At the grocery store the past several weeks, I’ve noticed sales on a lot of ice cream products and it made me wonder if the demand for ice cream has waned. That’s why I took time to read this piece in Businessweek about the worldwide market for ice cream and the fight for market share between Unilever and Nestle. It’s a fascinating look at consumer tastes and trends in this $85 billion worldwide ice cream market — $12 billion annually in the U.S. It turns out that consumer preferences are changing and smart companies are responding as they try to gain a competitive edge. It shows the amazing nature of the marketplace.
In the world’s living-large ice cream market, it’s always been about the tub. Well over half of the U.S.’s $12 billion in annual ice cream sales comes from products served up in pints and half gallons, says Greg Miller, a senior principal at the food and beverage advisory firm Parthenon Group. Lately, though, Americans have begun to shift toward European-style single servings on sticks or in cones. So-called frozen novelties now account for 21.2 percent of the U.S. market, according to researcher Euromonitor International, and that share is growing. This change presents a new front in the ice cream wars for Unilever (UL), the global market leader eclipsed stateside by Nestlé.