Enlightened was the first brand to launch a keto line of ice creams in the United States, while Ben & Jerry’s is innovating by departing from the traditional nut-based formula and launching a new ice cream with a sunflower seed butter base to meet consumers’ demand for plant-based alternatives. My/Mo, the leading mochi frozen dessert company, recently launched a patent-pending new individual package to address COVID-19 concerns, while Mochidoki is presenting gourmet mochi with a visual appeal.
- Research suggests that the most recent and relevant innovations in the frozen dessert segment are in response to the same consumer trends: dairy-free, plant-based, better-for-you products. Both case studies fit this description; however, Enlightened was a trailblazer in its category, and Ben and Jerry’s is exploring new options. Other brands are innovating outside of this particular space, but they are usually smaller innovations, such as a new flavor or a limited edition. These flavors are usually not new, and tend to be reinterpretations or even nostalgic flavors.
- For example, alcohol-infused frozen desserts are a popular trend, but despite its growing popularity, brands and products have been around for years now; therefore, it is not an innovation.
Case Study #1: Keto-Friendly Ice Cream — Enlightened
- The keto diet is a trend with enduring popularity, especially in Europe and North America, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% and reach $15.6 billion by 2027. Recently, frozen dessert companies started to cater to this audience, and Enlightened was among the trailblazers.
- In August 2019, Enlightened, a company known for innovative frozen products, announced a new ketogenic-friendly ice cream line, Enlightened + Delish. CEO Michael Shoretz stated, “Enlightened’s core belief is that everyone should be able to enjoy ice cream.” It was the first brand in the United States to launch a keto-specific ice cream line.
- The initial Enlightened Keto Collection was available in seven pints and four bars, each serving containing less than 1g net carbs. Flavors included “butter pecan, chocolate glazed donut, coffee and cream, chocolate peanut butter, mint chocolate chunk, peanut butter fudge, and red velvet.”
- The keto collection has more reviews than any other line on the company’s website. The Keto Collection Pint Variety Pack alone has 1289 reviews, 1224 are five stars reviews. Instagram posts of the line usually generate more engagement than other products.
- Given the success and positive reception, the brand expanded the line in 2020, including new flavors, Caramel Dark Chocolate Peanut and Caramel Chocolate Double Dough.
- Other brands are also launching keto-friendly lines, following Enlightened’s success. Halo Top introduced its keto line in 2020, as well as Rebel and Killer Creamery.
Case Study #2: Sunflower Butter-Based Ice Cream — Ben & Jerry’s
- Vegan, dairy-free, plant-based options are some of the biggest trends in the frozen dessert segment. Unilever, one of the largest players in the market, unveiled numerous plant-based, dairy-free frozen desserts in 2020, including through one of its brands, Ben & Jerry’s.
- Most brands use nuts as the base in their dairy-free ice creams, and consumers have been asking for nut-free alternatives, which is what Ben & Jerry’s delivered with its new line of ice creams with a sunflower butter base. Non-dairy flavors now make up more than a quarter of Ben & Jerry’s total flavor lineup.
- It is the first brand to use sunflower seeds as a base, and it was featured in the Food Business News “2020 Ice cream and frozen dessert innovation” list. Ben & Jerry’s has a reputation of always being on top of the trends and by launching this new line, the brand is serving a market that is expected to grow at “an annual rate of 14.8% to $1.2 billion by 2025.”
- Although many brands launched dairy-free products, they are typically almond-based and lack variety. Sunflower seeds are a good alternative for consumers looking for nut-free frozen desserts (another rising trend) with better-for-you properties. According to Food Dive, the new base helps the company “differentiate its product line, especially as almond farming has received recent criticism for its impact on bees.”
- The company explains that based on customers’ feedback, it wanted to create a new base for non-dairy products that didn’t rely on almonds or almond milk. It says that sunflower butter provides “a deliciously neutral blank canvas for our wacky vegan flavors without any other flavors coming through, so our Flavor Gurus could get extra creative with those funky chunks and whirly swirls.”
- CEO Mathew McCarthy further adds, “Plant-based eating is one of the biggest trends in the world and ice cream lovers everywhere have shouted for non-dairy/vegan options that rise to the levels of Ben & Jerry’s euphoric awesomeness.”
