December 13th is National Ice Cream Day, so what better time to dig into one of our favorite treats? Though ice cream is typically thought of as a guilty pleasure, it turns out today’s ice cream brands might just be healthier than you think. With the rising popularity of trendy ice cream brands like Halo Top, Enlightened and Vixen Kitchen, we’re seeing greater focus on including “better for you” ingredients.
Image via Enlightened's Official Facebook Page
While we’ve looked into top ice cream flavors before, in our sweetest search yet we dove into 7,200 ice cream and frozen yogurt products with a different goal in mind this time. We wanted to see who was really adding in those healthier ingredients to their products and if they were touting those benefits to consumers on the packaging. It’s worth noting this analysis did not include sherbet, sorbet, ice pops, juice bars, Italian ice, ice cream cake or ice cream cones.
We found that some of America’s favorite ice cream brands might be healthier than their labels suggest. For example, fiber ingredients are an excellent replacement for fat and sugar because they add bulk but do not contribute any calories. In fact, 230 ice cream and frozen yogurt products contain enough fiber to make this claim, yet only 12% of those products tout fiber on their packaging. A newer trend in the ice cream category is added probiotics: 60+ products – mostly frozen yogurt – make a claim about containing probiotics.
Many consumers are watching their sugar intake; Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, revealed that ice cream products claiming to be “low glycemic” grew 42% in dollar sales vs. the previous year. But many ice cream makers seem to be missing the opportunity to tap into this trend. More than one-third (36%) of these products contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners to help sweeten the dessert while controlling the calories they contribute. But only 10% of those products make claims about their ice cream product having reduced or no sugar, low glycemic, or a claim around maintaining healthy blood sugars.
Image via Thrive's Official Facebook Page
Many new, smaller manufacturers are being added to frozen aisles and are quickly building a following. In fact, Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, found that in the last year alone, 40% of small manufacturers’ dollar sales came from clean label products. So which brands will help you quench your craving for an icy sweet treat but won’t leave you feeling guilty? Vixen Kitchen touts being Vegan, Paleo, organic, gluten free, a good source of protein and iron, with no refined sugars. Enlightened is another brand that makes nutrient content claims about sugar, calories, protein and being low in fat and high in fiber. Emerging brand Thrive also makes several claims about being 99% sugar free and fortified with added probiotics, protein, vitamins and minerals with nutrient content claims about calories, protein, and fiber. Halo Top promotes three main points on its pints: low-calorie, low-sugar content and high-protein. In fact, each container contains 20 grams of protein. By boldly sharing this information they are capitalizing on the consumer demand for more transparency.
Image via Halo Top's Official Facebook Page
While consumer behavior research and data are important, so is getting the scoop on granular data about your category. You can use it to understand what trends are driving purchases, how competitors are cleaning up their labels, or what naturally sourced ingredients are replacing artificial ones. This is just the tip of the ice(cream)berg -- the opportunities are endless.
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