The jingle of the ice cream cart on summer afternoons is a nostalgic memory for most ’90s kids. A quick dash to the window to hail the ice cream man and then coax the parents to part with their money. Finally, for a penny fare of Rs 5, the ice cream man lays bare his treasure – vanilla ice cream cones and colourful sticks in standard orange, mango or lime flavours. And if lady luck favours, even a choco bar, a raspberry duet may be available that day.
Fast forward to today, and ice cream is still as desired and delicious as ever. But those five quintessential flavours from the ’90s have mushroomed into a veritable bouquet of flavours, textures and concepts.
Whether from a cup, an ice cream cone, a stick, or even rolled, ice creams today are round-the-year desserts, and Indian customers want variety and more excitement in their frozen treats. The vanilla and chocolate of those long-ago birthday parties are still popular, but consumers are also open to experimental and adventurous flavours in ice creams. They also seek healthier ice creams to indulge in, including low-calorie, high-protein and prebiotic options. According to a market research report from the IMARC group, India today is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for ice cream, with a CAGR of 17.69% predicted for 2023-2028. And to meet this rising demand, brands have been finding innovative ways to serve everybody’s favourite frozen desserts and continue to foster the happiness quotient that ice creams evoke.
So, what’s trending in ice creams in India?
Better-For-You Ice Creams: Traditionally, the ice cream industry has revolved around indulgence and decadence, with ice creams full of sugar and fat to produce the desired, luxurious flavour profile. But growing health consciousness among consumers has led to brands experimenting with new, healthier recipes while also working towards keeping the traditional, rich taste intact.
This has led to the introduction of healthier ice cream variants that are low in fat and high in protein, allowing consumers to indulge without feeling guilty. Some of these variants even deliver specific functional benefits to suit consumers’ dietary preferences, such as low-calorie, pro/prebiotic and keto ice creams.
The top players in this sector are new start-up ice cream brands whose key USP is healthy, nutrition-specific ice creams.
For example, low-calorie ice cream from NOTO has 75 per cent less sugar and 2X more protein than regular ice creams. In addition, it also has a healthy helping of prebiotic fibres that supports gut health. The range also features interesting flavours like Cereal Milk and Sicilian Pistachio, made in smaller batches.
Get-A-Whey: As the name suggests, it is all about high protein, whey-based ice cream. Where other healthy ice cream brands advertise 2-3 g of protein in their low-calorie frozen treats, a 100 ml cup of Get-A-Whey ice cream is powered with 12 g of protein and 7 g fat, with no added sugar, thus making this a good filling snack for those on a keto diet or intermittent fasting. In addition, their Tender Coconut and Very Berry Keto ice cream range is popular among ice cream lovers.
Good Fettle: Their ice creams have under 100 calories and contain over 2g of protein in each pint. In addition, their range comes with options for both low-sugar and sugar-free. Their fruit-flavoured ice creams are made with locally-sourced organic fruits.
Another note-worthy mention in this category is the leading mainstream dairy brand Amul, which introduced an immunity booster, Haldi ice cream, during the pandemic. Tasting like a more indulgent version of the homemade Haldi doodh, this ice cream is made with haldi, pepper and honey and has chunky bits of dry fruits, including dates, almonds and cashews.
Plant-based ice creams: Many consumers today follow a dairy-free diet as a general lifestyle choice driven by environmental and ethical concerns or due to health reasons like lactose intolerance. Besides this, the adoption of a fully vegan diet is also on the rise, and all these consumers want plant-friendly dessert options to indulge in occasionally. Therefore, they have sought out brands over the past few years, asking for dairy-free alternatives.
Mainstream ice cream brand Baskin Robbins also found themselves besieged by such requests and decided to do something about it. So in 2020, they launched dairy-free ice creams in two popular flavours – Alphonso mango and Mississippi Mud. At the time, its team was quoted as saying,
“Over the past few months, we have received countless DMs asking for a dairy-free or a vegan range of our bestsellers. And that’s why the entire team at Baskin Robbins has worked tirelessly to reinvent a dairy-free yet indulgent range of vegan ice creams.”– Vegan First publication, 9 Dec 2020
But the most popular dairy-free ice cream options come from start-up brands, who have cracked the code of making delicious dairy-free ice cream and continue experimenting with unique flavours. Furthermore, additional nutritional benefits like using only raw sweeteners or sugar-free ice cream have captured the public’s imagination.
Mumbai-based ice cream brand Noumou is entirely plant-based, free from preservatives and artificial colours. Their Fig and Walnut, with no added sugar, is a bestseller.
Similarly, Bliss Please is another plant-based ice cream brand which uses a unique in-house combination of soy milk and nut milk, making it rich in texture. Its sugar-free ice cream – Black Sesame Jaggery, is the rockstar in its range and is made using organic Kolhapuri jaggery and delicately flavoured with black sesame.
Delhi-based Tangelo is a gourmet vegan ice cream brand offering dairy-free ice cream cakes. Their Vegan Belgian Dark Chocolate & Tangerine Ice Cream Cake is a crowd-pleaser and popular choice for birthday parties.
Not all the popular choices come from fully vegan brands, though. For example, Papacream, although popular among the Indian vegan crowd, is not an entirely dairy-free brand. But all their ice creams have natural sugars with a low glycaemic index, making them a delight for those with diabetes and fitness-conscious consumers.
Minus.30 is another excellent addition to the vegan ice cream line-up with sugar-free and dairy-free flavours that are rich, creamy, tempting and uncompromising. Their best sellers include Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Green Tea Matcha.
New sizes and formats
Several leading brands have introduced smaller portions to provide their customers healthier options while keeping their traditional, proven-popular recipes intact. Smaller portions make consumers feel less guilty about indulging in their regular favourite full-fat ice cream. Within the industry, this trend has been labelled as the ‘snackification’ of ice cream.
