Halo Top is making the biggest change to its low-calorie ice cream recipe in its history as the category-pioneering brand Better For You struggles to regain its footing amid a steep sales slump.
Frozen offering switches to ultra-filtered milk with concentrated protein to create a creamier texture while retaining the same taste and low-calorie, low-sugar attributes that propelled it to prominence and helped it conquer market share from industry stalwarts such as Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s. Previously, Halo Top used skim milk and later added the protein solids.
A common criticism against healthier ice creams, Halo Top said, is that they aren’t as creamy as regular ice cream.
Wells Enterprises, which owns Blue Bunny ice cream and other frozen treats, “started tinkering and thinking” about how to improve the texture of the low-calorie snack soon after buying it in 2019, according to Ryan Roznowski, Senior Brand Manager for Halo Top.
Over the next two and a half years, Wells created hundreds of different iterations of the ice cream before selecting the new recipe and replacements for its 21 different flavors. Wells asked fans of the brand to try the new strains.
“We were very, very careful that we were strictly improving and not doing anything to a product that so many people loved that it was going to be detrimental,” Roznowski said. “All the tests show, this is the one.”
The first flavor to incorporate Halo Top’s creamier texture is its new Chocolate Cake Batter – a chocolate cake batter flavored ice cream with colorful sprinkles – which debuts just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand. Most other Halo Top flavors with new The recipe will be available in grocery stores nationwide later this spring.
After its 2012 launch in a Los Angeles garage, Halo Top went from zero to market dominance in five years thanks to its novel approach of prominently displaying ice cream calorie counts on the front of its packaging and touting its high protein and low sugar content. . It quickly became the best-selling pint of ice cream in the United States.
After sales soared 680% to $373 million as recently as 2017, Halo Top has seen declines in each of the past four calendar years, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. . In 2021, low-calorie ice cream sales totaled nearly $211 million, down 43% from 2017. Halo Top was the 16th most popular ice cream and frozen dessert brand in United States based on retail sales in 2019 over the 21st year, according to Euromonitor.
But there were signs of recovery for the brand even before the switch to ultrafiltered Milk. Halo Top, which holds the top dollar share of the best-for-you pint segment, according to Nielsen data provided by the company, has seen household penetration increase by 14% over the past year. In the past 52 weeks ending March 20, dollar sales have leveled off — likely following a 10-cent increase in the average price — although unit sales have continued to fall, data from the data show. ‘IRI.
Halo Top’s decline in recent years has been the result of stiff competition as major brands, seduced by the success of the upstart, have launched their own offerings.
Unilever’s Breyers brand responded by launching a low-calorie, high-protein range called Breyers Delights with similar labeling and packaging to Halo Top. The company followed with low-fat, low-calorie products from its Ben & Jerry’s brand and with its Culture Republick line of probiotic ice creams. Even retail giant Target has rolled out its clean Halo Top-esque ice cream from the house brand Archer Farms. Other upstart brands have since entered the market with their own offerings.
“You have a lot of competitors who have kind of tried to take our formula and make it their own and it’s a more competitive market,” Roznowski said. “We hope that as we improve the core of the Halo Top product, fans will continue to vote with their bellies. We thought an improved texture could really move the needle.”
In recent years, Halo Top has expanded its reach into frozen treats with sorbets, bars and fruit popsicles. Roznowski said Halo Top plans to take the brand into other categories over the next few years, which could include its first foray beyond freezing. He declined to discuss any new products being considered.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Halo Top continue to branch out more and more,” he said. “Wells is a frozen treats business, right? That’s obviously the bread and butter of what we’ll continue to do and that’s where all of our business is today, but don’t say never never.”