As consumers eye more plant-based foods, the global development and production of vegan ice cream is soaring.
Insights company Mintel, which compiles the Mintel Global New Product Database, says 7 per cent of new ice cream products launched globally in the last year were vegan. That’s double the rate of five years ago.
Food makers have experimented with different flavours of plant-based ice cream, adding nuts, cookie pieces, toffee pieces and cookie dough chunks. This has surged from 2 per cent of new launches to 13 per cent over the last four years. In the UK, 16 per cent of ice cream lovers say would eat more of it if it had added protein.
The most popular plant-based flavours are chocolate (up 26 per cent in 12 months), vanilla (11 per cent) and coconut (9 per cent). The coronavirus pandemic has generally led consumers to consume healthier foods.
“The recent buzz around veganism has made its mark on the ice cream category,” said Kate Vlietstra, Mintel Global food & drink analyst. “Interest in vegan ice cream isn’t restricted to those following a vegan diet. Learning from their dairy counterparts, plant-based ice creams are moving beyond the basic flavours to offer indulgent options.
“Texture is playing a prominent part in vegan new product development with chunkier varieties on offer. Brands are demonstrating that vegan offerings can be premium with an array of luxury flavour combinations and packaging,” she said.
Food manufacturers are now using quinoa, seeds and oats in dairy-free ice creams.
Japan leads in ice cream innovation
Mintel revealed Japan has overtaken the US as the world’s leading global ice cream innovator this year, with the highest number of new products launched. The country is known as the source of matcha-flavoured ice cream and also uses mayonnaise, seaweed and soybean.
One in 10 new ice-cream products are currently created in Japan, while 9 per cent comes from the US.
“A popular sweet treat among Japanese consumers, ice cream innovation in Japan has surged in recent years following a push to drive year-round consumption,” said Vlietstra. “Quirky flavours and exciting formats are putting Japanese ice cream at the forefront of food innovation, while providing ample inspiration for ice cream launches outside of Japan.
“The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine paves the way for ice cream brands to use traditional Japanese flavours such as hojicha and yuzu. Quirky combinations, unique flavours and unusual ice cream cones are all well-positioned to appeal to consumers globally.”