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Consumer Trends of 2021: Keto-friendly Ice Cream

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Instacart

Dec 16, 2021

As we close out 2021, the Instacart Ads team has been looking at consumer trends in online grocery shopping over the past year. In each article of this series we’ll dive into a specific category or categories impacted by a diet trend and look at the influence it had throughout 2021. 

In this article, we look at the impact of ketogenic (‘keto’) diets on the ice cream category, with keto-friendly ice cream products becoming more and more available. Our analysis leverages anonymized and aggregated data from millions and millions of orders over time. 

Since consumers can order their groceries from one of over 700 different retailers on the Instacart marketplace, representing more than 65,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in the U.S.—including all 50 states—insights gleaned from the data represents a diverse cross-section of the grocery-buying public. 

While we can go quite broad with our analysis, we decided on a more narrow focus this time around and zeroed in on the impact of keto diets on the ice cream category. 

A keto diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. So some might think the popularity of the keto diet (or anything called a diet!) would have little positive impact on this category. 

After all, sugar is a carb and desserts like ice cream are loaded with sugar. Right? So it seems unlikely a rise in consumers following a keto diet would translate into more ice cream sales on the Instacart marketplace. But like we saw in our recent article on the flexitarian diet, many consumers use diets to set preferences or habits without strictly cutting out a food.

With the flexitarian diet this could have contributed to sales of both meat-alternatives and other meats like chicken, turkey, and other fowl (which are more-or-less acceptable in that diet) being up in 2021. 

With many CPGs providing keto-friendly options across a variety of categories, including ice cream, it seems possible to have your cake (well, ice cream) and eat it too; consumers can aim for the high-fat, low-carb mix of the keto diet while still enjoying a scoop of ice cream.  

Keto-friendly ice cream trends on the Instacart marketplace

When we look at the sales growth of ice cream and its sub-categories, for the period of January to September, keto ice cream grew 10% in 2021 over the same time period in 2020. This was slightly higher than the growth of non-dairy ice cream at 9% and regular ice cream at 7%. 

We defined keto-friendly ice cream as any ice cream with low-carb or “keto” claims, often with low or no sugar claims as well. 

The data around keto-friendly ice cream gets interesting when we look at basket affinities; as a reminder, a basket affinity describes how likely products (or brands, categories, or sub-categories) are to be bought together. 

The contrast between the two lists of top basket affinities is notable. The basket affinities for keto-friendly ice cream includes a number of keto diet or nutritional products while the basket affinities of regular ice cream reveal other desserts and toppings. 

It’s interesting the strange bedfellows a specific diet like keto can make in the basket affinities. While the ice cream basket affinities generally follow a dessert theme, more broadly they contain primarily items that go with ice cream — ice cream cones, dessert sauce, whipped topping, cherries, pie, cake, cake mix — with only a few like pot pie, lasagna, and regular muffins standing out as items you wouldn’t serve with ice cream. 

Compare that to the basket affinities of keto-friendly ice cream. Pork rinds are the second most likely item to be in the basket with keto-friendly ice cream. Second only to weight management bars and slightly ahead of cauliflower! But in the context of consumers on a keto diet, these strange pairings make sense. Pork rinds are a common keto-friendly snack because they’re made almost entirely of protein and fat. Cauliflower, too, while not something you’d put on your ice cream has keto connotations as well; it’s often diced and used in lieu of breadcrumbs for breading things.

Interested in learning more about how consumers shop online in categories relevant to your business?  Partner with us to get access to in-depth analysis and on-demand reporting.   

Instacart

Instacart

Instacart is the leading online grocery platform in North America, partnering with more than 700 beloved national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to deliver from more than 65,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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