Ice Cream Consumers and Their Current Trends According to Location Intelligence

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Changing seasons bring forth changes in consumer foot traffic patterns due to holidays, weather, current events, and more. So, as the summer months heat up, foot traffic trends tend to shift as consumers look for ways to spend their downtime outside of the home. As a result, foot traffic to shopping malls, recreation sites, and travel hubs tends to surge in the summer months. Furthermore, consumers develop a greater taste for cool treats like ice cream in the summer. In fact, Americans eat 45% more ice cream in the summer than in any other season. So, we wanted to learn more about this trend and about current consumer interest in top ice cream brands.

To dig deeper, we examined consumer foot traffic levels at top ice cream chain locations and non-chain ice cream shops in the U.S. Read on for our location intelligence findings.

Foot Traffic to Top Ice Cream Shops

We analyzed foot traffic to Baskin Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Carvel, Cold Stone Creamery, Marble Slab Creamery, and non-chain ice cream shops from Q2 2022 to Q3 2023. Over the last year, each ice cream shop has experienced a unique pattern in foot traffic, however, there has been an overall upward trend in foot traffic to ice cream shops over the past four quarters. The only brand that didn’t experience a significant increase in year-over-year foot traffic was Ben & Jerry’s. Ben & Jerry’s ended Q2 2023 with a 10% decline in year-over-year foot traffic. Perhaps the brand’s controversies or Ben & Jerry’s recent price hikes are affecting consumer foot traffic to its scoop shops.

foot traffic

On the other hand, Bruster’s experienced the most substantial growth in year-over-year foot traffic, seeing a staggering 68% increase for the time period we analyzed. The Bruster’s menu includes unique ice cream flavors as well as popular favorites, which could be adding to the brand’s appeal with ice cream consumers. Also seeing significant foot traffic growth, Baskin Robbins and Cold Stone experienced increases of 43% and 34%, respectively. Carvel and Marble Slab Creamery saw smaller but notable levels of foot traffic growth. Carvel experienced an increase of 33%, while Marble Slab Creamery saw an increase of 26%. Most of the major brands we analyzed experienced great growth in foot traffic, so it’s clear that consumers have a growing taste for ice cream across the country.

What else could be impacting the ice cream industry? Moreover, why are non-chain ice cream shops rapidly growing in popularity, in line with their brand name counterparts? Let’s take a closer look at non-chain scoop shops in detail.

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Foot Traffic to Mom-and-Pop Ice Cream Shops

In recent months, consumers have shown increasing interest in supporting locally-owned businesses over major brands. Many consumers support locally-owned businesses to fuel their local economies while receiving unique customer experiences not found at big brand chains. This may be why non-chain ice cream shops experienced an increase of 38% in year-over-year foot traffic.

foot traffic data

When we look at the estimated number of daily visitors for all the businesses we analyzed, non-chain shops have consistently maintained 99% of the market share. Over the last year, locally-owned ice cream shops have gained lots of foot traffic while also serving far more customers than any major brand.

foot traffic visitation

Breaking the data down by division, the westernmost region of the U.S. (California, Oregon, and Washington) was the only division that experienced a decrease in foot traffic to non-chain ice cream shops. The rest of the country saw impressive increases in consumer visits to non-chain ice cream shops over the last year. The West North Central region saw the greatest increase in foot traffic to non-chain shops: 72%. Scoop shops in the East North Central and New England regions also saw some of the highest increases in consumer visits, ending Q2 2023 with 69% and 61% more foot traffic, respectively. Locally-owned ice cream shops remain staggeringly popular across the nation, and foot traffic growth is likely to continue into the dog days of summer.

Ice Cream Consumers in 2023

Ice cream venues continue to grow in popularity among consumers. A quarter of the U.S. population favors ice cream over any other dessert, so the ice cream market is vast. However, ice cream lovers are evolving as well. Similar to the ways in which shoppers have increasingly high expectations of the in-person shopping experience, ice cream consumers have increasingly high expectations of their favorite ice cream brands.

As they evolve, ice cream diners want more customization, toppings, and complex or refined flavors, among other things. So, locally-owned scoop shops could continue to attract more consumers by offering unique flavor options. However, this may be why Bruster’s has seen such incredible year-over-year foot traffic growth that could continue well into the cold winter months. As this trend develops, we’ll likely see experimental flavors and elevated customer experiences from more of the top ice cream brands soon.

For now, the summer has been a busy time for most major brands and non-chain shops. As the summer winds down, we expect consumer visits to ice cream shops to dip slightly but recover again next spring. It will be interesting to see if locally-owned ice cream shops are able to maintain strong foot traffic even throughout the colder months, and how they will compare with the nation’s top ice cream chains.

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