(CNN) — No more microwaving your Halo Top light ice cream.
At least, that’s one goal of the new recipe — which is replacing the old one and currently rolling into stores.
Originally, Halo Top cartons instructed customers to “give me a couple of minutes on the counter before you dig in,” noting, “I need time to soften up.” With the new recipe that uses ultra-filtered milk, that’s no longer necessary, said Ryan Roznowski, senior brand manager of Halo Top.
Roznowski said the Halo team saw people posting videos of themselves microwaving the product for about 10 seconds to speed the thaw process. The new recipe should take the microwave out of the equation.
Thanks to the ultra-filtered milk — which has less sugar and more protein than regular milk because of the filtration process — the new version is designed to be creamier than the company’s previous iteration, as the new carton touts.
Pints of Halo Top are about 270-360 calories, less than half the calories in typical full-fat ice cream. Halo Top was acquired in 2019 by Wells Enterprises, owner of Blue Bunny and Blue Ribbon ice creams, and Wells has been working to improve Halo Top’s recipe, Roznowski said.
Halo Top is also launching Chocolate Cake Batter, a new flavor made with the updated recipe, to honor the occasion and the brand’s 10th birthday.
The new recipe could give Halo Top a boost in the crowded field, which has gotten much more competitive. In 2017, Breyers introduced its light line, Breyers Delights. A year later, Ben & Jerry’s launched Moo-phoria, and Fairlife, which sells lactose-free ultra-filtered milk, unveiled an ice cream line in 2020.
“The better-for-you landscape continues to grow and change,” Roznowski said. “[We] are putting in the time and the effort to stay up to speed.”
To do that, Halo Top also has launched fruit pops and keto-friendly options. Now, it’s hoping to up the ante with the new recipe — especially as Halo Top sales dip and the category stalls.
Hundreds of iterations
Halo Top launched in 2012 with a simple proposition: Light ice cream that actually tastes good. It’s debatable whether they achieved that goal, or were the first to do so. To this reporter, Halo Top is a perfectly pleasant frozen dessert that wouldn’t pass for full-fat ice cream.
The brand distinguished itself with promises of superior flavor and its packaging, which prominently displays calories information for a full pint on the front of the carton, unlike competitors.
After a slow start, the product took off: In 2018, Halo Top sold about 80.6 million retail units, according to market research company IRI. That was up from 79.1 million in 2017, itself a major growth year.
But sales have dropped significantly since then, as consumer interest in so-called diet products wanes. IRI data showed it sold just 49.4 million units in 2021. While Wells doesn’t share sales data publicly, Halo Top did say its household penetration has grown by 14% over the last year.
It’s not just Halo Top. From 2019 to 2021, overall reduced-fat ice cream US sales slipped from $1.6 billion to about $1.5 billion, according to Euromonitor international. In that same period, regular ice cream sales grew from $15.4 billion to $16.5 billion.
“At the end of the day, not many people complain about Halo Top — it’s an amazing thing,” Roznowski noted.
But Wells specializes in ice cream, and the company put its experts to work to attempt improvements. It wasn’t easy.
“Halo Top is a beautiful yet delicate little flower,” said Roznowski. Halo Top tried hundreds of recipes, and it found that flavors like strawberry, with no chips or chunks, ended up being “the most complex, because the star of the show is really that base ice cream flavor.”
So is it really creamier?
Halo Top sent this reporter the Chocolate Cake Batter, which was quite tasty, but the pint was delivered on dry ice -— not the typical experience, and it still needed a few minutes on the the counter to thaw.
So I picked up the updated Peanut Butter Cup and an old-version Vanilla Bean from my local grocer. I tasted both as soon as I got home, perhaps five or 10 minutes after removing them from the store’s freezer. There I noticed a difference: The peanut butter was softer than the vanilla. And yes, it was a bit creamier.
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