Summary of our market study

The global ice cream market has been projected to grow, driven by increasing demand, especially in emerging countries with rising living standards, such as those in Asia. The Asia-Pacific ice cream and sorbet market, in particular, is expected to expand significantly. Health consciousness among consumers has led to a surge in demand for premium, high-quality ice cream with exotic flavors and organic ingredients. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK ice cream market saw a 17% increase in demand in 2020, with Scottish producer Mackie's achieving a substantial 37% sales growth, taking over 6% of the market share. Seasonal consumption remains paramount, with warm summer months being peak periods for sales. The UK has also shown a growing interest in low-calorie, non-dairy, and customizable ice cream options. However, full numerical data regarding market size, growth rate, and specific figures from 2020 onwards is not available in the text and, therefore, cannot be provided.

The British Ice Cream Market: Insights and Consumer Preferences

In recent years, the United Kingdom has seen a significant evolution in its ice cream market. With an appetite for ice cream that is not only undiminished but growing, Britons have demonstrated a clear preference for a variety of flavors and types of ice cream products. The UK market is discerning, with an inclination towards luxury and premium segments, as well as a burgeoning interest in low-calorie and plant-based options. Despite fluctuations in consumption volumes over the years, a number of factors have contributed to the ever-changing landscape of ice cream demand in the UK. For instance, the UK has an established practice of importing more ice cream than it exports, with imports primarily coming from other European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy. The volume of imported ice cream amounts to three to four times the volume of ice cream that the country exports. It's worth mentioning that, exports increased by more than 65%, which reflects a growing competitiveness of British ice cream abroad despite the continued preference for foreign products domestically. When it comes to flavor preferences in the UK, vanilla reigns supreme with around 84% of Britons favoring it, followed by chocolate, strawberry, mint chocolate chip, and cookie dough.

The structure of the market is dominated by individual specialities such as cones and sticks and bulk products like sorbets and fruit tubs. Ice cream's popularity surges in the warmer months, approximately from mid-May to the end of August, with sales during this period accounting for around half of the annual total. The COVID-19 pandemic had a surprisingly positive effect on ice cream sales in the UK. Lockdown measures and the resulting increased time spent at home saw a surge in ice cream consumption. Warmer summer weather contributed to this uptick in consumption as well. Looking at the brands, Magnum sits atop the hierarchy of consumer preference, being the choice of almost a third of ice cream consumers in the UK. The preferred modes of ice cream include cones and tubs, while bars and sticks are less in vogue. British consumers also show a high loyalty to certain brands, with significant market shares held by international players like Unilever, Mars, Nestlé, General Mills, Lotte, and Dunkin' Brands.

Giants of the Frozen Dessert Arena: Industry Stalwarts Steering the UK's Ice Cream Market

Delving into the frosty domain of the UK's ice cream market, one cannot help but notice the dominance of a few prominent international brands. These titans not only rule the retail shelves but have also managed to secure a special place in the preferences of British consumers.

  • Magnum, an icon of indulgence and Unilever's flagship brand, leads the pack with its luxurious chocolate-coated ice cream bars that have garnered a stalwart following. The Magnum brand has become synonymous with premium quality, offering a wide range of flavours and continuously innovating with new tastes and textures that cater to the sophisticated palate of the UK's ice cream lovers.
  • Ben & Jerry's is another formidable contender, capturing both hearts and market share with its whimsical flavour names and a commitment to social justice. Their tubs, packed with chunky mix-ins and swirls, offer consumers an escape into a world of flavour, where cookie dough pieces and chocolatey chunks reign supreme.
  • Haagen-Dazs, under the umbrella of General Mills, continues to enchant with its rich and creamy offerings. It's a brand that focuses on simplicity and quality, often highlighting just a few key ingredients to create an intense and satisfying taste experience.
  • Carte D'Or, also part of the Unilever portfolio, offers a broad array of flavours from classic vanilla to more exotic varieties, catering to the diverse preferences of ice cream connoisseurs across the UK. Their presence affirms the consumers' love for tradition blended with innovation.
  • Not to be overshadowed, the Scottish producer Mackie's has made significant inroads into the market, priding itself on locally-sourced ingredients and family-run business charm. Their growth has been notable, capturing the hearts of those who lean towards supporting regional brands and wish to indulge in the authenticity of Scottish flavours.
  • Additionally, the rise of Halo Top has been a testament to consumers' growing health consciousness. Specializing in low-calorie ice creams without sacrificing taste, Halo Top has resonated with those who keep an eye on their fitness and waistlines, successfully tapping into the healthy lifestyle segment.
  • Beyond the giants, brands like Rowntrees and Calippo bring fruity and refreshing treats to the mix, thriving during the warm summer months and appealing to those who seek a sweet apart from the creamy richness of traditional ice creams.
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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and scope of the study

