At Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City, a new dessert called Frozen S’mores is taking the city by storm. Pastry chef and owner Dominique Ansel creates his Frozen S'mores with Tahitian vanilla ice cream at the center, covered in chocolate feuilletine and honey marshmallow. Each dessert is torched to order and served on a smoked willow wood branch.
As ice cream and frozen novelty consumption remains near-universal among Americans, a less-is-more mindset is prevailing. While reduced consumption could melt category sales, consumer interest in premium offerings has kept market sales afloat despite declining volume sales, according to Mintel research. Nearly one quarter (22 percent) of consumers purchase frozen treats that they consider premium and 34 percent agree that they are willing to pay more for such treats. Another one third (35 percent) of consumers agree that premium frozen treats taste better than regular frozen treats.
“While little opportunity exists to acquire new customers in the universally penetrated frozen treat market, interest in premium and healthy options gives brands the opportunity to offer products that communicate health and wholeness, while also encouraging moderation, which can aid in increasing trials through smaller sizes,” says Beth Bloom, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Putting a heavy focus on quality, taste and health will resonate with consumers, and emphasizing single-serving packs and messaging around the variety of products should appeal to Americans’ preference for snacking.”
In addition to the perceived enhanced taste of premium frozen treats, one in seven (14 percent) consumers view them as healthier, making premium options an appealing choice for the 19 percent of consumers who say that health factors into their frozen treat purchase decision. And with snacking now fully ingrained in American eating habits, Mintel research reveals that ice cream as a snack is just as popular as ice cream after a meal with nearly half (49 percent) of consumers eating frozen treats as a snack, while 55 percent eat them for dessert.

Appealing to changing consumer taste preferences, variety is the name of the ice cream game as more than one quarter (27 percent) of consumers have purchased a variety pack in the past six months*. However, despite the desire to experience various flavors, consumers primarily buy products that feature a single flavor (53 percent). Adding to the appeal of single-serving and variety packs, more than one quarter (27 percent) of consumers typically have more than one type of frozen treat/flavor in their freezer at one time.
While a single ice cream flavor is a more likely purchase type, a growing number of consumers are intrigued by flavors with mix-ins (nuts, cake bits). In fact, in 2013 Mintel research found that one quarter (24 percent) of consumers agreed “fun ingredients mixed in” was an important factor when buying frozen treats, while 41 percent are buying flavored treats with mix-ins today.

“The wide range of single-flavor frozen treats and products with unique mix-ins are keeping consumers from becoming bored with the category. The rise of new, trendy flavors speak to the dual components nostalgia and indulgence play in the market, while internationally-inspired varieties like mochi ice cream and gelato are succeeding in flavor and format. For more traditional offerings, mix-ins can give treats an added boost, with fruit and nut additions potentially alluring health-focused consumers,” continues Bloom.

The pastry connection

Pastry and coffee shops are taking notice of this developing trend.
In St. Louis, Piccione Pastry and Clementine’s Creamery earlier this year announced a sweet collaboration in which Piccione Pastry will add Clementine’s® gelato and sorbet to their menu.

Smooth, creamy and made with the finest quality, natural ingredients, gelato is available in chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel and gooey butter flavors. More elaborate flavors include blood orange sorbet, a sweet and seasonal offering. Clementine’s Creamery, owned by Tamara Keefe, will handcraft the gelato and sorbet.
Starbucks has begun serving ice cream at more than 100 locations in the United States. The treat will be paired with coffee to make affogatos, an Italian dessert which is essentially an ice-cream-topped espresso shot.
The idea first popped up at the national chain’s Seattle Roastery, which added an affogato to its menu in June of last year. It quickly became a top menu item at the Roastery, even in the winter. There will be two versions of the treat. At 10 upscale Reserve bar locations in Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C., the full Roastery Affogato menu will be served. This will include affogato flavors made with old Brew Malt, small-lot cold brew, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate bits.

Training ground for dessert makers

Although culinary trends tend to change every year, some things never go out of style such as culinary exploration and America's love of ice cream. PreGel (Pre Gelato/Pre Gelateria) has merged these two trends into one custom offering with the addition of Artisanal Ice Cream class to the company's list of International Training Centers educational offerings. 

"Ice cream is a classic American dessert that is part of our culinary culture, so we felt it was a smart decision to incorporate Artisanal Ice Cream into our curriculum to create a more balanced program," says Sean Pera, corporate pastry chef for PreGel America. 
PreGel's three-day Artisanal Ice Cream class will explore the processes of artisanal ice cream recipe formulation, decorating techniques, and proper use of production and kitchen equipment.
The Artisanal Ice Cream Class is offered at all PreGel International Training Centers in the US including Charlotte, North Carolina; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where it is also taught in Spanish. 
PreGel also hosts the 5-Star Chef Series, specifically designed for advanced pastry chefs looking to enhance their culinary skills in a variety of specialties ranging from plated desserts to modern entremets. 

National Ice Cream Day

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor, a Pittsburgh ice cream tradition since 1923, plans to host the first-ever Small Ice Cream Shop Competition on July 16, which is National Ice Cream Day. Excited to be doing something completely original, Klavon's competition will feature female leaders in the ice cream industry, including well-known entrepreneurs Natasha Case from Coolhaus, Cris Freeman from Phin and Phebes, and Jennie Dundas from Blue Marble.

In 2007, Dundas ignited a movement when she opened Blue Marble Ice Cream, New York City's first-ever source-driven, eco-conscious ice cream company. Based in Brooklyn, Blue Marble remains the only certified organic ice cream company in the city.
Small standalone shops across the country that have more than one location, but are not franchises, will be invited to compete. Large corporations or non-ice cream related businesses will not be admitted to the competition. The winner, in addition to the Coolhaus feature, will win a $10,000 cash prize, and national bragging rights.