Zelica Carr, chief executive of The Ice Cream Alliance, says it’s going to be another successful year for ice cream producers.
Ice cream sales generate more than £1bn ($1.27bn) for the UK economy with ice cream remaining the most popular affordable treat for most families.
Carr told DairyReporter that there are more independent companies now, more so than 20 or 30 years ago.
“The industry has changed phenomenally,” Carr said.
"Like most industries, the large companies have continued to grow through acquisition and many of the well-known brands are owned by a small number of companies.
"We have however seen the growth of small to medium manufacturers and retailers who are finding niches in their own marketplaces. A number of farmers who produce milk have also started to produce and sell their ice cream in their farm shops and parlors."
Changes for mobile sellers
Carr said mobile ice-cream vans have been affected most by the changes, with multi-packs affecting sales and restrictions imposed by local councils due to street trading licenses.
“Also, there's not much traffic coming into the city centers. And before, you could hear those chimes, and even though as an association we've managed to extend the chime time past four seconds, buildings now have double and triple glazing, so unless customers have their windows open they tend to not hear the ice cream van!”
More ice cream parlors
There has been a change in geography for ice cream sales in the UK, too, through shops.
“Parlors are popping up everywhere,” she said.
“Whereas traditionally they were at the seaside, they are now on farms, in town and city centers and retail parks all over the country.”
Not only are there more outlets but the range of flavors has changed, too.
The 20 most popular flavors according to The Ice Cream Alliance:
4.Mint Choc Chip
5.Choc Chip Cookie Dough
7.Cookies & Cream
12.Rum & Raisin
18.Vanilla Fudge Ripple
“Some of our parlors are carrying up to 70 different flavors. And even though we like the traditional flavors, there are some very fanciful and savory flavors coming into the market,” Carr said.
“Most of us have got some sweet tooth, but we like the savory side too. As you change and mature you may go for something a bit less sweet and savory ice creams have become very popular."
Some of the more interesting and unusual flavors Carr has seen in the savory line are bacon and egg, Marmite, cheese, and haggis. She said exotic flavors such as Thai green curry have become popular.
“Many people are becoming more adventurous. They are happy to try anything, and our members are always willing to rise to that challenge.”
Incorporating elements from the past also find their way into flavors. UK residents of a certain age will remember candy such as Fruit Salad, Blackjacks and Refreshers, all of which have been turned into popular ice-cream flavors.
Ice Cream Expo
The Ice Cream Alliance organizes the Ice Cream Expo - the UK's biggest trade showcase for ice cream and frozen products – and the 2017 event is expected to be the biggest yet.
"The UK has a reputation for innovation and quality, which is attracting a growing interest in the expo from international buyers and decision makers," Carr said.
The event includes The National Ice Cream Competition, awards, AGM, seminars, product showcase, vans, insurance companies, suppliers, ingredients suppliers, and packaging.
Carr said that The National Ice Cream Competition features many more categories now, including frozen yogurt and an open flavor class to showcase innovation.
The event takes place at the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate, from February 14-16, 2017, with more than 2,000 visitors anticipated.
"Last year's expo generated millions of pounds’ worth of business with some exhibitors reporting the best sales in 30 years.
"I'm sure there will be a great deal of interest in investing in new equipment as well as identifying new flavors, products and services,” Carr said.