Politics, sports teams and religious preferences are all topics ripe for heated conversation among Americans, but another debate can also divide families and friends--which ice cream flavor is the best. Granted, for most consumers, the choice is not cut-and-dried; in fact, it often is a matter of choosing from a host of favorites. Harris Interactive has surveyed 2,183 American adults to discover America’s favorite ice cream flavor and found chocolate barely edged out vanilla (28% to 26%), with 22% preferring cookie dough/cookies and cream.
Ice Cream

Conducted July 11-18, 2011, the survey found nearly one in five Americans (19%, to be precise) favor butter pecan/Swiss almond, with mint chocolate chip garnering 15% of the vote. However, favorites would appear to break down along political lines. Nearly a third of Republicans (32%) say chocolate is their favorite flavor, with only 28% citing vanilla, and 24% opting for cookie dough/cookies and cream. Among Democrats, the race is a bit closer, with vanilla barely ahead of chocolate (26% to 23%) and butter pecan/Swiss almond close behind with 22%. Independents’ top choices are chocolate (30%), cookie dough/cookies and cream (24%) and vanilla (22%).

The races are even closer when evaluating regions of the country. In the East, 31% prefer chocolate, as do 32% of Midwesterners; however, three in 10 Southerners would rather enjoy vanilla. In the West, the race is almost too close to call: 22% favor vanilla, 21% vie for chocolate, and 19% would rather have cookie dough/cookies and cream or rocky road.

Some 44% of all Americans like their ice cream in a cup or bowl, well ahead of the 30% who want it in a cone, 16% favoring a sundae and 2% looking for an ice cream sandwich. Here, the differences break down by sex: men prefer cups (46% to 42%) and sundaes (17% to 15%), while women are more apt to opt for a cone (34% to 26%).

Who eats ice cream all by itself? According to the Harris Poll, only about 19% of Americans do so, as 52% top their frozen treat with hot fudge, 38% add nuts, and 38% include caramel. Close behind is whipped cream, a favorite of 36% of respondents, with 31% adding fruit, 19% sprinkles, 15% candy bits and 11% marshmallow.

Shopping Concerns
Despite the continuing controversy surrounding high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), consumers appear less concerned about the ingredient than other elements of a food and beverage. According to a Mintel Research Consultancy survey of 2,000 American consumers, primary household shoppers are more concerned with fat and calorie intake than sugar or HFCS content.

“When reading ingredient labels, shoppers are more focused on fat content and calories than the amount or type of added sugar,” says Erin Murray, senior analyst, Mintel Research Consultancy. “We found that nearly four in 10 label readers seek information on fat or calories, compared to just 3% who look specifically for HFCS and 25% who seek information on sugar content.”

Furthermore, per Mintel Research Consultancy, shoppers are more likely to be limiting fat and calories than sugar and sweeteners. More than a third indicated they were limiting or avoiding calories over the past six months; one in five were limiting or avoiding fats and oils, and 17% were cutting back on products with sugar or added sugar. A grand total of 4% were actively limiting or avoiding HFCS, specifically.

“We sought to find out how cognizant consumers are of HFCS, what they’ve heard about HFCS, and what efforts they’re making to reduce or limit their intake of HFCS and other sweeteners,” added Murray. “Sugar and sweeteners, in general, seem to be a bigger concern than HFCS.”pf  


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