Cool down on National Ice Cream Day with these top stocks

Summer is finally here, and July is naturally the busiest production month for ice cream companies. There is even an official holiday for the classic chilly sweet treat: National Ice Cream Day has been celebrated in the United States on the third Sunday of July ever since US President Ronald Reagan signed the day into public law back in 1984.

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National Ice Cream Day this year is on July 18th. It doesn’t really take a national holiday, however, to know that the summer heat means more people will be craving a quick and cooling snack. Good news for the ice cream business!

The global ice cream market is heating up

In 2017, close to £1 billion GBP worth of ice cream (about 350 thousand tons) were sold to retail customers in Great Britain alone. The global ice cream market was worth $65.8 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to grow to over $90 billion USD by 2026 — a very noteworthy increase of more than 30% in the coming years. The ice cream market is heating up and now, as the weather is too, it is a great time to take a look at these top ice cream companies.


Founded in 1929, the Anglo-Dutch Unilever is the third-largest consumer goods company in the world. A leading supplier of personal care and food products reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day in over 190 countries, Unilever counts among its 400+ international brands such famous names as Dove, Lipton, Knorr, and Hellmann’s.

Unilever is also the world’s largest ice cream company, with an impressive portfolio of leading brands on the market. Unilever owns Ben & Jerry’s as well as Carte D’Or — just these two brands together made up over 50% of UK ice cream sales in 2017. Add to that the Magnum and Cornetto lines, as well as top American ice cream brands Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, and Popsicle, and we can see how Unilever holds the undisputed title of ice cream industry king.

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General Mills

General Mills owns the Häagen-Dazs premium ice cream brand worldwide, excluding North America. (Nestlé had long owned licensing rights for Häagen-Dazs in the US and Canada, but subsequently sold them to Froneri, which became the world’s second-largest ice cream company after Unilever as a result.) Although Häagen-Dazs is just one single brand, it’s a strong one. Introduced in 1961 as the world’s first “super-premium” ice cream, Häagen-Dazs’ high-quality branding has endured.

There is currently a rise in demand for premium ice creams, which have become popular among health-conscious consumers due to the presence of higher-quality authentic ingredients. The premium ice cream market is expected to grow by $2.5 billion during 2020-2024. General Mills reported that sales of the premium Häagen-Dazs label helped boost profits through 2020’s pandemic, as net sales in the UK and Asia, in particular,  rose during the lockdowns.

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Another player in the premium ice cream market is ConAgra, an $11 billion international packaged food giant based in Chicago. Its health-focused Healthy Choice brand, well known in North America, includes not only frozen meals, but also everyone’s favourite frozen dessert. Marketed as healthier premium ice cream, the Healthy Choice line is low in fat while still claiming great taste.

ConAgra also owns the J. Hungerford Smith brand of premium ice cream toppings, as well as Reddi-wip whipped topping — providing consumers with the complete at-home ice cream experience.

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Aside from premium ice cream, another rising trend in this market is the non-dairy alternative. While the other ice cream companies mentioned above have produced vegan versions alongside their dairy ones, all of newcomer Oatly’s offerings are purely plant-based: it is their only niche and they seem to do it well. The Swedish-based company is also better positioned to the fast-growing health-conscious, environmentally-conscious market segment than the larger conglomerates. Oatly’s product line, therefore, taps into two trends in one: ethical, sustainable industry, as well as vegan.

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The tech factor

The ice cream industry has always had to rely on innovation — even from its humble beginnings in 2000 BCE, when Chinese nobility had snow brought from the mountains in summer in order to create the refreshing so-called ‘milk ice’ (true story). Now, with constant demand for fresher ingredients, newer flavours, and more ways to provide instant gratification (see Unilever’s drone delivery of Ben & Jerry’s, for instance), technology will certainly be playing a major role in the industry going forward.

That is why it is worth considering eToro’s FoodTech Smart Portfolio — a fully allocated thematic investment portfolio focused specifically on food industry trends and innovation. Designed to help long-term investors capitalise on opportunities created by the ever-evolving food industry, this investment strategy offers exposure to some of the most exciting AgriFood Tech stocks in the world, while minimising risk through diversified stock selection. Read more about the FoodTech Smart Portfolio here.

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