No One Is Buying Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Anymore

An ice cream flavor in crisis.
Chocolate chip is old news.
Chocolate chip is old news. / Heather Winters/Photodisc via Getty Images

For some ice cream purists, there’s nothing better than chocolate chip. The contrast between the chocolatey chunks and vanilla is what dessert is made for. For decades, it was a signature flavor in ice cream parlors and supermarket freezers. Now? Chocolate chip may be getting frozen out of the market.

Author Matt Richtel, writing for The New York Times, observed that the ice cream industry has been moving away from the flavor in recent years, a once-unthinkable shift brought about by changing consumer tastes. Thanks to a buffet of flavors and options, chocolate chip is now being perceived as passé—too boring to compete with eclectic ingredients and bombastic names like Cookie Two-Step.

“It’s not the worst, but it’s not that good,” one ice cream enthusiast, aged 8, told Richtel of chocolate chip—and also bemoaned the lack of cookies in the flavor.

Sales numbers back up the child’s apathy. Chocolate chip isn’t in the top 10 of flavors as monitored by the International Dairy Foods Association. (The top choice, as per their consumer survey: vanilla.) Owing to reduced sales, many ice cream manufacturers relegate chocolate chip to certain markets, as a seasonal offering, or simply don’t sell it at all.

The even more decadent cookies and cream seems to have assumed chocolate chip’s place in the hierarchy. From 2018 to 2022, when sales of chocolate chip fell 22 percent, sales of cookie-based ice cream rose 72 percent.

A cursory look at flavors offered by ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s reveals multiple cookie dough flavors but just one chocolate chip offering—in the form of an ice cream pie.

Supermarket brand Breyers remains a chocolate chip loyalist, offering the basic chip-and-vanilla recipe with no frills (though theirs is technically a frozen dairy dessert). Perry’s offers a chunky chocolate chip, as does Blue Bell. All, however, might be constrained by regional distribution choices.

But chocolate chip isn’t the only flavor being neglected. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overall consumption of ice cream has dipped in recent years, from an average of 18 pounds consumed per person annually in 1986 to 12 pounds in 2021. Health concerns and less calorie-stuffed treats have contributed to the decline.

It’s possible that people want ice cream to feel indulgent, and the somewhat vanilla presentation of vanilla—even with flecks of chocolate—doesn’t seem as hedonistic as mounds of cookie dough. Whether chocolate chip continues its downward spiral or can make a comeback remains to be seen. For the true devotees, there’s always the option of making it at home.

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