This ‘snackification’ has expanded into multiple avatars, from mini cups and mini-bars to ice cream sandwiches, cookies, and mini ice cream pops.
The mini cups collection from Haagen Dazs delivers a big taste in smaller sizes/servings, thus allowing for treats and indulgences without compromising the calorie count.
The ice cream sandwich from Havmor and Amul comes with chocolate-flavoured biscuits and a thick block of vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between. Creamy in texture and milky in taste, the sweetness of the ice cream sandwich is perfectly balanced, which makes it a hit among the masses.
Tandy’s Creamery is known for taking ice cream lovers on a wafer ice cream nostalgia trip. A decadent, creamy ice cream slab is placed between two wafer-thin biscuits for a heady indulgence.
Cremewich provides ice cream layered between two large cookies like a sandwich. Their delicious ice cream cookie sandwiches are available in many delightful and familiar flavours – that are eggless and preservative-free.
Good Fettle offers mini pops or bite-sized portions in sugar-free variations and sugar-free mini ice cream cones in Tiramisu and Chocolate flavours. These mini pops are extremely popular as a quick weekday indulgence.
Adventurous Flavours – Once upon a time, the quintessential Butterscotch, the timeless Vanilla, and the undying Chocolate flavours were the few favourites that added goodness to every special occasion. However, over the years, people’s palates have evolved, and many ice cream brands have cashed in on that by introducing unique flavours.
Masala Chai ice cream from Havmor is a frozen treat for chai lovers. Its milk, sugar, cardamom and ginger blend is perfect for everybody’s inner tea addict.
Everyone’s favourite chaat also got a frozen upgrade! The Pani Puri sorbet from Apsara Ice Cream is unique and famous because of the burst of myriad flavours it offers to one’s taste buds. It is a vegan ice cream served with boondi and crushed papdi as toppings.
Apsara also offers a delicious Chilly Guava ice cream sprinkled with a dash of chilli powder on top, just like the delightful after-school snack of ripe guava slices children loved to buy from hawkers on the streets.
Many popular Bengali sweets have now found their way into ice creams, creating a mind-boggling array of flavours and textures. And this is one flavour adventure that several mainstream brands are also playing with.
The Gulab Jamun flavoured ice cream by Kwality Walls is the perfect way to add some Indianness to ice creams, making desis rejoice.
Nolen Gur, a much-loved eastern region speciality, now has a frozen alternative. Mother Dairy brings this smoky, syrupy goodness in a new creamy avatar. The signature caramel-y flavour comes right through each spoonful.
Bengali mithai Rajbhog has been turned into sinful ice cream by Amul, who embraced the desi flavour trend by also introducing Shalimar – an ice cream flavoured with Gulkhand and dry fruits.
Artisanal Ice Cream – Rare ingredients, fine textures and purest quality – artisanal ice cream has its charm! It is typically produced in small batches with many fresh ingredients and love. Instead of relying on artificial flavours and premixes, artisanal ice cream brands stand out because they source their ingredients from local farms and dairies and are mostly hand churned instead of using large machines.
Besides offering unique flavours, many artisanal brands make their products sound more premium by highlighting specific ingredients like single-origin chocolate, organic milk, and raw sweeteners, among others.
Mumbai-based boutique gelato store Bono advertises hand-churned ice cream in a mind-boggling variety of flavours. Using organic milk and zero preservatives, Bono’s Blue Cheese Honey, Milk Chocolate Bacon, sugar-free Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, Lavender Honey, and Pondicherry Vanilla redefine the concept of artisanal ice cream.
Every ice cream on offer at Peko Peko is made using organic milk and locally sourced ingredients. Some of their popular flavours include Milk Chocolate Sea Salt, White Chocolate Passion Fruit, Green Apple and Basil Sorbet.
Amadora in Chennai is famous for its indulgent ice creams and inventive flavours, such as Toast, comprising vanilla ice cream with buttery, toasted bread. They also have other novelty flavours like Caramelised White Chocolate, Roasted Banana, and Mami’s Filter Coffee, among others.
Artisanal ice cream brand Bina’s Homemade Ice Creams uses only native A2 milk without additives or added fats like butter or cream. Her ice creams are a hit among the premium neighbourhoods in Mumbai. Bina’s offers novelty ice cream flavours like Chocolate Wasabi, Rose Sabja, Lemongrass, and Speculoos Biscuit, which has drawn much interest.
Bengaluru-based Artinci, run by Aarti Laxman Rastogi, who is 80% hearing impaired, makes hand-churned ice creams using locally harvested cocoa beans and vanilla beans from the Western Ghats. She is emphatic that India is abundant with most of these ingredients, and importing them from Ghana or Madagascar is unnecessary. Although she offers off-beat ice cream flavours like Thandai and Green Tea, her best sellers are God’s Own Vanilla and Darkest Dark Chocolate.
In addition, a new street food variant called Rolled Ice Cream exists. Unlike others who operate as a start-up or established brands, rolled ice cream is a uniquely street food creation of fresh fruit, cream and flavoured syrups mashed together on a cold stone until it turns into ice cream and then spread out, sliced and rolled like cannelloni before serving.
To sum it up, in 2023, Indians shall continue experimenting with their love for ice creams and seek flavours and formats that stand out from the rest. At Symega, we are fully aware of this side of the consumers and continue to innovate around these little, cold, sweet treats. To know more about the latest ice cream concepts from Symega, click here. And if you’ve got an idea for a new frozen treat for your consumers, contact Symega for co-development and co-manufacturing of exciting taste, flavour and colour solutions at email@example.com.