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(Published: 2012-06-11)

Hey, everybody, it’s summer, and the global ice cream market is hotter than ever. The $20B US ice cream market is one category that hasn’t been affected adversely by the recession. This year, Americans will spend $2 billion more than was spent just 5 years ago on frozen treats. We’re self-medicating ourselves with ice cream, an affordable luxury, as we watch our 401K’s melt away.

Manufacturers are embracing innovation in order to scoop up their fair share of profits. A recent article on STYLUS highlighting ice cream innovation stunned me with a recap of astonishing new products. Yes, there’s wild and crazy innovation in flavors. Famed Spanish chef Ferran Adria tickles taste buds with Parmesan ice cream and sardine sorbet, while Liu’s in Hong Kong woos the adventurous crowd with lobster and foie gras flavors. If you’re heading to the Olympics this summer check out Fat Duck’s bacon-and-egg ice cream; if you’re staying stateside, head to Burger King and order a Bacon Sundae--vanilla ice cream drenched in chocolate syrup, crowned with 2 crispy bacon rashers!

The most interesting trend in ice cream, however, is a paradox. Makers are finding unique ways to add functional benefits to turn ice cream into a healthy indulgence, creating a mini-boom in the wellness market. Here are a couple of examples:

The University of Missouri has created the first multi-functional ice cream that combines Acai berry (a superfood known for it’s antioxidant properties), dietary fiber, and probiotics. (I’m not sure if that’s a yum or a yuck.)

Blis K12 is a probiotic ice cream that supports oral health. It was developed by a New Zealand gourmet ice cream company and an Australian probiotic manufacturer; it’s sold to schools, rest homes and hospitals. The product promises to prevent sore throats while combatting bad breath and gum disease in a delicious manner. (Say Ahhh?)

Then there’s Wheyhey, the world’s first whey protein ice cream. Developed for sports professionals, it’s a sugar-free frozen treat that health-conscious consumers are embracing. Watch the video:

For the lactose-intolerant, UK-based Styles and Blue River, a New Zealand company, have something really good for ewe….ice cream made from sheep’s milk. Laloo, a California company, combines goat’s milk and probiotics for their vitamin-enriched frozen treat.

But I think you’ll agree that this takes the (ice-cream) cake. Icecreamists, an ice-cream parlour in London’s Covent-Garden, is selling an ice cream creation called Baby Gaga, made from women’s breast milk. Delivered by a costumed Baby Gaga waitress, it’s been a $24/scoop media-frenzied sell-out.

Ice cream should be fun, but it can also be fun-ctional. That way you can have your ice cream, and eat it too—guilt free.

Burger King Bacon Sundae

Baby Gaga Ice Cream

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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