What makes plant-based ice creams so irresistible to consumers? Whether it’s offering a delicious option for consumers with allergies or health considerations or a tasty treat for those who are lowering the environmental impact of their food choices, plant-based ice cream fits the bill. With the summer season upon us, let’s take a closer look at this innovative category and its increasing popularity.

Plant-Based Ice Cream Retail Sales

In 2022, plant-based ice cream reached a dollar volume of $437 million¹ . Plant-based ice cream makes up a 2.6% share of all ice cream and has a household penetration rate of nearly 11.8% across the United States.² While the percentage of households consuming plant-based ice cream is highest in the western region, households in the northeastern and southern regions of the United States continue to repeat their purchases of plant-based ice cream in retail grocery stores. 

Other plant-based dairy categories such as plant-based milk and plant-based creamers have diversified tremendously in recent years, not only in types but also in flavors. Almond milk still makes up a majority of sales for plant-based milk, but oat milk sales are growing rapidly and many new plant-based milks are being introduced to the market such as pistachio, milk, sesame milk, macadamia milk, etc. Furthermore, many blends are also being introduced such as oats and pumpkin seeds. Plant-based creamer is following this trend, by providing many different bases but also indulgent flavors such as creme brulee and toasted marshmallow.¹

Plant-based ice cream is following these footsteps. While classic pints are still the most popular type of plant-based ice cream, plant-based frozen bars/pops and plant-based frozen cookie dough are also trending. Almond, cashew, coconut, and oat milk are popular ingredients used for plant-based ice cream.¹ The various ingredients can provide different flavors but also different textures that can appeal to a wider range of consumers. With the endless innovations and diversifications, dollar sales haven’t caught up yet to reflect how these new products are adding to the success of the plant-based ice cream category. 

Plant-Based Ice Cream Consumer Insights

As mentioned in the previous section, plant-based ice cream is endlessly innovating with ingredients and flavors. According to Mintel research in the UK, consumers are most likely to associate oat milk with sustainable farming compared to other plant-based milks.³ As a result, the number of European oat-based ice cream products launched in the past year exceeds the number of both almond-based ice creams launched and soy-based ice creams launched.

A survey conducted with over 1,000 U.S. consumers found that nearly a third of consumers expect equal indulgence from plant-based ice cream as dairy ice cream.³ In another survey conducted by Mintel, over 70% of ice cream consumers stated that flavor is the most important attribute of ice cream. This can be tied to how U.S. consumers claim to seek ice cream to feel comfort and mental support.

While plant-based ice cream is becoming more widespread, it isn’t always marketed as a plant-based product. Renowned ice cream brands that hold vegan flavors label the flavors as “dairy-free” and it can even be difficult to find a vegan label inside entirely plant-based ice cream parlors. This may allow plant-based ice cream to appeal to various types of consumers, whether they are actively searching out plant-based options or not. Without the plant-based or vegan label, consumers would form their first impressions of the ice cream based on taste or flavor. 

For more insights into Plant-Based Ice Cream and other growing categories, stay tuned for our exclusive 2022 Plant-Based State of the Marketplace Retail Category Deep Dive report that will be available to PBFA members in coming weeks. 

  1.  SPINS Natural Enhanced Channel, SPINS Conventional Multi Outlet Channel (powered by Circana, formerly IRI and NPD) | 52 Weeks Ending 1-1-2023
  2.  NCP, All Outlets, 52 weeks ending 1-1-23
  3. Walji, A. (2023, May 17). A year of innovation in plant-based drinks, yogurts & ice cream, 2023. Mintel.