You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. Summer ice cream season is in full swing and Instacart searched buying data to understand buying preferences and predict the next big ice cream trends. Are people meaning towards the tried and true favorites or are they stepping out of their comfort zones and trying something new?

ice cream cone

Instacart found that while there’s something nostalgic and comforting about traditional ice creams from our childhood, consumers’ carts show that preferences are changing and people are gravitating toward something a little less vanilla these days. Non-traditional ice creams formats and categories such as Keto-friendly, vegan, plant-based and by the bar are beating the competition. 

The low-carb, powered-by-fat Keto diet continues to take the country by storm. Instacart data confirms Keto’s surging popularity with consumer searches for “Keto ice cream” increasing 1,175% year over year.

“As more and more people experiment with the Keto diet, the demand continues to increase for Keto-approved products. Ice cream brands have also taken notice,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Senior Product Manager and Trends Expert. “The number of ‘Keto’ or ‘high fat’ ice cream products available on Instacart has increased 93% year over year and purchase data shows that the category grew more than 561% within the same time period. In particular, we’ve noticed unprecedented growth for Keto-approved Rebel Ice Cream — in fact, the indicators we’re seeing with Rebel look a lot like what we saw with Halo Top before it burst onto the ice cream scene”

Instacart reports that according to the FDA upwards of 50 million people are lactose intolerant in the United States. So it is no surprise that non-dairy ice creams are rising in popularity. Customer searches for “dairy-free ice cream” on Instacart increased 25% year over year. 

Here are the top five fasting-growing non-dairy ice cream brands, according to Instacart purchase data:

  • Chloe’s Pops
  • Magnum (non-dairy line)
  • Enlightened
  • Hakuna Banana
  • Cado

With two plant-based ice creams in the top five list, Instacart dug deeper to see if these varieties are rising in popularity. Searches for “plant based ice cream” are up 658% this year as compared to the same period in 2019. Additionally, avocado-based ice cream Cado shows 122% growth over the past year while Hakuna Banana has experienced a 117% rise in year over year sales via Instacart. 

Next Instacart wanted to see what the preferences were regarding pints, popsicles, sandwiches, cones or bars. Somewhat unexpectedly, ice cream bars have caught the attention of dessert enthusiasts with the category experiencing a nearly 92% increase in items ordered from January to June this year. Coming in behind ice cream bars are sundae cones (18% increase) and frozen fruit pops (14% increase). In comparison, growth for traditional ice cream by the pint remained relatively stable with the smallest swing in overall fluctuation. 

“We believe the bigger appetite for ice cream bars may be related to the onset of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order issued in mid-March,” said Romaniuk. “We saw the first spike in ice cream bar sales on March 13 and the category has experienced tremendous growth since then. When consumers are looking for a quick snack for themselves or to satisfy their kids at home, grabbing an ice cream bar is an easy option — often preferable over a container of ice cream because they are pre-portioned and have a fixed amount of calories.”

These are the top five fastest-growing ice cream bar brands according to Instacart purchase data:

  • Binggrae Ice Cream Bar
  • La Michoacana Ice Cream Bar
  • Kaurina’s Kulfi Ice Cream Bar 
  • Sundae Shoppe Ice Cream Bar
  • PICS Ice Cream Bars

There’s no doubt about it, no matter how you serve it, people love ice cream.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

Featured photo: Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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