Sunday, December 29, 2019

Thoughts on the 2010-2019 era of ice cream

Hey everyone, how are you doing? Are you glad to see the 2010s come to a conclusion? I'm going to say yes because for me personally, 2019 has kind of sucked in a lot of ways. I'm not trying to be a downer, it's just that some years are good and some are bad and I'm really hoping the 2020s will be a step up (despite having to figure out how to put my kids through college).

So what should we cover? I think in general these kinds of posts cover the random highlights of the last ten years. I'm not a huge fan of these posts because they tend to have a lot of filler, but let's see what my take can deliver.

The negative side of me wants to say that mainstream ice cream is dying a slow death. Name me one mainstream brand that hasn't significantly lowered quality in the last ten years. Edy's was already on the slide, but add in Breyers, Blue Bunny and Friendlys to the mix of brands I rarely eat anymore. Their fun sounding flavor is useless to me if it cant deliver a true ice cream experience (aka nice and cold but also not gummy). I do still stock the freezer with Blue Bunny's cherry flavor and Turkey Hill's cookie dough flavor for my wife, but neither are as good as they were ten years ago.

I know I'm a broken record on this, but the closest I can get to old school mainstream ice cream is Turkey Hill's all natural line up. Earlier this year TH said 2020 would have new all natural flavors and I hope they stick to that because while I do still enjoy it, it can be a bit boring. (their 2020 limited edition calendar is all frozen dairy dessert)

Fun can still be had in the mainstream category. Perry's density & texture did fall a few years ago, but they still have a lot of fun with flavors (they don't skip on flavor and mix-ins like Tillamook does). I've also had some luck with Target's Market Pantry brand. It's not old school, but it can be fun. (anyone want to chime in on how Blue Bell, Homemade or Pierre's is holding up?)

Now don't go thinking that this phenomenon only happens to main stream ice cream. Our beloved Graeter's ice cream? Yeah, they don't pack the density and calories they used to. Yes, it's still good, but it's not that mind blowing type density and flavor that it was. Ben & Jerry's doesn't pack the same calories either, but because they started high, it's not as noticeable that they came down a bit. I still enjoy Talenti but you can tell that they've trimmed costs by trimming flavors and mix-ins.

No one is immune to cost cutting, not even treats. Drumstick is still fun, but it's not 2009 fun. Magnum shrunk their bars from 3.38 fl oz to 3.04 a few years back. I don't even bother with Klondike anymore. Too many treats use frozen dairy dessert nowadays. Sure, there are good treats to be had out there, but a lot of them aren't cheap. I just wish there was a happy middle ground (especially since sometimes those super expensive treats are freezerburned because no one else wants to pay the high price).

Ok, the negative side is pretty negative. The positive side is that in some ways, we have a lot more choices now. The downside is that the greater selection often comes at the cost of there not being room for your favorites. There used to be a 3 to 2 to 1 ratio of Ben & Jerry's to Haagen-Dazs to Talenti, but recently the ratio has come down to 1 to 1 to 1 as more stores make room for the latest freezer aisle trends. We've had debates about this before (often with people mad at me for saying their "favorite" light alternate is doomed) but the truth is that their will always be some kind of alternative ice cream, they tend to just not last that long.

The 2010s saw both the rise and fall of greek frozen yogurt. Yes, technically you can still find an option or two, but remember how it was the next big thing when even Ben & Jerry's jumped in on it? Right now we have the sugar replacement trend which I claim is dying (if you don't believe me, that's fine, I'll wait here).

I feel like I don't hear much from the old school "healthy" players anymore either. Healthy choice ice cream is gone, and weight watchers seems pretty quiet (though they did update their packaging). Skinny cow is also around but I feel like I see them a lot less. Companies are looking for that next big thing, somewhere to get a foot in for "big growth" but the healthy alternative is really just the most volatile part of the freezer aisle. I certainly wouldn't invest my money there.

[I know it sometimes seems like I'm just guessing at this stuff, but remember that Nestle recently shifted their ice cream business from their main company over to a joint venture. Nestle has lost over 4% of the US market share this past decade and is more interested in segments that are growing.... wait, Dead Foods filed for bankruptcy? Their stock is now down to 5 cents a share after hitting five dollars at the beginning of the year?. Wow. Just wow. What will that mean for Friendly's, Dean's, Steve's and Mayfield ice cream?]

