Summary of our market study

As of 2020, the global market for ice cream and sorbets has been burgeoning, with the United States continuing to be a dominant player. The U.S. market demonstrates a trend towards premiumization, as consumers favor high-quality products with innovative flavors, leading to a 1% increase in sales value against a 2% decline in volumes. The shift towards healthier choices is emerging, leading to increases in low-fat and non-fat options, as well as vegan and plant-based alternatives, which align with the growing health consciousness of consumers. This shift is evident in the overall increase of imports and exports in this sector, with the U.S. maintaining a net exporter status.

The industry has observed a significant impact due to COVID-19 with a 13.4% upsurge in dollar sales over the 52-week period ending in September 2020. This rise correlates with ice cream’s "comfort food" status during the lockdown, indicating a robust market despite the pandemic. The U.S., notably Florida, has seen a development in distribution channels, particularly ice cream trucks, which appear to be more prevalent per capita than in the rest of the country. Prices have generally stabilized, with a notable 33.6% increase since 2005, reinforcing the upscale trend in the market. Lastly, the number of franchise stores has increased by 21.2% from 2011 to 2020, reflecting the growing accessibility and popularity of branded ice cream experiences.

Ice Cream and Sorbet Market Dynamics in the United States: Navigating Consumer Preferences and Industry Trends

In the indulgent world of ice creams and sorbets, the United States presents a rich tapestry of consumer preferences and market trends that shape the industry. At the heart of the American ice cream market lies a distinct inclination for individual specialties such as cones and sticks, with bulk products like sorbet tubs trailing closely. Affections for snacking variants surge during summertime, emphasizing the seasonal nature of consumption influenced heavily by climatic variances. The U.S. market has embraced a consistent trend towards premiumization, with sales values witnessing a modest elevation by around 1% in recent years, despite a slight dip in volume. This premiumization is particularly notable with the introduction of protein-infused ice cream segments that have gained traction. Vanilla reigns supreme as the nation's darling flavor, closely followed by the ever-popular chocolate. On a global scale, the ice cream and sorbet market, estimated to be worth between $60 billion and $65 billion, is projected to grow robustly, approaching values between $80 billion and $85 billion by the mid-2020s.

This growth is attributed to the development in emerging markets, notably in Asia, and an evolving product range tailored to health-conscious consumers. In this panorama, the United States, although no longer the largest market—overtaken by China—continues to hold a significant position bolstered by an average individual consumption of over 20 pounds of frozen desserts yearly. When delving into ice cream consumption habits, traditional regular ice cream leads, chosen most often by around 250 million Americans, according to recent surveys. This preference is a testament to ice cream's role as a classic comfort food, even as trends indicate a burgeoning demand for healthy and premium products. Responding to the growing health consciousness, the market has seen a considerable rise in the consumption of low-fat ice cream in recent decades, indicating a consumer base that is slowly pivoting towards healthier alternatives. Yet, echoing the sustainability and ethical concerns of modern consumers, vegan and plant-based ice creams have carved a niche, with major players aiming to expand their vegan offerings substantially. Industry-wise, the U.S. ice cream market is no stranger to concentration with entities like Dreyer's and Unilever capturing a significant market share that hovers around one-third of sales. This structure, however, hasn't stifled innovation, with dynamic players continuously churning.

Key Players Shaping the US Ice Cream Market Landscape The US ice cream market showcases a blend of time-honored brands with deep-rooted histories and contemporary players that have quickly risen to popularity. Navigating through the competitive landscape of this segment, we have a number of major entities that have left indelible marks on consumer tastes and preferences.

