Ice cream is one of the most popular treats worldwide. 2014 data showed it was purchased by Americans an average of 5.6 times per month. It represents a significant part of the ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing industry in the United States, including the production, distribution, and retail sales of ice cream and frozen desserts. However, ice cream manufacturing in the U.S. varies in styles, flavours, and production volumes from other countries.
Ice cream sales are increasing in Western Europe, as it is now considered a healthier snack than starchy crackers and crisps. This trend is highlighted in Euromonitor International’s latest report on the European ice cream and frozen desserts sector, which found that per capita consumption of ice cream has risen by over 15% since 2008 in the five most significant ice cream-consuming countries.
Despite the rising popularity, the industry faces several challenges that create an adverse impact on end-product quality. So, what are these challenges that we can overcome to improve ice cream manufacturing?
The Manufacturing Process
Ice cream and frozen desserts have a long and storied history, with evidence of their consumption dating back to the second century B.C. Today, ice cream is one of the most popular treats globally.
To make this delicious confection, you need several ingredients: cream, sugar, air (yep), stabilizers and emulsifiers, flavours like vanilla or chocolate, colouring agents (if you want), fruits, or nuts (also optional), and water.
The first step in making ice cream is pasteurization. It involves heating the mixture to kill any pathogens present in the raw ingredients. The mixture is then cooled down and aged at low temperatures to be whipped up without becoming runny.
The next step is homogenization, which involves breaking down the fat molecules in your ice cream mix to distribute throughout the product evenly. There’s also standardization, which adjusts the amount of butterfat in your combination to be consistent from batch to batch.
After these steps are complete, a critical ingredient gets added: air! By whipping your ice cream mix with much air added to it, you increase its volume significantly—can you imagine how big a tub of ice cream will look.
The mix is now frozen to make it cold enough for churning into ice cream (or another frozen dessert). It can be done using a continuous freezer or a batch freezer, depending on how much product will be made at once and what type of product will be made.
After freezing, ice cream is transferred to a hardening room and placed in metal containers that fit into freezers for storage and transport. The temperature is lowered until the product reaches about -25C for storage and transportation.
In some cases, special equipment is used to form frozen desserts directly into final containers (such as popsicles). These containers are then placed in special freezers that are hardened before packaging.
The ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing industry faces some challenges, but there are many growth opportunities. Here are the top three challenges we’re facing:
1. High costs of ingredients
Whether you’re making gelato, sorbet, custard, or traditional ice cream, the basic building blocks of your product aren’t cheap. Milk and cream, fruit purees and juices, sugar—all these ingredients can get expensive quickly. And if you’re not sourcing them from local suppliers—which helps keep your costs down—you have to contend with fluctuating prices on the world market.
2. Rising competition
The ice cream industry is one of the few people think is recession-proof. Despite fluctuations in the economy and changes in consumer spending habits, people always want to treat themselves to something sweet after a long day at work or on a hot summer day. But it’s also one of the most competitive industries around: new flavours and trendy dessert innovations mean that consumers have more choices than ever. That means you’ve got to step up your game!
3. Staying fresh with innovation
Even though ice cream is an age-old treat, consumers still expect new flavours and exciting innovations to keep their brand visible.
4. Change in Audience demographics
One of the most significant changes facing the industry is a change in audience demographics. Ice cream’s traditional audience is children and teenagers looking for a tasty treat after school or on the weekends. But as these populations grow older, they change their tastes and health concerns. Teenagers start to worry about their weight and want more nutritious foods, while adults begin to develop new health conditions that make dairy-heavy ice cream less appetizing or even dangerous for them to eat. For example, according to this article on Forbes.com, “The U.S. ice cream market has been relatively resilient in shifting consumer tastes and the recession, but the industry has encountered some serious challenges lately.”
Another challenge is keeping up with advancements in technology. Companies that can’t afford to update their equipment miss opportunities for efficiency and automation. Some of these challenges include a drought that affected the supply of milk and cream (key ingredients) and increased food prices due to extreme weather events around the world. The industry also experiences cyclicality—during warmer months, more consumers buy ice cream than during colder months.
The global consumption of ice cream and frozen desserts has been steadily increasing over the last few years, with frozen desserts especially being a growing market. As of 2018, the global ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing industry has an estimated value of $270 billion. In 2016, global ice cream and frozen dessert sales were about $278 billion, with a projected $289 billion by 2021. Ice cream sales are expected to grow by 6% each year from 2020 to 2025, while global sales for frozen desserts are expected to grow at 9% each year from 2020 to 2025.
With this growth in sales comes new trends and emerging markets that have developed in the industry. Here are three future trends we can expect to see in the ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing industry:
- The development of alternative ingredients like oat milk and cashew milk to replace dairy-based ingredients
- The emergence of super-premium ice creams with high-quality ingredients (including alcohol) and artisanal flavours
- The use of natural sweeteners rather than artificial ones
Sangeetha brings 20 years of experience in Information Technology which includes Solution architecting, building micro services, research, and evaluation of business applications, integrating apps.