What you need to know

Mintel estimates total US retail sales of ice cream and frozen novelties will stay at $11.9 billion in 2014. While sales in the category have increased by 8% since 2009, these gains are wiped out when adjusted for inflation to reflect a 3% dip during that time.

The category is driven by sales of ice cream, which represents half of market share. Gelato (sales of which are counted among the ice cream segment) has kept the segment, and thus the category overall, afloat in recent years. Appealing to consumer interest in flavor innovation and product quality (which outweighs price consciousness to some extent), these pricier offerings have kept dollar sales steady despite decreased consumer participation in the category.

Some 85% of respondents to Mintel’s custom consumer survey eat frozen treats. Ice cream enjoys the highest rate of participation (76%). While about half of frozen treat buyers are buying the same among of these products as they were a year ago, some 29% say they are buying less (compared to 19% who are buying more). A concern over health leads the reasons for cutting back.

Despite the fact that 79% of frozen treat buyers view the products as an indulgence, 68% of shoppers consider health-related attributes in their purchase decision. Keeping products in line with the health interests of consumers, allowing for responsible indulgence (including smaller package size and the use of natural ingredients) will be one means of stemming future declines

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Ice Cream and Frozen Novelties—US, July 2013, and the reports bearing the same name from July 2012, 2011, May 2009, and May 2008, as well as Ice Cream—US, June 2007 and the July 2006 report of the same title.


For the purposes of this report, the ice cream and frozen novelties market has been segmented as follows:

  • Ice cream

  • Frozen novelties (ice cream bars, sandwiches, cones, popsicles, and the like, all with the advantage of inherent hand-held convenience, single portions/portion control, and snack friendliness)

  • Frozen yogurt (including non-dairy items made from soy or other dairy alternatives)

  • Sherbet, sorbet, and ices

Packaged and unpackaged ice cream sold through restaurants, ice cream parlors, street vendors/food carts, and other foodservice venues are excluded.

Value figures throughout this report are at retail selling prices (rsp) excluding sales tax unless otherwise stated.

Data sources

Sales data

  • Market Size and Forecast and Segment Performance sections: Total retail sales based on Information Resources, Inc. InfoScan Reviews; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey; US Census Bureau, Economic Census.

  • Retail Channels section: Mintel/based on Information Resources, Inc. InfoScan Reviews; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey; US Census Bureau, Economic Census; except supermarket and drug store sales, which are based on Information Resources, Inc. InfoScan Reviews.

  • Leading Companies and Brand Share section: Mintel/based on MULO sales data from Information Resources, Inc. InfoScan Reviews. MULO is defined as Multi Outlet, representative of the following channels: total US grocery, mass; total US drug; total Walmart, dollar, military, and club stores.

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through GMI to explore consumer consumption of attitudes and behaviors toward ice cream and frozen novelties. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted March 31-April 9, 2014, among a sample of 1,890 adults aged 22+ with access to the Internet.

Mintel selects survey respondents by gender, age, household income, and region so that they are proportionally representative of the US adult population using the Internet. Mintel also slightly over-samples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or Black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results and to allow for more precise parameter estimates from our reported findings.

Please note that Mintel surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in the survey results.

Mintel also has analyzed data from Experian Marketing Services, using the Simmons NCS (National Consumer Study), and the Simmons NHCS (National Hispanic Consumer Study).

The Experian Marketing Services/Simmons NCS/NHCS was carried out during November 2012-December 2013, and the results are based on the sample of 22,703 adults aged 21+, with results weighted to represent the US adult population.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (White, Black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Abbreviations and terms


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this report:

BFY Better for you
CPI Consumer Price Index
GMO Genetically modified organism
GNPD Global New Products Database
JAMA Journal of the American Medical Association
MULO Multi Outlet, representative of following channels: total US grocery, mass, total US drug, total Walmart, dollar, military, and club
NCS/NHCS National Consumer Study/National Hispanic Consumer Study (Experian Marketing Services)
rsp Retail selling price
: :

Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II/Swing generations Members of the WWII Generation were born in 1932 or before and are aged 82 or older in 2014. Members of the Swing Generation were born from 1933 to 1945 and are aged 69-81 in 2014.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2014, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2014, Gen Xers are between the ages of 38 and 49.
Millennials* Born between 1977 and 1994, Millennials are aged 20-37 in 2014.
iGeneration Born between 1995 and 2007, members of iGen are aged 7-19 in 2014.
Emerging generation The newest generation began in 2008 as the annual number of births declined sharply with the recession. In 2014 members of this as-yet-unnamed generation are younger than age 7.

* also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

In order to provide an inflation-adjusted price value for markets, Mintel uses the CPI to deflate current prices. The CPI is defined as follows:

CPI The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

The CPI and its components are typically used to adjust other economic series for price changes and to translate these series into inflation-free dollars. Examples of series adjusted by the CPI include retail sales, hourly, and weekly earnings, and components of the national income and product accounts. In addition, and in Mintel reports, the CPI is used as a deflator of the value of the consumer’s dollar to find its purchasing power. The purchasing power of the consumer’s dollar measures the change in the value to the consumer of goods and services that a dollar will buy at different dates.

The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase, at today’s prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period. It is also the best measure to use to translate retail sales into real or inflation-free dollars.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics definition.
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