  • Unilever stands as a titan in the ice cream industry, with its ownership of Ben & Jerry's, a brand celebrated for its innovative flavor combinations and socially conscious business model. Ben & Jerry's has consistently pushed the envelope with its quirky and ever-evolving list of products, and the company’s commitment to quality ingredients and sustainable practices has earned it a loyal customer base.
  • General Mills is another prominent figure in the market through its ownership of Häagen-Dazs. This brand has been synonymous with premium quality and luxurious indulgence since its inception. Known for its rich textures and dense flavors, Häagen-Dazs has established itself as a go-to for consumers seeking a high-end frozen treat experience.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Private Label ice creams have captured a significant share of the market by providing a cost-effective alternative to the name brands. These store-brand products often manage to balance quality and affordability, making them a staple in many households.
  • Blue Bell sits among these influential names as well, famed for its traditional approach to ice cream production. With its deep Southern roots, Blue Bell's flavors evoke nostalgia and comfort, earning it a distinct space on the shelves and in the hearts of many Americans. Stepping outside of the supermarket, the industry is also characterized by the prevalence of ice cream franchises.
  • Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs are not only found in retail stores but also operate their own specialty shops where they serve up their iconic flavors in a more personal and experiential setting. While not explicitly mentioned earlier, it’s worth acknowledging other notable players such as Baskin-Robbins, known for its “31 flavors” slogan and widespread franchise model, and Dairy Queen, which offers a fast-food twist on frozen treats with its famous Blizzard product line.

These key participants underscore a diverse market structure. They operate within a complex interplay of tradition, innovation, premiumization, and price competitiveness, catering to a vast array of consumer preferences and ensuring the continued dynamism and growth of the US ice cream industry.

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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 milk, sugar, fruit and a variety of flavors. Sorbet, on the other hand, is made only of sugar syrup and fruit pulp or flavors. Different types of ice cream are available for sale, such as cones and sticks, ice cream specialties to share (ice cream logs and cakes) or sorbet and ice cream tubs, and those sold in hypermarkets and supermarkets.

In terms of volume, US consumption is dominated by individual specialities (cones, sticks, etc.) and by sorbet and ice cream in bulk (sorbet tubs in particular). The snacking ice cream segment plays the most important role in ice cream sales, especially during the summer period, and ice cream consumption varies considerably depending on the weather conditions.

The global ice cream and sorbet market is growing and will continue to do so in the coming years. Several factors are driving this growth, including premiumization and flavor innovation. On the contrary, the consumption of low quality ice cream has decreased. Vanilla is the most common flavor, followed by chocolate. New Zealand consumes the largest amount of ice cream per person per year (28.4 liters), followed by the United States, Australia and Finland [worldatlas].

In the U.S., sales value increased by 1% in 2019, while volumes fell by 2%. This confirms the premiumization trend that characterizes the ice cream and sorbet sector. In addition, the infused protein ice cream segment has been growing since 2016.. 

The structure of the U.S. market is relatively concentrated; Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream and Unilever accounted for nearly one-third of sales in 2019. The top-selling brand is Haagen-Dazs. In terms of innovation, the industry is very dynamic, forcing players to continue creating new products.

1.2 A Growing Global Market

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: ****

This growth is explained by the development and rise in ...

1.3 The US Market

The average American consumes more than ** pounds of ice cream and related frozen desserts per year and regular ice cream is the most popular category of frozen desserts [***].  To give a clearer idea of the size of this market in the US, it is sufficient to say that about *.* billion pounds ...

1.4 Ice Creams and Sorbets in Florida

 As it can be seen from the graph below, the industry revenue for ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing in the state of Florida as been on a decreasing trend for the last six years and is likely to continue down this path. Between **** and **** this industry's revenue indeed decreased by ...

1.5 Imports and Exports

In order to analyze the international trade of American ice creams, we took into consideration the products under the HS commodity code ****: Ice cream and other edible ice; whether or not containing cocoa.

Imports, Exports and Coverage rate for HS code **** USA, ****-****, in million USD and % Source: ****

As it can ...

1.6 COVID-19 Impact

We have seen how over the ** weeks ending Sept. *, ****, dollar sales in the ice cream subcategory of the larger ice cream/sherbet category were up **.*%. The lockdown period caused by the spread of the COVID-** has certainly fueled this growth. Ice Cream has indeed always been considered a so-called “comfort food” ...

2 Demand Analysis

2.1 Demand Characteristics

Americ's top ** favorite ice cream flavors:

Vanilla Chocolate Cookies N’ Cream Mint Chocolate Chip Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Buttered Pecan Cookie Dough Strawberry Moose Tracks Neapolitan

America’s favorite novelty products are:

Sandwiches Mini cups Sticks or pops Cones Bars

Retailers say premium ice cream is most popular with their consumers, ...

