Even in the depths of winter, frozen desserts are popular and almost everyone likes them. According to Technomic’s 2011 Market Intelligence Report: Ice Cream, almost half of consumers say they eat vanilla ice cream (47 percent) at least once a month, and 46 percent say they have chocolate. Why, then, according to the market research company, are sales of frozen desserts not doing too well?

Full-service restaurants need to branch out beyond ice cream, says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic. “But it would have to be something a consumer couldn’t necessarily make on their own, or wouldn’t want to take the time to make on their own,” she says.

It should also have a unique flavor profile and be a dessert that has multiple ingredients or multiple preparation steps, she says.

So bowls of three scoops of ice cream are out. For restaurants not keen on frozen desserts, a scoop of ice cream, yogurt, or gelato can all be a small extra to make other desserts a little more special (and boost check averages).

There’s also the option of mini frozen desserts. About two out of five consumers say that they strongly prefer the option of ordering mini desserts or reduced-price, half-portion desserts at restaurants, according to Technomic’s Dessert Consumer Trend Report. This, Technomic says, likely relates to health considerations, but tiny options also offer another choice for consumers who may be too full to eat a full-sized dessert but are still interested in something sweet after their meals.

As for who’s eating frozen desserts, “there’s not a demographic out there that doesn’t like ice cream,” Chapman says. Frozen desserts are most popular with the 25- to 34-year-old crowd, and Asian and Hispanic consumers enjoy eating more frozen desserts than Caucasian and African American consumers.

And don’t forget the kids: Technomic’s Kids and Moms Consumer Trend Report asked children aged 6-12 to create their ideal meal. When it came to dessert, fully 68 percent chose ice cream in some form, including in a sundae or cake. Operators can make kids’ desserts a little more special with mix-ins like M&Ms or Oreos, Chapman says, and these could be added to ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato.

Frozen desserts sell well in the fall, according to Technomic, but this could be because of the seasonal flavors, Chapman says, with pumpkin and apple being popular as holidays approach. Chapman suggests launching any new frozen desserts with a seasonal theme—for the holidays or a strawberry dessert in June, for example.

By Amanda Baltazar
Industry News