Ice cream Flavors. Italian ice flavors. Flavors of shakes. Flavors of gelato. There are so many of them. It seems like every minute someone is coming out with something new. Whether it is your competition, some dessert shop halfway across the country, or some random billboard promoting a new flavor of something not even affiliated with our industry. Everywhere we look there is a piece of marketing meant to tickle our taste buds. I know I personally salivate anytime I see peanut butter and chocolate options – I don’t care what type of food or dessert they are paired with. I’m an easy mark. My son, is allergic to peanuts – so he’d have a slightly different reaction to that marketing.
As business owners, how do we navigate the endless flavor seas to maximize potential offerings to our customers? How do we not waste the real estate that every flavor takes up in our store? The first thing is you need to understand YOUR market. Most of your customers are going to come from a 5-square-mile radius. You need to know the population inside that market. What is the average age? What is the breakdown of ethnicity? How about income? Here is some data that will help you design new products and flavors based on what your population data provides.
- Older Population – 50 and over – tend to be more traditional. Will lean towards the top sellers and will only venture out with additions to those. For example – mint chocolate chip sundae. Or vanilla ice cream on waffles. You can add new things, but they better be built around the staples.
- Millenials/Gen Z – 18 – 35: They want what’s new. What’s different. High percentage of nondairy/vegan options. The crazier, the better. Need to have visual marketing behind it to help push. These age groups have matured around everything visual.
- Asian/Indian/Latin – These cultures prefer fruit-based flavors in both ice and water ice. If you have a high concentration of these ethnicities, base your new rollouts on those types of offerings.
These are just a few hot takes. Understand that 90% of the US population consumes ice cream and frozen desserts. 72% of those say flavor is important to what they buy. What seems to be hottest right now across all demographics are flavors with mix-ins. Cookies, candies, syrups, etc. Cereal-infused products are gaining ground as well. Seemingly right now the crazier the better. Freakshakes, bubble waffle cones, syrup-infused candy blend-ins. The more Instagram-friendly it is, the more it will move the needle. Also, the aforementioned vegan and non-dairy options remain steamships that keep plowing through the muddy waters of “what’s new.” Remember, the customers that choose those options are not just trying something new. They are lifestyle buyers who will appreciate that you have offerings for their dietary choices or restrictions. You can capitalize on that as well.
The first thing I recommend is to check your neighborhood census. See what the demographics are for your market. Look at the data for any outliers that you can leverage as you introduce new flavors and new products.
The second is to look at your customers and what they are currently buying. See also what has moved the needle in the past and remember to max the max. When customers in the frozen dessert business ask me how to increase daytime sales, I tell them to close their dessert shop and start selling soup. You are in the ice cream business! Most of your sales come after lunch. If you want to increase revenue, figure out how to do more dollars when people want to come. The same thing with new flavors – max the max for what is currently popular. Your last cereal-infused offering took off?....let’s get another one going or spin-off what just worked. Don’t start from scratch. Just take a small step with some new packaging and watch the results.
Lastly, talk to your customers. What have they tried/saw somewhere else that they’d like to see you offer? If you ask enough people, you will get a pretty good idea of what will work. Then it’s time to execute.
After about 4 months, even the most loyal of customers will start to tire of your menu. Don’t take their business and their loyalty for granted. Use new flavors and new products to reinvigorate them before they go elsewhere. Do the same to grab new customers and new faces. But don’t do it with your eyes closed. Use demographic data and industry trends to introduce new flavors that leverage your market and grow your business. And if you are in doubt about your next steps, just give us a call and we can help. Our advice is free and always full of flavor…..pun intended.