2.2 Consumption Habits

 The consumer profiling company MRI-Simmons conducted a survey in **** to better understand the consumption habits of US citizens when it come to ice cream and sherbets. The two graphs in this section show the results of this survey for two fudnamental questions: "Which brands of ice cream and sherbet do you ...

2.3 Demand Drivers

A study published on the journal of dairy science revealed that price and consumer income were the main determinants of demand for ice cream products.

Disposable Consumer Income

Disposable personal income in the United States has increased by **.*% between **** and ****. This vertiginous growth in the past ** years has represented an opportunity ...

2.4 New Trends in Demand

Low-fat Ice Cream

Americans are becoming more health conscious by the day, and generally more aware of the importance of eating healthy. Those who could not give up ice cream switched to low-fat or non-fat alternatives. This tendency has been growing in the past ** year at exponential levels. Domestic consumption of ...

3 Market structure

3.1 Market Structure and Main Players

Families are the primary customer group for ice cream retailers and that is why ice cream marketing is primarily done on a local or regional level. Ice cream makers and retailers say the Great Lakes region (***) is the most successful ice cream market [***].

The majority of U.S. ice cream and ...

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 Market Shares

The following graph shows the breakdown of the sales of the ice cream vendors in the US, giving us a picture of the market share of the different companies active in this sector. 

Market share of leading ice cream vendors USA, ****, in % Source: ****

3.4 Distribution Channels

By distribution channel, the market is segmented as foodservice channels, supermarket/hypermarket, convenience stores, ice cream franchise stores, online stores, and other distribution channels. Ice cream is among the largest supermarket food categories, one of only ten with double digit billion dollar sales, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts.

Therefore, ...

4 Analysis of the offer

4.1 A Diversified 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 Pricing

The graph below shows the evolution of the retail price of ice cream. As we can see, after a peak in ****, these prices have remained pretty much stable in the past */* years. However, between **** and **** the retial pprice of ice cream increased by **.*%, indicating a premiumization of the market towards more ...

4.3 The Store Franchise Sector

US ice cream offering is often distributed through store franchises. Most often, these stores are the physical correspondents of famous brands such as Ben&Jerry's and Haagen Dazs. The following graph shows the evolution of the number of ice cream and gelato store franchises. 

Evolution of the number of businesses in ...

4.4 Production and Ingredients

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 pre-freezing stage ...

5 Regulation

5.1 Rules and Regulations on Composition

Ice cream is a frozen blend of a sweetened cream mixture and air, with added flavorings. A wide variety of ingredients are allowed in ice cream, but the minimum amounts of milk fat, milk solids (***), section  ** CFR ***.*** for ice cream,  ** CFR ***.*** for goat's milk ice cream, and ** CFR ***.*** for sherbet.

Ice ...

5.1 How to Open an Ice Cream Parlor in Florida

Before starting a business, in Florida it is necessary to register with the Florida Department of State, the  IRS and the Florida Department of Revenue. For businesses located outside of the State of Florida, evidence of registration with their Division of Corporations or Corporate Registry may be required.

When those steps ...

6 Positioning of the players

6.1 Segmentation

  • Unilever
  • Nestlé Groupe
  • Blue Bell Creameries
  • Turkey Hill Dairy
  • Wells Enterprises
  • Tillamook
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Kroger

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Marché mondial des crèmes glacées et des sorbets
  • Part de marché des principaux vendeurs de glaces
  • Revenus de l'industrie de la fabrication de crèmes glacées et de desserts glacés
  • Recettes de l'industrie pour la fabrication de glaces et de desserts glacés
  • Dépenses potentielles moyennes pour l'achat de glaces lors d'une journée à la plage
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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.
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.
E-commerce now accounts for 13% of Walmart's sales, with $73 billion. - 18/02/2022
  • The world's leading retailer posted sales of $572.8 billion in its last fiscal year.
  • Walmart has decided to double down on its drive, click&collect and delivery business
  • Sales for the Walmart US division reached $393.2 billion.

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
Blue Bell Creameries
Turkey Hill Dairy
Wells Enterprises

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