Ice cream is a food made from from milk, sugar, fruit and a variety of flavours. A sorbet consists solely of sugar syrup and fruit pulp or flavorings.

There are different types of ice cream available in shops: cones and sticks (sometimes sold individually), ice cream specialities to share (logs and ice cream cakes) or even fruit tubs and jars of ice cream and sorbets sold in large food stores (e.g. supermarkets).

In terms of volume, the home consumption market is dominated by individual specialities (cones, sticks, etc.) and bulk sorbets and ice cream (particularly fruit tubs), with the remainder consisting of seasonal collective specialities (Christmas logs, etc.). It is the snack ice segment that plays the most important role in the sale of ice cream during the summer period and ice cream consumption varies considerably during the year and from one year to the next, depending on the weather conditions.

The world market for ice cream and sorbets was estimated at 57.9 billion in 2018. It is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 4.9% between 2019 and 2025 to reach $84.9 billion by 2025. The global market is highly fragmented, but some of the main market players include Unilever, Mars, Nestlé, General Mills, Lotte and Dunkin’ Brands.

Ice creams can be categorised in different ways:

  • Typology (cones, sticks, tubs etc)
  • Flavours
  • Segmentation (choc snacks, luxury ice cream, premium)
  • Plant based or not
  • Artisanal or industrial

In 2018, 385 million litres of ice cream were consumed by the British. The UK is a net importer of ice cream, regularly importing between three and four times the amount of ice cream it exports. Ice cream imports into the UK mostly come from France, Italy and Germany.

The overwhelming favourite ice cream in the UK is the classic Magnum, with almost 30% of Britons admitting preference for this type of ice cream. Vegan ice cream is a segment that is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years (CAGR of 7%) due to consumers' increasing health and ecological concerns. Vanilla is the favourite ice cream flavour for 84% of Britons.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a positive impact on the ice cream market in the UK. In fact, sales increased by 17%, compared to 2019, with companies like Mackie’s further consolidating a larger share of the national market. After the end of lockdown Britons wanted to be out, and the opening coincided with warmer summer months resulting in increased ice cream consumption.

1.2 The global ice cream market is growing

The global market for ice cream and sorbets was estimated at $**.* billion in ****. It is projected to grow at a CAGR (***) of *.*% between **** and **** to reach $**.* billion in ****.

  World ice cream and sorbet market World, ****-*****, in billions of dollars Source : DPO    

This growth is explained by the development and ...

1.3 The growing UK market

In the UK the retail value of ice cream has been increasing for over a decade. The same cannot be said for the retail volume of ice cream in the UK, which has fluctuated. In **** the retail value and volume of this market were estimated at *** million GBP and *** million litres, ...

1.4 Import & Export: Britons prefer foreign ice cream

The stereotypes and anecdotes of the poor quality of British cuisine seem to extend within the reality of the ice cream market. The UK historically imports a lot of ice cream from abroad (***). However, the UK also exports its own ice creams throughout the world.

Using the UN Comtrade database, and ...

1.5 The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-** pandemic and ensuing economic fallout had a significant impact on the ice cream market in the UK. However, unlike most other markets and economic segments ice cream sales actually increased, and the market as a whole grew. This can be attributed to different reasons:

Families are the main consumers ...

2 Demand Analysis

2.1 Seasonality and consumption habits

As mentioned earlier, summers and periods of warm weather represent the most important period for the consumption of ice cream. The particularly warm summer of **** saw a boost in sales which the relatively cooler summer of **** did not benefit. It is estimated that the period of time between mid-May and end ...

2.2 Preferences in terms of flavours, typology, and brands

According to a recent survey by the Ice Cream Associations vanilla is overwhelmingly the preferred ice cream flavour in the UK, followed by chocolate, strawberry, mint chocolate chip and cookie dough. Ice cream sellers confirmed this preference with **% of them stating that vanilla was their most sold flavour.