- The line was launched in January 2020, with three flavors: “Milk” & Cookies, Crème Brûlée Cookie, and Mint Chocolate Cookie. It is 100% vegan certified, nut-free, and dairy-free. It also has a lower calorie count than the original flavor (900 calories per container versus 1120 per container of the original).
- There is limited publicly available information regarding the impact of the product. Unilever says that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sales are rising, but it does not provide a product breakdown. However, reviews have been mostly positive. Out of 33 reviews for the Mint Chocolate Cookie flavor, 29 were five stars. Social media comments are also positive, with many consumers indicating that the new base is a game-changer.
- It was the second most popular launch of the brand in the first quarter of 2020, based on Instagram likes and comments (18,834 likes and 1,100 comments), losing only to the return of the limited edition cannoli (25,985 likes and 1,003 comments). Most comments show consumers excited about the new product. Direct links to the Instagram posts can be found here.
- Important to note that Ben & Jerry saw a massive increase in followers in July due to its strong support for the BLM movement. Therefore, more recent posts tend to get more likes. However, even though it gained 500,000 followers in the second and third quarter of 2020, going from 900,000 to 1.5 million, the line announcement is still one of the posts with the most comments.
Case Study #1: Individually Packaged Mochi — My/Mo
- The pandemic changed consumers’ attitudes and priorities; the safety of a product is increasingly important. Experts anticipate that single-serve packaging will become a trend, and My/Mo is ahead of the curve.
- Mochi snacks are traditionally sold in packages of six or 12. In April 2020, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream announced the launch of single-serve My/Mo Mochi balls. “The latest innovation offers snack lovers a single mochi ice cream ball packaged individually for optimal quality and freshness, while ensuring food safety.”
- In June, the company announced that the single-serve and two-packaging designs are now patent pending, covering “single fully enclosed mochi ice cream containers, two-pack mochi ice cream containers among others.”
- Each package offers a single 100 calories mochi ice cream ball, which also helps consumers track their consumption. The individual packs also give the product longer shelf life and reduce waste.
- According to My/Mo Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer Russell Barnett, the brand was already considering new packaging options before the pandemic for “sanitary reasons and to provide information such as nutrition and allergy details,” as the Mochi bar concept the brand typically uses was not sustainable.
- The bulk of the company’s sales still come from six-pack boxes, but it has spent “the past few months filling those ‘Mochi Bar’ freezers with wrapped products. And, in its latest expansion play, it has gotten new two-serving packages into 7-Eleven.”
- Barnett believes this innovation will increase consumers’ interest in the product since “food safety is top of mind for many Americans.” Research suggests he may be right. My/Mo controls 90% of the mochi frozen dessert market, and sales soared during the pandemic, growing 80% to $60.8 million in the 52 weeks ended August 9.
- Trend Hunter, a website devoted to track and measure the impact and popularity of trends and innovations, gave the innovation an 8.4 score considering its popularity, activity, and freshness.
Case Study #2: Gourmet Mochi — Mochidoki
- The mochi ice cream trend is being driven mostly by Millennials and Gen Zers, generations that are all about experience and visual appeal. These young consumers love “Instagrammable moments,” and Mochidoki has recently launched new products that are a departure from the traditional mochi balls.
- Mochidoki was founded in 2015 as a wholesale brand. In 2018, the company launched its direct-to-consumer website, and in 2020 opened its first brick-and-mortar location in SoHo. The company focus is on providing a gourmet version of mochi ice cream, with sophisticated flavors. However, with its new store’s launch in 2020, Mochidoki is now focusing on visual appeal as well.
- The company calls the new line “High tea,” and it is only available in the SoHo store for now. It was launched in June 2020. Yelp reviews show that consumers were satisfied with the new product. Some say they chose the high tea collection because of the presentation, which further shows the importance of the visual appeal.
- The impact of this innovation is yet to be determined. The company is not selling these products online, and the pandemic is slowing foot traffic in stores. However, given that Mochidoki sells to restaurants such as Nobu, and that posts with this line tend to have 3x more likes than the average post on the company’s Instagram page, it is possible that it could be the start of a new niche trend.