In 2000, there were no low-carb ice creams on the market. Last year only 19 reduced carbohydrate ice cream products were available for consumers, and in 2004, there are over 60 different low-carb ice creams. The Productscan Online reports that number will probably reach 100 before year's end.
Last fall Good Humor-Breyers launched its CarbSmart Ice Cream line with just three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, along with two different fudge bars. "It took off so quickly -- it was great," noted Lisa Piasecki, spokesperson for Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream, which has in Sikeston.
Consumer response is tremendous -- both for packaged ice cream, which is scooped ice cream, and for frozen novelty items -- so much so that Good Humor-Breyers is continuing to launch additional items as it's moving throughout the year, Piasecki said.
"Now the ice cream industry is getting more creative and fun," Piasecki noted. "What's driving the activity is the fact people have tried the products and are wanting more."
In January new flavors were launched: rocky road, butter pecan, mint chocolate chip and chocolate almond. Since then an ice cream sandwich has been added to the line as well as CarbSmart Creamsicle bars with several flavors with zero net carbs.
But Good Humor-Breyers isn't the only low-carb ice cream available. Ben & Jerry's, Dreyer's, Edy's, Blue Bunny and others all have low-carb ice creams. For most the Splenda is used in place of sugar; Piasecki said CarbSmart ice cream still has a great taste.
As for the scooped ice cream, you'll find very little difference in taste between CarbSmart and regular," Piasecki said. "But it depends a lot on people's pallets. It's hard to describe. But a fudge bar is a little lighter in texture and a little airier."
Mike Riney actually thinks the low-carb ice cream has a creamier texture than regular ice cream. The Sikeston Marketplace manager noted the store first began offering CarbSmart ice cream to its customers last fall.
Although he thinks the carb-craze has died down a bit, sales remain steady.
"When it first came out, it was in pretty high demand," Riney said. "It's a good product."
Currently the Piggly Wiggly in Miner doesn't have the space to stock low-carb ice cream but an official with the store said there were a couple inquiries from customers about the products.
Followers of the low-carb diets such as the Atkins and South Beach, are particularly smitten with the Klondike CarbSmart Novelties like the fudge bar, ice cream bar and ice cream sandwich, Piasecki noted.
"It's easier for them to manage the portion control with a single portion.
And not to worry for those who like to eat the real thing. Piasecki said there's still a big market for the regular ice cream as well as the reduced fat and no sugar added ice creams.
"I think that probably what we're seeing in the trend with ice cream is that we're broadening out to new flavors and more flavors and starting to see not only low-carb, but we're trying to reduce carbs and sugars and reduce the fat as well," Piasecki said.
Piasecki admitted the low-carb ice cream industry may be close to peaking.
"We're going to see what we saw when everyone was looking to reduced fat," Piasecki explained. "We're going to take it down to low as possible to modify fat in a diet."
Good Humor-Breyers' newest product, CarbSmart Frozen Yogurt, addresses the needs of both low-carb and reduced fat diets with only 4 grams of net carbs, 90 calories and 4.5 grams of fat per 1/2-cup serving.
"It's just starting to move onto store selves," Piasecki said,. "It should be in all stores across the nation by the middle of August. But with a Good Humor-Breyers plant located in Sikeston, it could be sooner there," she laughed. Although the niche products offer low-carb, low fat versions of ice cream, people need to be reading labels and looking at portion sizes, Piasecki advised.
"Yes, it is a reduced carb product and is designed for a low-carb carb diet, but portion control is important and products are not calorie-free," Piasecki noted. "People need to understand what a portion size is."
But on the same token, ice cream is supposed to be enjoyable, Piasecki pointed out.
"After all ice cream is a fun food," Piasecki said. "Enjoy it -- it's meant to be enjoyed."