The latest research from the Mintel Global New Product Database indicates vegan variants made up 7% of global ice cream launches in the past 12 months (2019/20). That's more than double the proportion noted five years ago (2015/16).
The research claims there is an increasing focus on the textural qualities of plant-based ice cream, including chunky textures such as nuts, cookie pieces, toffee pieces and cookie dough chunks. This has fuelled a surge from 2% to 13% of launches over the past four years (2016/17-2019/20).
This comes as 12% of UK adults agree that the coronavirus outbreak has made a vegan diet more appealing. According to Mintel, the proportion of consumers aged under-25 giving the same response was almost double that percentage.
Adapting to the trend was likely to appeal to the 73% of UK ice cream consumers who said that they liked ice cream with different textures, such as crunchy or hard.
In terms of ice cream flavours, the top three featuring in product development in the past 12 months were: chocolate, which accounted for more than a quarter of launches, then vanilla, then coconut, Mintel revealed.
Kate Vlietstra, Mintel Global Food & Drink Analyst, said: “The recent buzz around veganism has made its mark on the ice cream category. Interest in vegan ice cream isn't restricted to those following a vegan diet.
“Learning from their dairy counterparts, plant-based ice creams are moving beyond the basic flavours to offer indulgent options.
“Texture is playing a prominent part in vegan new product development (NPD) with chunkier varieties on offer. Brands are demonstrating that vegan offerings can be premium with an array of luxury flavour combinations and packaging.”
Vlietstra predicts that the makeup of plant-based ice cream will evolve, incorporating new ingredients from the world of plant milk such as quinoa and other seeds as well as oats.
The report also revealed that Japan is the world’s number one global ice cream innovator, commanding the highest share of ice cream launches.
With a 6% share of global ice cream innovation, Germany is Europe’s number one ice cream innovator and third in terms of global innovation, while the UK has a 4% share.
Protein had also gained importance with consumers, Mintel revealed. It said over the past five years the proportion of food and drink launches featuring high/added protein claims had doubled.
Meanwhile, while small the proportion of high/added protein ice cream claims compared to other claims had also doubled in the past four years (2016/17 - 2019/20).