Anyway, back to the positivity of more choice. When 2010 started, I reviewed Talenti's #3 flavor, double dark chocolate. Now we have seen #58 flavors from them. Actually, you could say we got the gift of gelato in the 2010s. Talenti had the most growth, but we also saw the rise of tasty Gelato Fiasco. Ciao Bella gelato had an interesting run this decade - here's hoping High Road can get them more profitable. Most recently I have found Dolcezza gelato (my geeky side loves their pint design).

What else is positive? Everyone likes having more high end stuff available right? The high roads, the Jeni's, and all of the other expensive pints that are now more readily available? I'm still too cheap to send out for things like Ample Hills or McConnell's, but it's cool to know that they are out there somewhere.

Should I wrap this up? Probably. I feel like I have more complaining to do but I'm going to take a break for now. Let's start the conversation in the comments section. Do you eat more or less ice cream than you did a decade ago? Does the last decade of change make you happy or sad or both? Want to make a prediction for the next decade?

Have a happy and safe new year's everyone!



30 comments:

Danielle said...

I agree with everything you said Dubba. I'm constantly bummed out that you can't find a decent priced quality ice cream. Turkey Hill, HD, and Giffords are my go to, especially when I see a sale. I also don't bother with any novelties anymore bc the quality is terrible. I always have high hopes for the future, and that simple, tasty ice cream will return. Have a great New Years!

Anonymous said...

I use to be so jealous on my very infrequent trips to the states, and seeing the rows upon rows of ice cream flavours you guys had to choose from. We have about 1/10 of the variety you do. After reading your post and agreeing with everything you say about the quality and size of what is available now a days it seems like I have not missed out on as much as I thought. Maybe the new year will bring you some tastier options. Happy new year!

Mark said...

It will be exciting to see what the companies have in store for 2020. I really want 2020 to have mind blowing creations that end up being a company's best flavor ever produced. I want to see peanut butter and chocolate elevated to the next level. I want to see some quirky ideas, such as keeping a seasonal flavor like gingerbread or pumpkin in the permanent lineup. I am ready for the next big thing.

Unknown said...

I agree with you. I recalled the low calorie ice cream trend that was taking over! Now it's slowly a fad. I would love to see ice cream companies get creative more. Layering in the big tubs so it is more fun. DIY Ice Cream Cake Kit where you can be creative with layers. More exciting flavors should be used.

But the best thing is the Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough Chunks bags. It's amazing.

Giggity said...

I feel like Ben and Jerry's has run out of creative steam in the last few years. Rarely do I see anything from B and Js that makes me think, "Wow, I wouldn't have thought that would have worked in Ice Cream." The Core flavors always struck me as a bit of a lame gimmick. Where are new flavors like Late Night Snack, Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, etc?

I remember reading something from the B and J's website about the weirdest flavor submissions they had ever received. Some of them sounded gross, but some of them would have been worth a shot and I would have definitely tried.

There's only so many ways you can do chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter.

Mark said...

I have questions for everyone to think about this on this eve of the new year. Just as we saw the rise and fall of Greek Frozen Yogurt this past decade, what do you think will be the next big craze? Also, how long do you think the popularity of the low calorie/high protein "ice creams" like Halo Top and Enlightened will last, and do you think this will be the year that Ben and Jerry's comes out with their versions? Will frozen mousse catch on with the other companies or remain in the realms of So Delicious? I will be very interested in reading your responses!

Sascha said...

I have lost all interest in Edy's and Breyer's. Used to occasionally get Breyer's chocolate crackle but haven't seen it in a couple years, so I assume it's gone. Still enjoy Blue Bunny and some of Turkey Hill, but my favorites for mainstream in Michigan are Meijers' Purple Cow and Kroger's Private Selection brands, and Hudsonville. And while Talenti may now have 50 some flavors, they've also discontinued a lot. Their banana was the absolute best, and I haven't seen Egg Nog or Peppermint Bark in at least 4 years now.

D... said...

Everything is worse, even on the high end. Ben and Jerry's produces nothing creative anymore save tired political tropes. They basically abandoned releasing the kind of creative baked goods mix-in flavors they used to be famous for. The quality of the existing flavors has taken a nosedive. Haagen Dazs did a half assed attempt to go non GMO but seems to have given up the transition. All the regular brands have all kinds of fillers and gums that have no place in food. Theres just nothing left to actually look forward to in ice cream.

Sascha said...

I hear dairy queen is getting off their lazy a's and bringing out 6 or 7 new blizzards next year, that could be exciting.

Dubba Scoops said...

@Mark: Moo-phoria is B&J's version of low cal
http://www.onsecondscoop.com/2018/11/ben-jerrys-new-moo-phoria-flavors.html

@Sascha: added "seen" to my Talenti comment so as not to imply that all those flavors are still around :)

Unknown said...

