Will Ben and Jerry’s hit the mark with vegan ice cream?

By Hal Conick contact

- Last updated on GMT

Will vegan ice cream grow more popular? Ben and Jerry's is banking on it.
Will vegan ice cream grow more popular? Ben and Jerry's is banking on it.

Related tags: Ice cream, Milk

Known for creamy, dairy filled pints of ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s will soon try something new: Going vegan.

The company’s non-dairy line, slated to launch in 2016, will be made with almond milk as a base in lieu of dairy.

Ben and Jerry’s 'flavor guru' Kirsten Schimoler said on the company website that this gives them a “blank canvas”​ needed to give the vegan ice cream optimal flavor.

Bringing business back to ice cream

With much of the demographic that enjoys Ben and Jerry’s already bridging out to try almond milk on their own, Jared Koerten, senior food analyst with Euromonitor International, believes this new Ben and Jerry’s flavor has some definite potential for success.

“Ben and Jerry’s by itself has been doing very well,”​ he told DairyReporter. “They make high quality, premium ice cream. I haven’t tried this product yet since it isn’t out, but I imagine they aren’t going to put their name on it unless it has that rich, creamy, decadent flavor that they’re known for. Almond milk itself is very sweet and attracting a growing number of consumers.”

While many have gone away from eating ice cream, as sales have stagnated or moved to trend like frozen yogurt and gelato, Koerten believes this may be something to get people excited about ice cream again.

Ice cream tends to come in waves, he said, and with Ben and Jerry’s creating a vegan-friendly flavor, it could create some big buzz.

“With a well-established player like Ben and Jerry’s coming with a flavor like this that could appeal to vegans or people who have trouble with lactose, it’s another trend that can continue to pull people in,”​ Koerten said. “A lot of the lactose free products out there have seen some growth. There’s a lot of potential."

However, until the flavor is known, Koerten said it is hard to tell just how well this flavor will do with consumers.

But will it resonate with consumers?

Alex Beckett, Mintel global food and drink analyst, wrote in a report that he believes Ben and Jerry’s has the “vibrant brand image, global recognition and marketing expertise to boost consumer awareness of dairy free ice cream and make it more of a mainstream choice.”

However, there are still areas where this new flavor could see some slippage.

Many, who presume non-dairy means healthy, may be surprised to find that the Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream will still likely be packed with “chunks and swirls,” ​as Beckett put it.

He does believe that by adding an indulgent flavor to the non-dairy sector that Ben and Jerry’s can give vegan ice cream some “mass appeal”.

Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, said health concerns are a big reason why the ice cream market saw no growth from 2013 to 2014.

However, she said that non-dairy frozen treats are seeing some good times, as 45% of consumers said they are purchasing more.

However, taste will be imperative for Ben and Jerry’s launch, as Dornblaser said 70% of consumers look to flavor​ when making their ice cream purchases. 

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