Ice Creamy Sales

Packaged ice cream continues to bring in solid sales, especially as the weather warms.

Ice Creamy Sales

April 2023   minute read

By: Sarah Hamaker

As sure as spring follows winter, sales of packaged ice cream at convenience stores rise along with the outdoor temperatures. “The summer months are peak sales for the category, as families are traveling more, kids are out of school and the warmer months spur the need for a cool treat,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS.

In 2020, ice cream saw significant sales growth, similar to other indulgent categories within the store. “This trend continued but to a lesser extent in 2021,” said Gough. “In 2022, summer average monthly sales per store spiked higher than both 2020 and 2021.”

NielsenIQ data for 2022 showed the ice cream category rose 11.2% in sales year over year, but with a drop of 1.1% in units. The average unit price for the category jumped 12.26% year over year, as inflation hit all categories of dairy hard.

In 2021, the ice cream category represented 1.00% of in-store sales, according to the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Report of 2021 Data. The total category brought in $1,917 in sales per store, per month in 2021, a bump of 4.6% year over year.

At the Breeze-In Prince George, Virginia, location, sales stay decent year-round, with the predictable spike in the summer months. “We stock pints from Richlands Dairy, a local dairy, in six different flavors, and those sell faster than our national brand packaged ice cream,” said manager Jamie Merchant. “Our customers like to support the local companies, and it’s really good ice cream.”

While the weather stays warmer year-round in Burbank, California, even Chuck’s Corner Market 76 sees sales falter some during the winter months and skyrocket in the summer. “Our ice cream sales do very well, but more so in the summer when the temperatures climb higher,” said manager Jared Tran.

Mars Ice Cream counts on its retail partnership with convenience stores as a key channel to increasing sales. “Across the category, sales are up in convenience stores,” said Shaf Lalani, GM Mars Ice Cream. “As more and more consumers continue to shop for ice cream offerings in the coming years, the category will undoubtedly see more growth at c-stores.”

Ice cream is a great impulse buy at convenience stores.”


Ice cream generally sells itself, especially in warmer weather, but retailers can generate even more sales by strategically positioning a cold box stocked with ice cream treats near the front of the store or checkout area to promote impulse purchases. “Daypart is also critical for this category,” Gough said. “Sales spike in the afternoon and evening and on weekends, so ensuring you are fully stocked and prepared for those times of day and week can foster sales.”

That’s the experience at Pit Stop Express in Dorton, Kentucky. “Our ice cream sales go up and down according to the weather, and we definitely sell more in the summer,” said manager Stephanie Johnson. The store stocks four pint flavors of locally-made ice cream, as well as sandwiches, popsicles and candy bar ice cream.

Pit Stop Express has its ice cream freezer right by the front door. “That way, everyone who comes in sees it and can grab a treat,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of people who come in with their children, so having [the freezer] stocked with good-selling ice cream means more sales.”

Like Pit Stop, Breeze-In has a cooler positioned beside the main entrance. “We don’t offer any promotions on our ice cream because we don’t need too— the category does well enough without it,” Merchant said.

Chuck’s Corner Market plans to do more social media in its local area to promote the store and will include its selection of ice cream in the mix. “While we have the ice cream freezer beside the front door, we haven’t done much in way of promoting it,” Tran said. “That will change in 2022 as we promote our store and different categories like ice cream on social media.”


For ice cream, the tried-and-true are often the best-sellers in the category. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA)/Research America “Ice Cream & Frozen Novelty Trends Survey June 2022” discovered cookies ‘n cream is by far the top-selling flavor (83%), followed by vanilla (71%) and chocolate (67%). But sometimes, local interest will spike sales in different flavors. For example, at Pit Stop Express, strawberry pints fly off the shelf. Coffee Oreo, followed by chocolate, are the top pint flavors at Breeze-In.

Premium ice cream also has proved popular among consumers, capturing 58% of the category over regular ice cream (24%), according to the IDFA survey. NACS has updated the category definitions to version 8.0, which breaks out ice cream subcategories by bulk and single serve. This is how some retailers are already tracking the subcategories. This tracks at Chuck’s Corner Market, where Haagen-Dazs pints sell the best out of its ice cream selection. Snickers ice cream bars and Drumsticks are the store’s other top-sellers.

“We carry what people want, and that includes the basics for ice cream,” Tran said.

In the novelty subcategory, sandwich has been king with 48%, followed by cones (21%) and sticks or pops (12%), according to IDFA. “Across the ice cream category, we’re seeing singles remain very popular at c-stores, as consumers look for on-the-go treats,” Lalani said. Suppliers are banking on novelties to continue to capture consumer interest, with Mars Ice Cream releasing three new ice cream flavors this year—M&M’s Cookies and Cream, Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches and Dove Mini Sticks.


While most people buy ice cream at the supermarket (83%) and national ice cream specialty shops (30%), convenience stores are the third most popular place to purchase a frozen sweet treat (27%), according to the IDFA survey. “Ice cream is a great impulse buy at convenience stores,” said Merchant. “With people traveling more and families stopping in convenience stores as they’re out and about, having pints and novelties are integral to our merchandise mix.”

The Power of CSX Data

CSX, the engine behind category metrics and NACS State of the Industry data, provides current and customizable tools for financial and operational reporting and analysis in the convenience industry. Retailers can measure their company by any of the myriad metrics generated via our live database. Contact Chris Rapanick at (703) 518–4253 or [email protected] for a complimentary executive walkthough.

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer, NACS Magazine contributor, and romantic suspense author based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at

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