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The scoop on adult ice cream habits

The kid in all of us loves ice cream.

Most of us have memories from our childhood of chasing the ice cream truck down the street in the heat of summer. As adults, ice cream brings out the kid in us. But we’re no longer satisfied with only vanilla, chocolate and other traditional flavours. We’re more adventurous in our ice cream eating habits. Oh, and did I mention we’re also more demanding about the quality of ice cream we buy?

At Mintel, we asked Canadian adults what ice cream and frozen treats they’re interested in trying. “Artisan” and “homemade” varieties topped the list at 44%, followed closely at 38% by “premium flavours”. (Think burnt toffee or olive pistachio.)

As it turns out, the overarching consumer demand for fresh and “real” food extends to ice cream as well. That makes sense. Ice cream is a category that relies entirely on providing a great experience.

But do all adults share the same ice cream preferences? Of course not. A few differences worth noting: Younger adults, 18 to 34, are more ad- venturous, with 49% open to new and different ice creams. That’s ahead of the 39% of Canadians 55 and up who want to try something different.

Younger adults are also more likely to want to try limited edition flavours of ice cream. Older consumers are more likely to stick with familiar flavours. Overall, 45% of Canadian adults are open to exploring new and different flavours of ice cream.

Older adults are especially keen to buy higher quality ice creams and ones made from natural ingredients. People 55 and up are also more likely to believe it’s import- ant to know where their ice cream was made. It makes them feel better about what they’re buying.

So what do our findings mean for ice cream sellers? Broadly speaking, flavour in- novation is more likely to resonate with millennials, and messaging around quality works with older consumers.

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What else? Don’t ignore ethnic ice creams. Almost a third (30%) of Canadians are interested in ethnically in- spired flavours such as green tea or mango. Almost a quarter (23%) are also interested in different ice creams. That includes such formats as Japanese mochi and Indian kulfi.

Indeed, there is precedent in the ice cream world for less familiar formats to succeed. Take gelato. Only a few years ago gelato wasn’t so common in the frozen treat aisle. But today it scores high in quality among Canadians and is less likely to be perceived as high in calories, sugar and fat.

Don’t discount ice cream with alcohol either. Just over a quarter (27%) of Canadians say they’re interested in such varieties. Liqueur and ice cream is often the combination considered when pairing ice cream and alcohol.

Yet there are less conventional combinations that might prove to be of interest. Offered by smaller suppliers, wine ice cream has received buzz for its sophistication and unique pairings. Examples of flavours include Chocolate Cabernet and Peach White Zinfandel. Consistent with their broader interest in unique flavours, younger adults are more apt to try ice cream with alcohol. Some- thing to keep in mind when catering to grown-ups in the ice cream aisle.

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