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18 January 2021

Analysis of the ice cream sector and new trends in the market

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Ice cream consumption increased in 2019 in all channels in line with the evolution of the figures provided by the main companies in the sector. The favourable weather and the recovery in consumption due to greater economic stability were key to understanding this impulse. This positive evolution seemed set to continue in 2020, but it has been affected by the Covid-19 health crisis when two of the main sales channels in the sector were closed for several months: HoReCa (hospitality) and impulse. Although, during the months of April and May, the category has registered double-digit increases in retail sales.

After a stable 2018, last year was a good year for the ice cream industry as a whole, with growth in most of the operators’ income statements and in channels such as retail with increases of 3.6% in volume and 6.9% in value. This evolution has been affected by the current Covid-19 crisis, which has led part of the sector to rethink the ways in which it reaches the consumer, thus alleviating the temporary closure of impulse and hospitality channels.

Home delivery bursts in as an alternative

One of the options that is becoming more popular is home delivery through applications such as Glovo. From this platform, brands have been marketed such as ‘Häagen-Dazs’, ‘Ben & Jerry’s’ and ‘Magnum’, the latter two from the Unilever Group, and chains such as Smöoy or ice cream parlors such as La Romana in Madrid, Parallelo Gelato in Ciudad Condal; Helados y Turrones Soler, from Valencia; or Loco Polo in Seville. By the end of May, almost 4,000 orders had been distributed in 13 cities. 

In order to help the hospitality channel, Froneri Iberia, better known commercially as Helados Nestlé, has launched the “Siempre abiertos para ti” (“Always open for you”) action, with specific measures adapted to their needs, such as promotions, digital menus with the offering of desserts and ice creams to replace the physical menu, providing different QR code supports, new formats and packaging for take away and special signage for bars and restaurants.

For its part, the multinational Unilever is also committed to home delivery and at the beginning of the pandemic launched the campaign #queremosayudarte, to support the restaurant sector. This campaign includes a ‘Practical First Steps Guide’ and an advice service for sales and home delivery. This action joins other initiatives launched by the company’s hospitality division, which has also made new free training tools available to restaurateurs to prepare for the reopening of their businesses. The consolidation of technology, new consumption habits and the current context are some of the main keys to understanding the boom in home delivery, the company maintains.

The veggie and eco/organic offering increases

Returning to the behaviour of the sector in 2019, according to data from consultants, sales in the food channel increased in volume by 3.6% and 6.9% in value, as mentioned above. This differential also highlights the sector’s clear commitment to products with higher added value, such as mini ice creams (snacking), veggies, premium, sophisticated, and products with healthier ingredients. Consumers’ interest in taking care of themselves and their health are the vectors that are marking the new offering in ice cream.

Specifically, one of the trends that has become consolidated in the category are vegan ice creams, with a multitude of launches both with MDF and MDD. In this second case we find developments such as those from Ice Cream Factory under the banner ‘VCLUB’ and Grupo Alacant, with the ‘4U Free From’ range that has just been launched in Spain. Also, Danone, which broke into the category last year with the ‘Alpro’ brand from Farggi (Lacrem), launched a second ‘Alpro 360’ range in 2020, with two sophisticated flavours: caramel macchiato and mango with passion fruit, with only 360 kcal per tub. 

Another of the vectors with the greatest traction in the ice cream sector is that of products with an organic, eco or bio seal. In this area, Helados Nordwik, with its ranges of ‘Palettas’ fruit popsicles and ‘Fruitall’ tubs, has achieved double-digit growth. Also, the Galician Casa Xanceda with its offer of organic yogurt ice creams has consolidated itself both in Galicia and in new areas through the Vegalsa chains and other specialist regional chains such as Bio C Bon and Herbolario Navarro, thus penetrating Madrid and the Eastern Coast.