Ever curious about who named July “National Ice Cream Month” and why there are a slew of ice cream-related events and campaigns that are centered around it? Well, you can thank Congress and Ronald Reagan. In 1983, over eight hundred and eighty-seven million gallons of ice cream were consumed in the United States. In 1984, Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 298, designated July as “National Ice Cream Month,” with “National Ice Cream Day” falling on the 3rd Sunday of the month. President Ronald Reagan was then requested to issue a proclamation in observance of these events and called upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
As, National Ice Cream Month goes on its 32nd year, Americans are entrenched in ice cream culture. We’ve become more innovative and more demanding. This year, the most popular campaigns appear to circle around discounted deals (or better yet, free ice cream), the newest (most daring) flavors, DIY, and healthier alternatives.
- Uber surged their popularity with #UberIceCream, which happened on Friday, July 15. People around the world had ice cream delivered via Uber, free of charge, in 144 cities, 38 countries, across 6 continents.
- Carvel offered funny snapchat filters at #CarvelSnaps, and a free cup or cone with the purchase of one of equal size.
- Häagen-Dazs, as the official ice cream of MOFAD (Museum of Food & Drink), brought their most current flavors to an all-you-can-eat free tasting at the “Battle of Ice Cream” class in Brooklyn, NY.
- Baskin Robbins offering free waffle cone upgrades with the purchase of any ice cream all month long.
- Petsmart (my personal fave) with #TreatYourPup had participating locations giving out free ice cream to dogs and their owners.
A New Flavor Revolution!
As ice cream shops and retail brands anticipate frenzy each year, a major goal is to come up with more refined, exotic and grown-up spins on nostalgic favorites. Last year, Dominique Ansel, inventor of the Cronut, introduced Burrata soft-serve, honoring the famous Italian cheese made from rich mozzarella and cream, a flavor that’s still getting attention.
Last week MOFAD presented “Ice Cream Battle”, where food historian and ice cream expert Sarah Lohman spoke about history’s wildest bygone flavors. Prior to the 19th century, ice cream flavors were often drinks, such as coffee, tea and chocolate. Now, through chef collaborations and ever-more creative trial and error, we’ve seen flavors such as beet, foie gras, butter, hay, and fish sauce. And they were successful! Cicada, jalapeño and prosciutto may also be Ice Cream Flavors You Didn’t Know Existed.
Despite the variety out there, many people still go for the standard choices. In the classic match-up, vanilla and chocolate, people still prefer vanilla – at a rate of 2:1.
Make Your Own Ice Cream!
We’ve learned from magazines and cooking shows that we don’t necessarily need a fancy ice-cream maker to achieve the same creamy consistency of America’s favorite frozen treat. In this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine, Justin Chapple revealed how to make his fabulous “cheater” Vanilla-Almond Ice Cream with Cherries and Pistachios. We’re beginning to see more and more posts on Pinterest and BuzzFeed that advocate blending ingredients like avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and even spinach until smooth and just let the mixture harden in a freezer. Ultimately, all that’s needed for DIY ice cream is milk, sugar, flavoring, ice, salt and two plastic bags (one large one to hold the ice and salt, and one smaller one to put inside the large bag). Done!
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) point to ice cream as a major source of added sugars, which account for an extra 13 percent of calories on average per day in the standard American diet. In 2014, Mintel research suggested that 73% of customers believe that ice cream can be part of a healthy diet. Ice cream shops and brands just need to provide healthy options and cater to customer desire in order to help make this more realistic.
Popular brands like Three Twins Ice Cream are leveraging this opportunity by downsizing portions and incorporating natural ingredients such as kale and spinach. Many healthy fruit and vegetable substitutes are also great for those with strict diets (just swap in nut milks or throw in dates as an alternative sweetener). Fiordi, popular for lactose intolerant consumers, serves the growing number of consumers who want to avoid dairy. In 2010, Häagen-Dazs introduced their Five ice cream line to include only cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, & the flavor of choice, so that all the ingredients would be completely recognizable. As a plus, the milk and cream came from cows not treated with the growth hormone rBST.
To boost flavor, there’s an increased interest in using fresh herbs, pure extracts and essential oils, such as vanilla, mint, cinnamon or lemon, and toppings like blueberries, raw cacao powder, flavonoid-rich cocoa nibs, or unsalted crushed nuts. These all serve as good sources of fiber, protein and minerals. Many consumers are looking for labels that suggest their foods are USDA organic and fair trade, and/or contain probiotic cultures, grass fed cow milk and cage free egg yolks. They want to avoid artificial sweeteners, synthetic Growth Hormones, fillers, dairy, gluten, soy, and of course added sugar. This reality is motivating well-known brands to step up to the plate, like Ben & Jerry which recently launched its new Non-Dairy and Vegan Flavors. Others, like Stonyfield, are amping up their inventory with frozen yogurt options to cater to FroYo’s growing demand, a trend that has risen over 20% in annual sales. For fitness buffs, Paleo crossfitters and macro-counting body-builders, there are now high-protein pints that contain nutritional supplements and even claim to enhance workout performance. Here are 5 High- Protein Ice Creams You Need To Try Right Now. These clever ideas have increasingly encouraged all types of people to feel less guilty about eating ice cream.
Preferences, tastes and demands of consumers constantly evolve and could all quickly change by next year’s National Ice Cream Month. More importantly, brands need to constantly monitor the shifting landscape. It’s only fitting that ice cream be given its own special month and day because while it’s eaten all year long, studies tell us that 95% of Americans eat ice cream in the summer. So, with a little more than one week left, continue to make every lick count! And, don’t forget to post your favorite flavors, best deals, healthy choices or DIY hacks on social media using #NationalIceCreamDay.