Ice creams, and ...

2.3 On the couch, on the go & at the table: where Britons eat their ice cream

In a survey conducted by TheGrocerUK, it was revealed where British people consume their ice cream. * situations/locations were possible answers to this survey (***). Respondents could pick more than one answer as they were not mutually exclusive. Over **% of responders said they eat their ice cream on the couch or on ...

2.4 Latest trends in demand

The latest consumer trends are quite varied concerning the ice cream market in the UK: they range from nutritional characteristics, to flavour, to typology of ice cream and much more.

As one may expect, as more people become acutely aware of their diets, a shift toward lower-calorie, low sugar, no preservatives/colourants ...

2.5 The incessant growth of vegan & plant-based

The desire for plant based & vegan ice creams are increasing worldwide

Consumers in the UK are becoming more and more conscious about what they eat and this is no different regarding their ice creams.

In the UK, the vegan ice cream market is expected to show a swift CAGR of *% for ...

3 Market structure

3.1 Main players

The ice cream market in the UK is dominated by well known international brands, which are part of large global groups. In **** the most valuable brands were Magnum, Ben&Jerry's, Haagen Dasz and Carte D'Or.

Most valuable ice cream brands and year-on-year growth UK, ****, in millions of £ and % Source: ****

NB The ...

3.2 Value chain

Source: ****

The challenge in the production and distribution of ice cream and sorbets is not to break the cold chain. Products must be kept at a temperature of -** °C or below. Ice creams or sorbets must be kept at -** °C until they are delivered to the consumer.

3.3 Production

The production of ice cream is structured around * steps:

*) The different raw materials (***) are mixed and then pressurised. The mixing is carried out at a temperature of -*°C.

*) The mixture is churned slowly for about ** hours in order to make the "ice cream" homogeneous.

*) Then comes the ...

3.4 Distribution

In the UK the distribution and sale of ice creams is highly concentrated. In fact, mass retailers buy almost **% of the production of ice cream in the UK. Tesco is the main seller with **.*% of market share, followed by Sainbury's with **.*% and ASDA with **%.

Market share of ice cream distribution UK, ...

3.5 Different sized manufacturers

In the UK, ice cream manufacturers can be categorised by their overall turnover. A large minority finds themselves between the £***.***-£***.*** annual turnover. In **** there were no manufacturers with a turnover superior to £*** million.

Share of ice cream producers by annual turnover UK, ****, in % Source: ****

4 Analysis of the offer

4.1 A huge and varied offer

The structure of the offer

The ice cream and sorbet market offers a wide range of products, differentiated by many factors:



Cones Tubs (***) Bars Sticks Mini format (***)


Choc snacks Luxury ice cream Premium ice cream Kids Cones/Sticks Standard Adult refresh Individual dessert

Vegan/plant-based or not;

Artisanal ...

4.2 Prices and production costs

From **** to **** in the UK, the average price for ice cream has fluctuated. Over this period of time the average price per liter of ice cream was £*.**, peaking in **** at £*.** per litre and hitting a low of £*.* per liter in ****.

Average price per litre of ice cream UK, ****-****, in £ per ...

5 Regulation

5.1 Production regulations

UK regulations, in accordance with the Ice Cream Alliance (***), set out very clear specifications for what qualifies as ice cream, dairy ice cream, sorbet etc.

Ice creams are exclusively categorised as a frozen product containing a minimum of *% fat content and no less than *.*% milk protein 'not necessarily in natural proportions'. ...

5.2 Selling regulations

To sell ice cream (***) a specific licence is needed.

If an ice cream shop has chairs on the sidewalk or pavement a street trader's licence is needed If you are a vendor from a bicycle, motorcycle or four-wheel vehicle the same licence is needed (***), the case is the same for kiosks ...

