Flavours and ice cream choices

Share:
Food retailers are seeing a surge in the demand for ‘global flavours’ and consumers are looking for ice cream that delivers an experience
Girl choosing vanilla ice cream

In a world of digitally-savvy consumers and Instagram-ready treats, there’s a growing dichotomy in the flavour landscape. As quirky new artisanal flavours such as matcha tea, bourbon, ube and gin begin to appear more frequently on store shelves, there has been a parallel trend propelling ‘traditional’ flavours forward too, and vanilla appears to be the greatest beneficiary.

Already accounting for the majority of ice cream sales, vanilla is currently riding another exciting wave and is expected to continue its compound annual growth rate of 5.4% until 2023, with a projected global market value of over $97,300 million. 

New flavours reflect an adventurous side to consumers, but there is growing contingent backing vanilla with equal fervour. 

A taste of sales

A benefit to this dichotomy of flavour preferences is that we know that markets inherently serve different needs. For example, consumers actively seeking vanilla ice cream are less likely to be swayed by unfamiliar new flavours, creating cognitive dissonance and a perceived ‘risk factor’. 

Likewise, shoppers looking for new flavour experiences will probably be discounting vanilla as the ‘default’ flavour. This means that the surging popularity of vanilla isn’t necessarily competition-based, it’s the flavour itself that is winning sales. 

From the perspective of buyer behaviour and the decision-making process, the reason for the refreshed public interest in vanilla ice cream appears to be twofold — consumer perceptions are at the core. 

The first change is that consumers are beginning to move away from the aforementioned idea of vanilla being the ‘default’ flavour. Over a long period of time, vanilla has become such a noted staple in food manufacturing that its name has become synonymous with ubiquity.

“The surging popularity of vanilla isn’t necessarily competition-based, it’s the flavour itself that is winning sales”

Vanilla’s sweet, gentle flavour has made its mark on the culinary landscape and beyond. As well as ice cream, it’s a popular addition to cakes, buns and other sweet treats. Recently, the vanilla flavour has found additional use in perfumes and personal care products. 

Of course, it’s no wonder that the flavour is capturing consumer attention once again. Ice cream manufacturers are switching on to the impressive diversity of vanilla and suppliers like Cornelius have made it easier than ever to harness the flavour as a strong selling point.

Alongside the well-known Tahitian and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extracts, the selection available from Cornelius, sourced from global specialist Nielssen Massey, includes varieties such as Indonesian vanilla extract, noted for its woody and smoky flavour and aroma; Ugandan extract that boasts bold and creamy base notes; and the unique flavour profile of Mexican vanilla extract, which offers spicy-sweet notes offset with deep, rich tones. 

From its intense, decadent flavour profiles to be light and playful on the palette, vanilla truly has it all.

Consumer behaviour

The consumer base has seen considerable change over the last few decades in terms of how ice cream is purchased and consumed. And the role of ice cream is also changing. It’s no longer purely a seasonal product! 

Until a mere few years ago, ice cream sales would see peak performance over the spring and summer months with huge swells in the warmer weather and deep troughs when the climate gets colder through autumn and winter. 

A selection of vanilla flavoured ice creams
Ice cream manufacturers are switching on to the impressive diversity of vanilla

Now, demand has changed, and ice cream has become a year-round treat. It’s settling into its new role as a versatile snacking product, not only a standalone dessert. 

Because of this consumer demand, it’s now much more susceptible to the role of an impulse buy and comfort food; particularly in today’s climate of uncertainty, many consumers are reaching for the luxury of ice cream to settle the nerves. 

Health and clean label

The accelerating growth of the ice cream category has been buoyed by more health-conscious ingredients that have largely helped to quash the ‘unhealthy’ stigma of dairy snacks. 

Retail channels such as supermarkets, convenience stores and event restaurants and cafes have bolstered this changing image by offering it alongside more traditionally all-purpose sweet snacks, and ice cream has never been so popular!

Further propelling the resurgence of vanilla is a return to naturally derived ingredients as part of the ‘clean label’ direction of the food and drink sector. 

Brands are moving towards simpler formulations and the integration of more natural ingredients, which puts vanilla firmly on the map again. 

“Many brands have begun to reformulate products to capitalise on this growing trend, even amongst existing vanilla products that have previously relied on synthetic flavours”

A survey of ice cream manufacturers conducted by the International Dairy Foods Association found that over half of respondents listed ‘clean label’ principles and the reduction of chemically derived ingredients as a key driver in new product development. 

Many brands have begun to reformulate products to capitalise on this growing trend, even amongst existing vanilla products that have previously relied on synthetic flavours.

The key to understanding changing consumer perceptions and the resurgence of vanilla is that it’s no longer seen as simply a reliable base flavour to build on. It’s not just the ‘support act’, it can be the main event! 

Today’s broad portfolio of distinct vanillas demonstrates its flexibility, versatility and power. The diverse spectrum of vanilla can fit a large number of recipes or applications and the exotic flavour profiles can even add a touch of luxury without spiralling costs. It can truly pack a punch in any application.

Food retailers are seeing a surge in the demand for ‘global flavours’, and consumers are looking for ice cream that delivers an experience — particularly in today’s climate of uncertainty. 

The story of vanilla has come full circle, and it’s once again front and centre for savvy brands. It’s complex, delicate, and proving a real competitive edge for those brands willing to rethink the existing norms of vanilla. 

About the author

Neil Forbes
Neil Forbes
Group head of principal management at Cornelius | Website

Cornelius is a UK-based global supplier of ingredients to the life sciences and food sectors. At Cornelius, Neil Forbes is responsible for managing the relationships with key suppliers (principals) with whom Cornelius has exclusive partnerships.

Leave a Reply