I bet Halo Top & Englighted will start fading away. One great highlight of the year is the Ben & Jerry Cookie Dough Chunks bag. It's awesome and I hope they expand more flavors like the cinnamon bun dough flavor.

Mark said...

Dubba Scoops, I don't consider Ben and Jerry's Moophoria on par with Halo Top because the whole pint for one Moophoria can range from 560 calories to 640 calories, whereas the Halo Tops can range from 280 calories to 360 calories. The very first low calorie "ice creams" were the Arctic Zero flavors, and they were only 150 calories per pint and that is a significant difference to Ben and Jerry's Moophoria. Also, Halo Top uses Stevia and Erythritol as a sweetener instead of sugar to flavor their ice cream which is another big difference.

Dubba Scoops said...

@Mark: yes I understand that (been doing this awhile and all that), but what I'm saying is that I wouldnt wait for B&J to go even lower, it just doesnt make sense for their brand nor can the market support it.

Deb said...

I happened to have a conversation about ice cream soon after reading this post and we were trying to think about which companies' ice cream we would even be interested in eating anymore and it was hard to think of anything. I disagree about Breyer's--I know it is not what it once was but, of the affodable and accessible ice creams available today around me (Boston area), I think it is the best. I stick to the actual ice cream--chocolate, natural vanilla, mint chocolate chip--and I really enjoy it. But for the other brands, I really am not interested. It is a shame because ice cream has long been my favorite food. It still is, but it is definitely not exciting to look for and try new flavors anymore.

Now it seems like the flavors are getting more and more "Weird" with spices, rarer fruits, liquer, etc. While novel, they do not have the appeal of a really good quality standard flavor for me. (But then again, I am definitely a chocolate lover!)

Anonymous said...

I love mousse, is frozen mousse a thing? I'd definitely be interested in it.

But then... oh the brand is So Delicious? Sounds like a "health" brand so that's why I haven't. Give me a real unhealthy mousse in frozen form and sure

Mark said...

Giggity, I agree with everything you said 100%. I thought Ben and Jerry's would have done a Maple Bacon ice cream by now. I also think they should bring back discontinued flavors because I never got the chance to try them and a lot of them sound delicious. I wish some company would come out with a "Mallo Cup" ice cream - a mix coconut and chocolate ice creams with coconut crème filled chocolate cups, and if they wanted to, they could toss in marshmallow swirls and/or shredded coconut.

Dubba Scoops, thanks for answering my question. That's all that I was asking, and I am sorry if I insulted your intelligence as it was not my intention.

Sammy said...

I think I'm more sad about how uncreative a lot of recent flavors have been lately to the point it feels like Taco Bell tweaking their menu, but with ice cream. Nothing Haagen Dazs really interests me other than picking up a pint of Green Tea ice cream every now and then. The last time I was interested in more of their stuff was when they had that Artisan line. Heck, new McFlurries have gotten me more excited about trying new stuff than big brand ice cream companies have this year.

Dubba Scoops said...

@Mark: hehehe, not insulted, just my usual cranky self

--------

It must be tough to be an ice cream company, gotta keep up the regular flavors to keep the regular customers happy, but generate new content to stay relevant. Kind of feels like we're just going in circles at this point (like some of you have said)

ibagoalie said...

Sadly, or luckily, my GI tract and ice cream have decided enough is enough, so I won’t be eating much ice cream this year. Unless it’s a special flavor I must try, of course.

Bagels said...

Fantastic post i generally agree with your negative thoughts lol
I really look forward to your reviews and really enjoy the site, happy new year !
It’s funny tho and obv just anecdotal but it seems like a lot of people I talked to or read said it was a bad year

Anonymous said...

Don't have your refined palette (while I understand the "gummy" description for Dreyers - particularly the slow churned - I will still buy it on sale if I have a taste for Mint Cookie Crunch), but Blue Bell still tastes pretty much how I remembered it (i.e. great) before it got pulled from the national market for a while sometime in the middle of the decade. Mix-ins generally are abundant, though I think the chocolate chip cookie dough (I believe that was what was responsible for the recall) seems a little different (but still good).

