoon imprinted on the cookie slices from local comic, Masdimboy. Again, this is another relatively simple means of extending the appeal of ice cream sandwiches.

Lotte Ghana Black Chocolate & Cookie Sandwich (Japan)
Binggrae Pangttoa Blueberry Sandwich Ice Cream Cake (South Korea)
Wall’s Es Krim Sandwich Rasa Vanila dan Cokelat (Vanilla & Chocolate Flavour Ice Cream Sandwich (Indonesia)

Taking cues from biscuit innovation

Ice cream manufacturers can take inspiration from innovation trends in the biscuit and cookie market to maintain an exciting pace of innovation in ice cream sandwiches. Extending the fish shaped style from South Korea, highlighted above, ice cream brands can look at how biscuit companies design biscuits with different shapes to appeal to different age groups. For example in Japan, the national phenomenon that is ‘kawaii’ culture – which translates as ‘cute culture’ – has encouraged a variety of panda-, koala- and teddy bear-shaped biscuits.

Where ice cream brands can really learn from biscuit makers is in targeting older consumers with shaped biscuits. Teenagers and young adults may be considered as more difficult to target than children, but German brand Hans Freitag is known for its imaginative approach to more thoughtfully considered, on-trend shaped biscuits. For example, its Likies biscuits are in the shape of a Facebook thumb’s up ‘like’ symbol, well positioned to appeal to social media users. Finnish biscuit company Fazer retails Moomin-shaped biscuits, which will appeal to older Millennials in Europe who grew up with the animation series and books. This kind of innovation in the biscuit category demonstrates how ice cream sandwiches can do so much more with the shape of their products.

Maxies Disney Star Wars Mini Cocoa Cookies
Bahlsen Leibniz Animal-Shaped Butter Biscuits with Caramel
Hans Freitag Anita’s Own Likies Sweet Biscuits










What we think

  • Ice creams that look attractive enough to be photographed can help a brand raise its profile on social media – something which is behind the resurgence of ice cream sandwiches.
  • The cookie/cake and ice cream filling format of ice cream sandwiches makes them open to a variety of contrasting flavour and texture combinations.
  • Ice cream sandwiches in Asia show how imagery can be imprinted onto the cookie layer, and how fruit juice can be incorporated into the cake slices for a more decorative and Instagrammable appeal.
  • Many flavour and format trends in the biscuit market can be applied to ice cream sandwiches, because of the essential structural and textural role the biscuit plays.

Although in this era of obscene indulgence, chances are that triple cookie ice cream sandwiches will be deemed what consumers want, rather than those in interesting shapes. You can always rely on outrageous excess to grab a foody headline.

Alex Beckett is a Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. Prior to that he spent nearly three years writing UK-based consumer reports on a wide variety of food and drink categories. Prior to joining Mintel, Alex was Food and Drink Editor of highly-regarded food industry magazine, The Grocer.

Alex Beckett
Alex Beckett

Global Food & Drink Analyst, Alex is responsible for tracking consumer and innovation trends in a wide range of categories including ice cream and bottled water.

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