In the wake of this year’s scorching summer, it’s no surprise ice cream sales are growing. What is surprising is the sheer scale of that growth. This year saw an eye-watering £146.1m added to the ice cream market. That’s £101.4m more than last year’s growth.

Data Box

Top 20 Ice Cream

Low-calorie ice creams played no small part in this explosion. “These launches have mirrored health trends seen across fmcg,” says Nielsen senior client manager Laura Craft. Halo Top made its much-anticipated UK debut in January, rapidly racking up £13.1m. That coincided with the launch of Unilever’s low-cal rival Breyers Delights, which has since amassed £6.1m. Together, the top four low-cal brands in this data - Halo Top, Breyers Delights, Oppo and Wheyhey - added over £21.2m to the market. That’s nearly half of the £45m growth in the tubs category, which broke the £500m barrier for the first time. That’s not even counting the contribution of mainstream brands such as Ben & Jerry’s (up £10.9m), which launched its Moo-phoria low-cal variant in February.

Yet despite all the headlines about healthy options, they weren’t the biggest success story in ice cream this year. For over £100m of ice cream’s £146.1m extra sales came from handheld. Each of the top 10 brands in this category posted growth - and many trade on indulgence. See Magnum, up £23.2m (14.4%), or Häagen-Dazs, which scooped an extra £5.3m (60.1%) in handheld and £5m (9%) in tubs.

Both of these brands show no sign of watering down their luxury credentials. This year, Magnum launched a Chocolate & Hazelnut Praliné luxury tub, while Häagen-Dazs rolled out a new Peanut Butter Crunch flavour.

Saying that, there is a nod to health trends even among this unashamedly indulgent bunch. Magnum launched vegan variants in September, while Cornetto - up £1.5m (5.1%) - introduced new vegan and gluten-free cones. The performance of dairy-free brand Alpro is testament to the power of the plant-based trend. It shot up 27.7% to £4.2m to become the UK’s 13th-biggest ice cream tub brand. Not bad for a brand that only ventured into ice cream in 2016.

Amid so much innovation, who needs a hot summer to boost sales?


Halo Top

Halo Top, Halo Top UK/Eden Creamery

It could hardly be anything else in the top slot this year. The self-proclaimed “America’s most talked-about ice cream” touched down on UK soil in January to much fanfare. Sales appear to have lived up to the hype. In the nine months since hitting Tesco shelves, Halo Top has accumulated £13.1m and expanded from seven flavours to 16, including four dairy-free variants. The brand also recently announced new listings in Morrisons, Co-op, Iceland and Sainsbury’s.