Ice Cream Offers a Nostalgic Platform for Innovation

Posted in Family Restaurant on July 7, 2024

As summer approaches, it’s time for operators to think about the ice cream creations and dessert ideas their customers will be craving this year.

Ice cream has long been a popular snack or dessert during the warmer months, especially as children are out of school and families are enjoying vacations together. While ice cream products are enjoyed all year round, 40% of annual sales occur between June and August, so it’s important to get the scoop on the hottest trends in frozen treats now.1 Although the category has evolved to incorporate more inclusions and experimental flavors and ingredients, it remains at its core a nostalgic comfort food enjoyed by consumers of all ages.

Even young consumers are nostalgic when it comes to ice cream. Gen Z is particularly interested in nostalgic desserts like Viennetta ice cream—a popular item in the ’90s, according to Datassential’s Dessert Decadence 2023 Foodbytes report.2 Sixty-two percent of Gen Zers surveyed (57% of consumers overall) are interested in nostalgic desserts, making them a receptive demo for throwback frozen favorites, or variations on such memory-triggering treats.2

How to Stand Out

The National Restaurant Association reports that consumers gravitate to restaurants that allow them to enjoy flavor experiences they can’t easily replicate at home.3 Signature desserts that fuse nostalgic favorites with a twist of novelty could be the sweet spot to scoop up more sales. The Mondelēz International 2023 State of Snacking Report found that seven in 10 global consumers surveyed look for snacks that bring back fond memories, and yet 74% say, “novelty of the flavor and texture combination are important to me when choosing a snack.”4

Mondelēz Foodservice offers an array of recipes with innovative twists on the tried-and-true, like Baked Alaska Pie made with OREO Cookies or Ice Cream Cupcakes made with Chunky CHIPS AHOY! Cookie Pieces. Desserts like these blend beloved brands, flavors and formats in a scrumptious fusion of nostalgia and novelty.

The Right Mix Matters

When choosing ingredients for ice cream creations, bear in mind that “Three-quarters of global consumers report that they have been loyal to certain snacks or brands for a long time (76%) – a number that rises to 84% in North America,” as the State of Snacking Report explains.4 As the world’s top-selling cookies,5 OREO (#1) and CHIPS AHOY! (#2) help add flavor and familiarity to any frozen or nonfrozen dessert concept.

“OREO really is America’s favorite cookie, so much so that it’s become an iconic flavor in desserts around the world,” said Chef Clarice Lam, a Mondelēz Foodservice Brand Ambassador. “I love creating recipes with OREO Cookies because it automatically infuses nostalgia into whatever I make.”6

McDonald’s has made mouths water with its OREO and CHIPS AHOY! McFlurries—and now the burger brand has introduced the Grandma McFlurry to melt hearts.7 Inspired by the sweetness of grandmothers everywhere, the old-fashioned butterscotch-and-toffee-flavored frozen treat exemplifies the power of nostalgia to make an emotional connection with the consumer.

Ice cream’s versatility lends itself to endless possibilities, from cakes and pies to shakes, coffee concoctions and cocktail concepts.

The popularity of the Affogato—an Italian dessert typically consisting of a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream with a hot espresso shot poured over it–shows how even simple combinations can serve up sales. The contrasts between hot and cold, bitter and sweet, give this dessert a tantalizing flavor profile. Alcohol-infused variations add liqueurs like amaretto and Kahlúa.

Affogato buzz continues to build on social media, where conversations about it have increased by 34.1% over last year.8 Capitalize with creative concepts that give a fresh take on the trend, like Ice Cream Affogato made with OREO Cookie Pieces.

Mixing in Savory Flavors

Another ice cream menu trend impacting innovation in this category is the incorporation of savory flavors, from salt to bacon to fried chicken.

Last year, Baskin-Robbins joined the chicken-flavored ice cream fray with a Chick’n & Waffles flavor ice cream, made with buttermilk-waffle-flavored ice cream, crunchy bites with chicken-and-waffle flavoring and a maple-syrup-flavored ribbon.9 In addition, the chain partnered with sister brand Buffalo Wild Wings to offer the ice cream—which contains no actual chicken—with a real chicken wing and waffle at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.

Consumers have become more receptive to innovative ice cream trends and flavors, “but the key is to pair them with something familiar,” the Baskin-Robbins research and development team said in a statement.

Mix-ins for Kids

It’s important for operators to also keep their youngest customers in mind when developing ice cream offerings for the summer months. Think about cookie and candy inclusions for ice cream menu ideas.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream combined cookies and ice cream in unique combinations like the Kids’ Dino Sundae, made with vanilla ice cream, sprinkles and a dino sugar cookie (shaped like a colorful cartoon dinosaur).10 Sonic rolled out the OREO Cookies & Chocolate Sweet Mini—a miniature sundae made with OREO Cookie Pieces and chocolate syrup drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Ice cream trends offer a platform for dessert innovation—a nostalgic food loved by all that can be taken to new levels with the incorporation of the right ingredients. For more insights into new ice-cream-based flavors and formats, check out our post, Transforming Nostalgic Desserts into New Formats.

To satisfy your hankering for snackable insights, follow us @mondelezfoodservice on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our emails to get the latest recipe ideas and inspiration delivered to your inbox.

  1. Gitnux, The Most Surprising Ice Cream Consumption Statistics And Trends in 2024, May 27, 2024
  2. Datassential, Foodbytes: Dessert Decadence, 2023
  3. National Restaurant Association, 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry, February 5, 2024
  4. Mondelēz International and The Harris Poll, The Fifth Annual State of Snacking 2023 Global Trends Study, 2023
  5. Beadle, Robert, “Now Discover America’s Top 10 Cookie Brands of All Time,” Candy’s Retailer, February 1, 2023
  6. Mondelēz Foodservice, Get Inspired by Our Brand Ambassadors, 2023
  7. Snyder, Mike, “McDonald’s newest dessert, Grandma’s McFlurry, is available now. Here’s what it tastes like.” USA Today, May 21, 2024
  8. Tastewise, Affogato trends - consumption analysis and statistics 2024 report
  9. Thorn, Bret, “Baskin-Robbins rolls out chicken-and-waffle flavored ice cream,” Nation’s Restaurant News, March 1, 2023
  10.  Thorn, Bret, “Dessert Tracker: Sweets now on the menu at chains across the country,” Nation’s Restaurant News, March 13, 2024

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