6 Positioning of the players

6.1 Segmentation

  • Unilever
  • Nestlé Groupe
  • Tesco
  • Sainsburys
  • Aldi
  • General Mills
  • Marks & Spencer

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Average price of one ice cream scoop
  • World ice cream and sorbet market
  • UK manufacturer's volume and evolution of ice cream sales
  • UK manufacturer's sales and evolution of sales of ice cream
  • Total revenues of the ice cream market
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Latest news

Nestlé sells its Natur baby food products to FNB - 06/02/2024
  • nestlé is the world's leading food company.
  • FNB is a French investment fund specialized in SMEs in the food sector.
  • Nestlé is in exclusive negotiations with FNB for the sale of its baby food business in France.
  • The products concerned are NaturNes baby foods, Babicao and Babivanille baby powders and the P'tit yogurt range.
  • These products are manufactured at the Arches plant.
  • Worldwide sales of Nestlé infant formulas have increased by more than 10%.
Nestlé France sells its baby food products to Mousline - 02/02/2024
  • Nestlé is negotiating exclusively with the French investment fund FnB the sale of its baby food business.
  • These include the ranges of soups, purees, desserts and breakfast powders under the NaturNes, Babicao and Babivanille brands, as well as the P'tit franchise.
  • Infant milks, the bulk of the portfolio - with Laboratoires Guigoz and Nestlé Nidal - remain in the Nestlé France fold.
  • The infant nutrition products that are the subject of this sale are produced in a factory in the Vosges region of France that employs 230 people.
  • FnB, the potential buyer, specializes in supporting French SMEs in the food industry.
  • The baby food market fell by 6% in volume last year in France due to the falling birth rate, with a sharper decline in milks than in diversification foods.
  • Nestlé has 14 factories in France.
USA: Aldi's biggest market - 20/08/2023
  • Aldi is becoming one of America's leading food retailers by acquiring the Winn-Dixie and Harveys chains, which have around 400 supermarkets.
  • Aldi will have over 2,400 stores by the end of the year.
  • Kroger has 3,000 supermarkets and Albertsons 2,300
  • Walmart, the largest retailer in the USA, controls almost a quarter of the market.
  • After the merger, Kroger and Albertsons should account for 18% of the US food market.
  • Aldi's sales in the USA in 2020 amounted to €16.9 billion, compared with €17.2 billion in Germany in 2021
  • Aldi has invested $2.5 billion in expansion in the southeastern USA since the 1990s
  • Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud have operated jointly in the USA since the Albrecht brothers split up in 1961.
Nestlé wants to conquer the vitamin market. - 19/04/2023
  • Nestlé has made more than 60 acquisitions since Mark Schneider took the helm in 2017.
  • Nestlé Health Science sales have nearly tripled in five years, from 2.6 billion Swiss francs to 6.6 billion in 2022.
  • The global vitamins and minerals market is worth 140 billion Swiss francs (142 billion euros).
  • Between 2018 and 2021, Nestlé increased its market share in vitamins from 1 percent to 4 percent, while in the same period it increased from 18 percent to 19 percent in medical nutrition.
  • In 2021, Nestlé acquired The Bountiful Company for 5 billion Swiss francs.
  • Nestlé controls 14% of the U.S. market for vitamins and dietary supplements.
  • The French vitamins and dietary supplements market reached 2.6 billion in 2022, an increase of 3 percent.
  • Nestlé is the leader in clinical nutrition in France, with a 30% market share.
Unilever steps up its ice cream ambitions - 21/11/2022
  • with sales of over 1 billion euros, Magnum is one of the world's leading ice cream companies
  • World leader in ice cream almost everywhere in the world
  • Ice cream is one of Unilever's five strategic categories, along with beauty (Dove, Sunsilk...), hygiene (Rexona, Signal...), home care (Omo, Cif...) and food (Knorr, Maille, Amora...).
  • Ice cream division 6.9 billion euros in sales by 2021
  • 35 brands, including Magnum, Ben & Jerry's, and Wall's, each with over €1 billion in sales, and smaller brands (Cornetto and Viennetta, the American Talenti)
  • Viennetta launched in China
  • ice cream accounts for 15% of the global snacking market.
Nestlé is in exclusive negotiations with the FnB fund for the sale of Mousline purees. - 29/03/2022
  • 150 employees at the plant in Rosières-en-Santerre (Somme).
  • FnB is a fund dedicated exclusively to supporting French and European SMEs in the food industry.
  • 72% of the dehydrated puree market.
  • Nestlé assures that this sale will have "no impact" on the 150 employees at the site.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Nestlé Groupe
General Mills
Marks & Spencer

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the ice cream and sorbet market | UK

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