Going Crazy for Custard
Although your freezer at home might tell a different story, the average American is eating considerably less ice cream today than in decades past.
In the 1980s, the average American ate roughly 18 pounds of ice cream throughout the year, according to the USDA. Consumption was down to just 12 pounds per year in 2021 – a decrease of roughly 33% in four decades.
Ice cream first gained popularity during prohibition as a guilty pleasure alternative to alcohol. The interest in the creamy snack continued through WW2 since the government leaned on it to keep morale high. Three factors have caused it to fall out of favor since then.
• Ice cream was considered somewhat of a specialty dessert in the 1950s, since personal freezers were just becoming widespread. Since freezers have been a staple in every house for decades, the novelty of having a frozen dessert has worn off.
• Ice cream isn’t considered one of the healthiest things to eat. Even John Robbins – heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire – has vocally opposed ice cream.
• Ice cream’s competition in the grocery store has grown rapidly as other desserts have become popular. Today’s consumer can wander through any grocery store and choose from desserts like cookies, candy, cake, pies, cheesecake, and more.
While the US ice cream industry might have been in decline over the past few decades, it still posted a whopping $7 billion in sales last year.
This makes it clear that the industry isn’t going anywhere and that Americans still love their ice cream. But it’s still clear that consumers’ tastes have shifted slightly over the years.
In the past, it was common to stock up on a gallon of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream for the whole family to enjoy. Today, consumers are more likely to buy smaller pint-sized containers of ice cream, featuring fancier flavors and a premium price point.
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