Room to Play: Dairy-Free Ice Cream for Kids

July 23, 2018
Dessert Kids-and-Teens Dairy

Consumers have a need. That means product developers have an opportunity. Let’s talk about kids’ dairy-free ice cream. A number of factors are at play in this space, priming it well for huge growth. We’ll explore the gap in the marketplace, drivers like lactose intolerance & veganism, the universality of ice cream and the clear need for flavor innovation. When it comes to dairy-free for kids, the time to strike is now.

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Universally Beloved

It’s rare to find a food product so beloved as ice cream. In fact, research shows that 94% of consumers purchase frozen treats and 87% purchase ice cream specifically. Dig a little deeper and the popularity among children is striking, if not unexpected: 94% of kids 6-11 and 88% of teens 12-17 eat ice cream.

Parents are Diverse Purchasers - And Kids Have Influence

Children influence parents’ purchases. The facts behind parents & Ice Cream:

  • Frequency & Variety: Parents buy ice cream more often than other consumers, and they’re more likely to purchase a variety of options — they purchase across all frozen treats, across four types or more.

  • Special Treat: Some parents use indulgences as a reward or bartering tool — these parents can be strong targets for ice cream brands.

  • Bring the Fun & Nutrition: Parents are strong purchasers of frozen novelties. And nutrition is also essential, and plays a role in the popularity of plant-based foods.

Fun products with wholesome and nutritious ingredients may be a way for parents to reward their children while still meeting dietary goals.

Dairy-Free Growth & A Missed Opportunity

It’s clear that kids have influence and parents have purchase power. And yet, we found only one plant-based ice cream positioned for kids in the last five years, globally. Compare that to 1,374 dairy-based ice creams positioned for children.

Consider, fewer parents are giving their children dairy, whether because of allergy/intolerance, a move to veganism, or just an overall perception of “plant-based” as healthier. While experts can’t say whether or not food allergies are growing, kids do have such allergies at a higher rate than adults.

Ethical concerns may be playing an even bigger role than biology. A vegan diet is no longer on the fringes, but mainstream, especially with Millennial parents.

Plant-based introductions up 55% 2014-2017

Growth of plant-based foods increased more than 8% in one year alone, according to the Good Food Institute/Nielsen. According to the Forbes article, Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan in 2018, “these key developments are signs that this market will continue to grow.”

The result of consumer interest? Plant-based product introductions are up 55% 2014-2017. It should be noted that none of these appear to be ice cream products positioned to children.

This combination of factors means a clear consumer need is going unmet.

In Their Own Words

So, the numbers are there but what are consumers actually saying?

Bon Appetit recently sat some kids down to taste test Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream. Most of the kids loved the ice cream, and it was a toss-up whether they could tell the difference between dairy-based and plant-based. But to cherry pick (excuse the pun) one quote: “It seems more like a grown-up ice cream than a kid’s ice cream.”

The Point
Though anecdotal, consumers in their own words help show the drivers at play in ice cream purchase. Some consumers are delighted by the new availability of more plant-based ice cream. Bon Appetit’s video shows that kids will enjoy plant-based ice cream but also may seek flavors that are “for them.” A plant-based ice cream for kids can marry the best of both worlds.

Here's What Adult Consumers Have To Say When Asked About Non-Dairy Ice Cream:

Made with cashew milk so people with lactose intolerance can also enjoy an ice cream product.

-Female, Northeast, 18-34

The fact it is non-dairy helps because I am trying to watch my dairy intake.

-Female, Northeast, 35-54

I am supposed to avoid dairy, this is a fabulous alternative to traditional ice cream.

-Female, Midwest, 18-34

The Takeaways

Ice cream is universally beloved by parents and children alike, and they are open to diverse bases and exciting flavors. Research shows that more consumers are flocking to plant-based foods and the space is primed for continued growth. Yet, few if any plant-based ice creams are positioned for children. Can your brand meet the consumers at the intersection of their lifestyle goals and indulgence needs? It may be a challenge worth tackling.

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You want to deliver the nutrition and indulgence consumers crave, without losing any of your signature taste. You might strive to wow your consumer – but it can be difficult when adding functional ingredients or working with the off-notes inherent in plant-based ice cream bases.

Relax. We got you covered. FONA’s experts know just how to make your taste deliver. Count on us for rapid (and crazy-fun) concept development, quick delivery, and out-of-the-box solutions to your challenges. Let’s talk.

Sources in the full report