National Ice Cream Month: History, Statistics, and Trends

As the summer reaches peak temperatures in July, Americans celebrate National Ice Cream Month as a way to cool off and enjoy the nation’s favorite frozen treat with friends and family.

In 1984, Senator Walter Dee Huddleston of Kentucky introduced a resolution to proclaim the month of July 1984 National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law.

The International Dairy Foods Association said Americans consume about 23 gallons of ice cream each year, on average. Most ice cream companies are family owned and have been in operation for more than 50 years.

Ice cream companies help support the U.S. economy, contributing more than $11 billion directly to the national economy and supporting more than 26,000 direct jobs that generate $1.6 billion in direct wages, according to IDFA’s Dairy Delivers.

According to Statista, 245.42 million Americans consumed regular ice cream (not diet) in 2019 and they prefer to buy the store brand above others. In 2017, about 1.4 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts were produced in the United States.

Related Article: Which Frozen Foods are Preferred by Consumers?

While private labels sold over 350 million units of ice cream worth $1.1 billion in 2019, Ben & Jerry’s was one of the most popular brands in the United States the same year. Total sales of the brand’s American ice cream totaled nearly $700 million that year.

In the retail aisles, consumers would find them pre-packaged in different sizes, mostly in bulk (gallons or pints) or as bars. Some suppliers offer seasonal ice cream flavors besides their year-round portfolio.

History of Ice Cream

The origin of ice cream likely dates back to A.D. 54 to 68 during the time when Nero was Emperor of Rome. Evidence shows harvesting ice or snow, then flavoring it with honey or other flavorings to make ice cream. Alexander the Great supposedly enjoyed icy drinks that had flavorings such as honey or nectar, too!

The first appearance of ice cream in the U.S. is found in a letter by Maryland Governor William Bladen in 1744. Early presidents also had a liking towards ice cream. In fact, in the summer of 1790, George Washington spent approximately $200 on ice cream. For a while, ice cream was only an occasional special treat, mainly for the rich.

In 1843, Nancy Johnson patented the hand crank ice cream maker. Eight years later, in 1851, Jacob Fussell built the first ice cream factory. The invention of mechanical refrigeration helped keep large amounts of ice cream cool. Further improvements and new inventions in technology made ice cream more available to the general public.

The Trends

Retailers say premium ice cream is most popular with their consumers, while ice cream makers say regular ice cream, usually sold in stores, is most popular with their consumers, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.

Pecans, strawberries, candy, and chocolate pieces are the most popular nuts, fruits, and confections in ice cream.

Waffle cones and sugar cones tie for most popular containers.

America’s Top 10 Favorite Ice Cream Flavors:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies N’ Cream
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Buttered Pecan
  • Cookie Dough
  • Strawberry
  • Moose Tracks
  • Neapolitan

America’s favorite novelty products are:

  • Sandwiches
  • Mini cups
  • Sticks or pops
  • Cones
  • Bars

Ice Cream Marketing

  • Families are the primary customer group for ice cream retailers.
  • Ice cream marketing is primarily done on a local or regional level.
  • Two-fifths of ice cream makers are seeing an increased demand for premium ice cream versus 17 percent seeing an increase in gelato demand followed by 15 percent for sorbet. Demand for low-fat or non-fat ice cream ranked the lowest at just 4 percent.
  • Ice cream makers and retailers say the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) is the most successful ice cream market.