From vanilla to hot fudge: America’s favorite ice cream flavors and toppings, ranked

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Ice cream

Plus: What are the main ice cream purchase drivers, Gen Zers’ favorite flavors, and does cake trump brownie as America’s favorite confection?

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) has revealed the most popular ice cream flavors, as ranked by US consumers.

In the trends survey carried out alongside Morning Consult, shoppers were also asked about their favorite confectionery to pair with ice cream, preferred toppings, favorite setting to enjoy ice cream, and more.

This is the third time IDFA publishes a consumer survey into ice cream trends and preferences, having done so previously in 2019 and 2022.

This year, vanilla topped Americans’ top flavors chart with more than a third (38%) of the 2,203 respondents choosing vanilla as their most favorite flavor. Chocolate (32%), strawberry (25%), butter pecan and cookie dough (21% each) completed the top 5, with flavors such as mint chocolate chip, rocky road and peanut butter cup also present in the top 10.

The top 20 ice cream flavors as ranked by US adults. Image via IDFA

It’s worth noting that this year’s survey bundled together ‘vanilla’ and ‘French vanilla’, which were ranked separately in 2022 and received a combined 68% of the vote.

Meanwhile, chocolate – 2022’s top flavor – came second while cookies and cream – a top 3 flavor in both 2019 and 2022 – slipped to sixth this year.

While consumers’ top flavor choices remained broadly similar to previous years, the continued presence of newer options such as cookie dough, butter pecan and rocky road suggests that trends like contrasting flavors and textures have an enduring appeal.

Anyone for coffee?

Unlike in both previous editions of the survey, this time coffee very nearly broke into the top 10 rankings. Collecting 14% of the vote – on a par with salted caramel – coffee finished just outside the top 10 flavor list of Americans in 2024.

In fact, when shoppers were asked to pick just one of their top 5 flavors as their absolute favorite, 4% chose coffee.

Mint chocolate chip also experienced a resurgence, jumping from 11th​ to 7th​ in the 2024 rankings by being the preference of 20% of those surveyed. The flavor – which pairs the subtle sweetness of mint with the crunch and deep taste of chocolate chips – also came third in the shoppers’ forced top choice ranking.

Trendy topping options prevailed over traditional ones, with hot fudge (35%) being ranked as Amerca’s most favorite, followed by whipped cream (29%), caramel sauce (24%), chocolate sauce (21%) and nuts (19%). When asked to pick just one topping, most consumers also chose hot fudge.

Hot fudge prevailed over more traditional toppings such as sprinkles and whipped cream. Image via IDFA

Opportunities in the out-of-home space

Generations’ favorites

Millennials’ mix classics with trendy options
Millennials’ top flavors (ranked by double-digit percentage points) included Vanilla, Chocolate, Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, Coffee, Peanut Butter Cup and Rocky Road.

Gen Z like modern flavor combinations
Gen Zers elected Vanilla as their favorite but also chose Cookie Dough, Chocolate, Cookie’s and Cream, Strawberry, Brownie, Chocolate Chip Butter Pecan, Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Cup, Banana, Birthday Cake, Caramel, Rocky Road, S’mores, and Coffee.

Gen X and Baby Boomers like Neapolitan and Pistachio
As their top flavors, Gen Xers picked Vanilla, Chocolate, Butter Pecan, Cookies and Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Coffee, Peanut Butter Cup, Rocky Road, Caramel, Pistachio, Brownie, Birthday Cake, Neapolitan and Moose Tracks.

Baby Boomers’ favorites are Vanilla, Chocolate, Butter Pecan, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, Caramel, Chocolate Chip, Coffee, Cookie Dough, Rocky Road, Cherry, Fudge Swirl, Peanut Butter Cup, Moose Tracks, Pistachio, Neapolitan, Cookie and Cream, and Peach.

This year’s survey also asked consumers about how they prefer to consume ice cream, what’s important to them when shopping, and which confection or baked good they most love to pair ice cream with.

While most of the US adults surveyed (63%) say they prefer to consume ice cream at home, more than a third (35%) say they enjoy it in an out-of-home setting, including at an ice cream shop, a restaurant, or outdoors.

According to the data, younger demographics (those aged 18-34) are more likely than other consumer groups to state they prefer out-of-home settings, with a combined 45% picking either a restaurant, an ice cream shop or the outdoors as their preferred option.

In comparison, 38% of those aged 35-44; 30% of 45-64 year-olds, and 29% of 65+ year-olds favor out-of-home consumption.

Across the generations, Millennials were the most likely to enjoy their ice cream outside of home, followed by Baby Boomers, Gen X, and finally, Gen Z.

From branding to taste: What drives ice cream sales?

When asked to rate factors including flavor, price, brand, ingredients and packaging appeal on a scale from ‘very important’ to ‘not important at all’, those surveyed overwhelmingly (94%) chose flavor as being very or somewhat important when they are choosing an ice cream.

Price was the second most important factor, with a combined 82% of those polled stating it was either very or somewhat important to them. The size of cone or container was also key, as were topping options.

However, more than a quarter (29%) of those surveyed stated that the ice cream’s brand was not an important factor, highlighting opportunities in the private label space.

Packaging appeal was also lowly-rated, with just 49% of those surveyed stating that packaging played a role in which ice cream they’d buy.

Interestingly, ingredients or nutritional information is important to 60% of consumers, suggesting there’s appetite for greater transparency around ingredients use and nutrition. This is in line with existing academic research on consumer preferences, which has shown that nutritional information can matter more to shoppers compared to branding awareness. For example, research by Nielsen IQ​ found that 46% of Americans value a simple ingredient label and would be willing to pay more for such products. 

Nutrition ranks among consumers' top priorities when choosing ice cream. Image via IDFA

A scoop pairs best with…?

Asked which confection or baked good was their favorite to pair ice cream with, almost a third (31%) of the respondents said 'brownies'. This was followed by cake (22%), cookies (17%) and pie (13%).

However, 10% chose ‘none of the above’, suggesting there is interest in unconventional ice cream and confection pairings. This could be important in the out-of-home space, where offering innovative confection options could bolster sales and pave the way for new trends.

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