The recent downward trend in ice cream volume sales continued in 2015 says research exoerts Mintel.

2013_Mintel_hi-resThe negative media focus on sugar, competition from other snacks and lacklustre summer weather have all played a role. The same factors are at play in the dessert market, which has similarly seen continuous volume decline in recent years.

With these factors expected to continue to exert pressure on these markets, further decline is predicted in both areas. Rising real incomes however hold the hope of scope for premiumisation, even as the outlook for volumes remains lacklustre. That healthier variants would be widely welcomed by consumers also points to potential for the market to look to NPD to curb cutting back.

Within the market, tubs and blocks continue to dominate ice cream volumes (58%), despite being hit by many of the difficulties facing the rest of the market. The role of these as a planned purchase arguably leaves the segment less able to benefit from short spells of good weather than impulse buys.

Multipacks of handheld ice cream have also been hit, with handheld singles the only segment to post volume growth over 2013-16.

In terms of usage, during spring and summer, ice cream is almost universally eaten. Just 5% of adults say that they typically do not eat ice cream at this time of year, while 49% eat ice cream once a week or more. This indicates that for many, ice cream is a regular, permissible treat during the warmer months.

Ice cream usage drops substantially during autumn and winter, 83% say that they typically do eat ice cream this time of year, but frequency of usage is low, with just 21% being weekly eaters.

While desserts are eaten by most adults, the frequency of eating these is fairly low, with all types being eaten weekly only by a minority. Health concerns, competition from other types of snacks and indulgent treats, and strong association with after-meal occasions are likely to be limiting factors here.

The research identifies potential interest in new product development. Coated bite-sized ice cream interests 42% of ice cream and dessert eaters. Smaller portions of ice cream can help drive usage through permissibility, as the diminutive portion size can reduce concerns over calories or sugar content.

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