Probably just my taste buds, but Ben and Jerry's Cinnamon Buns went from one of my favorites (second to Fro Yo Half Baked, which my stores don't carry anymore) to something that just doesn't sing for me anymore, even ignoring the higher cost/nutrition hit of B&J's. Particularly frustrating since I love cinnamon, and my other usual choices were discontinued/not carried in my area over the years (the swirl part of Safeway's Snickerdoodle was wonderful even if the ice cream was blah, the Dreyer's (?) custard - which was good but not great - came and went) or limited (Mardi Gras King Cake is one of the few Blue Bell flavors I tried that was just disappointing, though it doesn't help that it looks like my beloved Christmas Cookies, so maybe my taste buds just get confused). Circling back to the Half Baked, I didn't remember B&J's chocolate ice cream so dominating pints when it was mixed with something else, or maybe I just didn't mind it earlier in the decade.

While whatever Blue Bunny is calling Holi-doodle is still good (it did live up to its "30% more mixins" or whatever), I was not a fan of being charged full price for (maybe) 2/3 of the ice cream with its smaller/funky container. On the other hand, I guess it's not that different from normal Oreos having something like 14 servings while limited flavors only have 10, but I don't recall seeing it much in ice cream before.

I'm terrible at predictions but hope to continue reading your reviews for the next decade (and beyond); even if I don't have a decent amount of what you cover in my area, it's still nice to know what's out there.

Rabbit Girl said...

I would like to see a new, ice cream-centric podcast in 2020!

Sascha said...

All this negativity aside, it's still ice cream and it's still awesome. All of it. If I'm at a birthday party and I get served Edy's, am I gonna complain? No, I'm going to ask for thirds. At the end of the day, is there anything better than ice cream? Hope you never lose your passion and commitment, Dubba. We've already lost Eric, and Ryan may be slowing down on the backstretch. We need you and Marvo to continue to cater to our sweet teeth.

Dubba Scoops said...

Hehehehehe, ok, I will second that. Ice cream is still amazing. I wish after all these years that I had the influence to fix some of these things, but I still care. I still sit here waiting for this company or that company to turn things around.


Thanks for your comments everyone, I appreciate everyone chiming in!

SchenectaDana said...

We're totally spoiled by Stewarts house brand in upstate NY. Great quality. Fresh. Always interesting new seasonal flavors. Between them and making my own, I barely think about mass market ice cream anymore.

Anonymous said...

I think the call is to stop spending the cash on store brands you pretty much know won't deliver and delve more into local and nationwide shipping options.

Dubba Scoops said...

Ha, you don't know me very well do you :)

Amanda said...

In your previous post, you noted that traffic to your website was down 25%, but from the chiming in of the previous 20+ commentators and the passion they convey for frozen dessert is a testament to you, Dubba. You bring us all in to read, rejoice/reject and trust your reviews. As I read through every single blog post of yours, especially this last one, I think to myself, "this guy must be the Don Draper market analyst of ice cream," because you break it down to the ounce. Here I thought it was just Dial soap shaving off their bars in convex ways to save a penny, or my toilet paper roll growing a larger cardboard diameter, but alas, so too goes the ice cream industry quality control. Is it a matter of trying to cut production costs on their products? Or are they going the Coca-Cola route in offering their customers the smaller version of their regular products because they think they are doing us a favor in smaller portion sizes for the sake of our "health?" I wish I was as free and daring as you to try so many different ice creams. Keep living the dream, Dubba, and I second @Sascha's comments above--that is the real spirit and joy a pint can bring.

Dubba Scoops said...

Those of you who have stuck with me for awhile are greatly appreciated and help keep me going for sure!

Long (long) ago, the former president of Turkey Hill had done a blog post about why those chose to shrink the container size. Inflation effects everything yet we all kind of want our container of ice cream to stay at three or four dollars and that's just not feasible without either making the product worse or charging more.

Maybe set a goal of trying one new ice cream a month hehehe :)

Anonymous said...

Dubba you hit on a VERY relevant aspect of the ice cream business "cost cutting" and indeed it has become outrageous over the past decade. I've been able to really notice the decline in quality of what were once good quality ice creams ESPECIALLY Breyers All Natural....what was once the standard of good quality reasonably priced products with no artificial additives or preservatives is a shell of Its former self. I am certain that William Breyer the founder is rolling in his grave just about now as his "Pledge of Purity" is long gone and only about half a dozen flavors are really ice cream at all any more...One thing that could save Breyers is to return to their roots, cut back on the unneeded variety of junk they sell which few people will buy and the quality is horrid, to once again making a couple dozen good quality all natural ice creams like they did originally, people will come back if they make it again.
Especially go back to the original recipes with no artificial ingredients! Sure they will lose some shelf space, but gain sales and have old customers return to buying their products. Happy New Year to you and your family Dubba!