Ice Cream Trends: Global Market Overview

Explore how the ice cream category is developing, including dairy and non-dairy ice cream innovations around the globe

July 5, 2024 – Globally, ice cream is preferred for its taste and indulgence, offering diverse flavors and textures. Innova’s 360 research into global ice cream trends reveals the latest market shifts and consumer preferences, paving the way for brands to strategic decisions in the category.

Ice Cream Market Size and Trends

The ice cream market has been steadily increasing throughout the past five years, growing by 7% in sales and 3% in product launches. Innova’s ice cream trend research indicates growth to continue at a similar rate in the upcoming years. When analyzing per capita consumption, New Zealand is the top country, followed by Australia, the US, Spain, and Finland.

Ice cream trends research shows that Asia represents the most launches in global ice cream over the last year, representing 43% of the global share of launches. Australia, East Europe, and Latin America are growing in ice cream product launches.

China dominates the ice cream market in sales, while the US, Japan, Brazil, Germany, and Italy trail behind. The fastest growing countries in ice cream sales are India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil, with India and China projected to have the fastest ice cream sales growth in the upcoming years.

Ice Cream New Product Launches

Ice cream trends research shows that non-dairy ice cream launches are growing at a faster pace over the past five years. However, non-dairy ice cream still represents a small fraction of global ice cream launches. Dairy ice cream accounts for 91% of new product launches in the past year. West Europe is the most active region for ice cream product launches. Asia is leading in dairy ice cream launches, whereas North America holds a strong position for non-dairy ice cream launches.

Ice Cream Trends

Top Companies and Brands

The ice cream category is fragmented, with major companies driving new product launches. Unilever is the most active in both dairy and non-dairy ice cream products, with top brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, and Walls. In 2023, Unilever acquired the premium ice cream brand Yasso. Plant-based ice cream is a key area of innovation for Unilever, centered on three pillars that appeal to younger generations: digital, sustainability, and biological aspects.

Other notable companies in dairy ice cream include Nestlé, R&R Ice Cream (Froneri), General Mills, Aldi, and Lotte.

Leading innovators in non-dairy ice cream are Valsoia, Cereal Base Ceba, Schwarz, and Orkla. Valsoia accounts for 14% of non-dairy ice cream launches in various forms and flavors over the past year, emerging as a potential competitor for Unilever in the non-dairy space.

Ice Cream Consumer Insights and Preferences

Consumers usually eat ice cream because it tastes good, makes them happy, and offers indulgence. Globally, 64% of consumers have purchased ice cream and desserts in the past year. Notably, different demographic groups consume dairy and non-dairy ice cream. Dairy ice cream appeals more to older consumers, like Generation X, whereas non-dairy options are popular among millenials and Gen Z.

The majority of dairy and non-dairy desserts and ice cream consumers prefer eating these products at least once a week, leading to a 17% increase in consumption over the past year.

Consumers typically eat ice cream during afternoon and evening snacks, with supermarkets, specialist shops, and convenience stores being preferred shopping destinations. Ice cream trends research displays that consumers are mostly influenced by real or natural ingredients and product safety claims in ice cream and dessert products.

Claims and Positioning Trends

Most non-dairy ice cream products feature plant-based and vegan claims, whereas dairy ice cream products often boast clean labels with no additives or preservatives and halal claims. In the non-dairy space, clean labels also highlight gluten-free and lactose-free claims. Ethical claims on both dairy and non-dairy ice cream focus on packaging, environmental impact, and human ethics.

Additionally, allergen-free, no added sugar, and vegetarian claims are growing strongly in both categories. This signifies the rising consumer demand for healthier, more ethical, and allergen-conscious ice cream options.

Top Flavors and Ingredients Ice Cream Trends

Chocolate, vanilla, and nut ice cream entries are growing fastest in the dairy and non-dairy ice cream markets, respectively. Non-dairy cheese products are increasingly featuring flavors like caramel and cookie, whereas dairy cheese launches are focusing on berry and summerfruit flavors.

The fastest growing ingredients in non-dairy ice cream are nutraceuticals, minerals and vitamins, and fiber. This indicates consumer interest in healthier and more functional ice cream options. Meanwhile, in dairy ice cream, there is a rise in cream, milk, skimmed milk powder, and whey powder concentrate.

What’s Next in Global Ice Cream Trends?

Taste and indulgence are the key motivator for ice cream consumption, thus driving innovations in this category. With 2 in 10 consumers globally influenced by low or reduced sugar in ice creams, manufacturers are likely to leverage ingredient technology to reduce sugar and increase the use of non-nutritive sweeteners, offering healthier indulgent options.

The rising preference for new flavors offers brands potential opportunities to innovate floral, exotic, and region-specific flavor options to attract a diverse range of consumers. While non-dairy ice cream penetration remains lower than dairy, companies might capitalize on this by highlighting plant-based benefits and their positive environmental impact.

Sustainable, clean, and safe ingredients are a key concern for most consumers. Companies’ can address this concern by emphasizing transparency in product communication through packaging and incorporating health-related claims with environmental benefits. Innovations in flavors and sustainability may drive future market growth and meet evolving consumer interests.


This article is based on our report, “Now & Next in Dairy & Dairy Alternative Ice Cream – Global​.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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