Ice cream is big business, and these days it is much more than a simple 99 with a flake. The formats, flavours, ingredients, and sensory experience of consuming this frozen treat are always evolving to the demands of the consumer. And these demands are changing faster than ever.
We’ve scoured the world for the hottest ice cream trends, looking at those that are already established, those that are trending now, and those that have recently started to emerge.
Veganism has well and truly arrived in the mainstream, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The number of people adopting a vegan diet in the UK has increased by 360% in the last decade*, and this growing market is driving innovation across the entire food industry. Plant based ice creams made from coconut, soy, pea protein and more are appearing in the market. And it’s not just a fad for prestigious food markets in London – the big brands are all doing it too. Look at Jude’s new vegan range, the Magnum Vegan Classic, Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy tubs, and Yarde Farm’s new vegan chocolate ice cream which are all pushing the boundaries of innovation.
At the other end of the spectrum, soft serve ice cream is pretty much as traditional as it gets, with oodles of nostalgia factor. You just need to hear the sound of an ice cream van to be transported back to your childhood and the unparalleled joy brought by a Mr Whippy on a hot summer’s day… But lately, soft serve has been reinvented with the addition of exciting flavours, toppings and colours that take this simple and cheap ice cream format to new heights. Places like Soft Serve Society in Shoreditch and Gelupo in Soho have given it the full hipster make-over. Extravagant flavours, playful combinations and striking visuals have managed to premiumise the product beyond its humble origins.
It’s not just about what you eat – how you eat is being taken to a whole new level. At Merry Me in Penang, Malaysia, they serve extravagant flavour combinations on a bed of dry ice that gives the illusion of smoking ice cream, turning dessert into a theatrical experience. At the Apiary in Singapore, their black and white sesame ice cream is served on a tray with different condiments to customise yourself – including toasted sesame seeds, Japanese sea salt and sesame oil. Other Asian or unusual flavours are becoming popular, with the vivid green of matcha, the zing of yuzu, the bright purple botanics of lavender, and even the eye-watering heat of wasabi, all appearing on ice cream menus. Avocados have also managed to infiltrate the industry, being turned into an ice cream that is rich, creamy and smooth, and that can be paired with sweet flavours like chocolate, coconut and salted caramel. Fravocado is a company that has leapt on this trend, creating gluten, dairy, soya and nut free ice cream made from avocado and coconut milk, available in a variety of flavours. Another ice cream format upping the game theatrically is Thai rolled ice cream, also known as ‘stir-fried ice cream’ or ‘ice cream rolls’. The liquid ice cream mixture is stirred on an ice pan which cools it to -20 degrees . The mixture is chopped and rolled as it freezes to create rolls of smooth semi-solid ice cream which can then be stacked vertically and smothered with all sorts of sauces and decorations. Places like Pan-n-ice and Yumitub have brought this eastern treat to London, with great success.
Modern society is becoming increasingly health conscious, and many consumers are making more informed choices about the food they eat, and the ingredients that go into it. Being able to indulge with less of the guilt is a win/win – and so delicious sweet treats that don’t destroy a diet plan or health regime are growing. You can now have your cake and eat it too! Some brands are getting on board with this mind-set, and have started to celebrate the growing interest consumers have in dietary information by highlighting calories and sugar content in big bold messaging that becomes the focal point of their packaging. Products are now shouting about being lower sugar, lower fat, and high protein, which is attractive language for many. Brands like Halo Top, Breyers, Enlightened and Oppo are leading the way, offering a huge variety of flavours that are starting to redefine perceptions of what ice cream can be.
*Mintel – Attitudes Towards Leisure Venue Catering – UK – June 2017