Ice cream is a sweet passion to which Italians remain faithful despite social changes and food styles.

According to the IGI (Italian Institute of Gelato) – Eurisko research, 95% of the population likes ice cream. In particular, 85% of connoisseurs love it “very much or quite a bit”, 39% say they eat it often, 37% sometimes, while only 19% rarely indulge.

In loving ice cream, Italians have their certainties. The cone beats the cup and the cream flavors win over the fruit ones, with a particular fondness for chocolate, hazelnut and pistachio. Even if consumers always tend to choose the same tastes, the part of the population that pays attention to the quality of the ingredients both for ethical choices and for intolerances is increasing.

Ice cream lovers are faced with a choice every time: artisanal or packaged ice cream? The latest market trends tell us who is the winner of this delicious challenge.

The latest market trends: Homemade ice cream or packaged ice cream?

The data from the survey entitled “The role of ice cream in the experience of Italians”, conducted last January by the Fipe (Italian Federation of Public Establishments) Studies Office on the occasion of Sigep 2019 speak clearly. 94.2% of the Italians interviewed stated that they generally consume homemade ice cream and in particular 76.4% choose it because they prefer it to the industrial one. For about eight out of ten Italians, “artisanal” is a product that is prepared with raw and fresh materials and for 65.8% it is sold in an activity with a production laboratory. These data bear witness to the fact that in the sentiment of Italians artisanal gelato is seen as the product of work carried out in a laboratory, with high quality raw materials. In fact, the quality of the ingredients is the requirement considered most important by consumers, followed by the creaminess (62.2%) and the fragrance of the pod (48.4%) in the cone format.

The numbers decree artisanal ice cream as the winner, but this does not mean that Italians disdain industrial ice cream. The numerical “consistency” of fans of packaged ice cream emerges from the IGI – Eurisko data: there are about 6.5 million people who really can’t give up this food. Lovers of industrial ice cream are divided into two macro categories. On the one hand there is the group of “Branded ice cream”: almost 4 million Italians (among the 25 and 34 years old) whose passion for this type of ice cream is about 2.5 times higher than the average (34% against 14%). On the other side we find the “New generation”. We are talking about 2.8 million people with the highest concentration of young people between the ages of 14 and 19.

Why Italians love homemade ice cream

The numbers of the latest market trends provide us with a picture of the preferences of Italians. Let’s see what are the reasons that explain these results.

Consumers who love homemade ice cream prefer it for the taste, the quality of the ingredients, the creaminess and the refreshing sensation. Regarding the importance of raw materials, two aspects must be considered. The first concerns the growing attention of consumers for ingredients that have a denomination of origin, such as IGP hazelnuts from Piedmont, Pistachios DOP from Sicily, almonds from Avola , Sicilian citrus fruits, etc. The second aspect concerns the sensitivity of Italian artisan ice cream parlors to create products that adapt to the new needs of customers. Vegan, gluten free and lactose free ice cream: whether it is for ethical choices or intolerances, more and more people are looking for these types of ice cream. An artisanal ice cream produced in the laboratory is a guarantee of authenticity and transparency in the production process.

Even lovers of industrial ice cream have their good reasons. Among these we find the easy availability, the convenience and practicality of consumption. Furthermore, for Italians, the brands of packaged ice creams are synonymous with safety and reliability, a factor appreciated above all by mothers for their children. Finally, the breadth of the offer of varieties and formats, from cones to cups, from sticks to ice cream biscuits and the excellent quality/price ratio contribute to the success of industrial ice cream.

Artisanal vs packaged ice cream: what makes the difference is the moment of consumption

When choosing between artisanal and industrial ice cream, a fundamental aspect to consider is the time of consumption.

Artisanal ice cream has a strong “social” component. Again according to the Fipe survey, for 81.2% of Italians, ice cream becomes an opportunity to go out and take a break. Entering an artisan ice cream shop, lingering in the display case of flavors to choose ice cream and spending time with loved ones represents a moment of lightness and joy. Eating homemade ice cream is therefore an experience to be shared with someone, whether it’s for a break during work with colleagues or a moment of conviviality with friends and relatives. For those who love packaged ice cream, the moment of consumption takes on different nuances. Those who like this type of ice cream eat it following an “impulse”, so any time is good to unwrap an ice cream. You can enjoy a cone or a stick in a moment of relaxation, to satisfy a sudden craving, to give yourself a treat or to quench hunger. For this reason, packaged ice cream is more closely linked to home consumption. If on the one hand it is independent of seasonality, on the other it has a less convivial and social character than the artisan one

Artisanal vs packaged ice cream: to each their own

In the challenge to conquer the hearts and gluttony of Italians, artisanal ice cream has the upper hand. Although packaged ice cream is still appreciated by consumers, especially for certain moments of consumption, it is the flavors made with fresh and genuine raw materials and the cones savored in company in an ice cream parlor that seduce and convince the customers of our peninsula.