Air conditioners were not the only things keeping people cool this week when the summer’s first heat wave rolled in, as consumers picked up their favourite frozen treats. Tubs of ice cream were flying off the shelves of grocery stores, but the heat was at times too much for those selling the stuff by the cone.
“Sometimes when it’s too hot it can actually be detrimental. It’s definitely better than snow or rain but when it’s too hot people don’t like to even come out and walk around,” said Judy Moser, owner of Moser’s Ice Cream Caboose in St. Jacobs.
Big grocery stores have the advantage of a steady stream of customers no matter the season – we need to stock up on provisions, rain or shine – while smaller operators have a higher dependence on tourism. In other words, if customers don’t go out for a stroll in scenic St. Jacobs, for instance, chances are they won’t stop in for an ice cream cone. Businesses like the Caboose are popular for the village’s tourists, but while better weather is usually good for business in the downtown, extreme temperatures tend to keep strollers away from the scenic routes and therefore their local ice cream haunts as well.
“Sales are definitely increased over the last couple of weeks – it’s gotten nicer out, that’s for sure – but we’d like to see it at a happy medium,” Moser added.
St. Jacobs ice cream vendor Chocolates n’ More has been brimming with customers every Saturday since the start of the summer, said manager Leah McEachern, for whom weekends are the busiest.
“It’s crazy, mostly on Saturdays we’ve been quite a bit busier than usual. I think some people aren’t going to let the heat stop them.”
Grocery stores, on the other hand, tend to enjoy steady ice cream sales all year round, noted Paul Bruder, manager at the Foodland in Elmira.
“In the summertime we definitely see more,” he said.
The store always makes a healthy profit on ice cream, he said, but the past few days have yielded higher-than-normal sales, possibly due to weather as well as a timely deal on the frozen stuff this week.
“In the winter it still sells but not so much. The reason I think it sells is that people tend to buy ice cream cones in the summer, too, and eat them outside, so our ice cream cone sales go up.”
Grocery stores seem to be reaping the most benefits when it comes to regular ice cream sales and have a history of doing so.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac grocery stores didn’t start selling ice cream until the 1930s, and by the Second World War, ice cream was so popular in the United States that it turned into somewhat of an American symbol.
Today a large variety of frozen treats attract customers. Ice cream’s healthier foe, frozen yogurt, has been popular for a long time, and the lower-calorie alternatives can be just as appealing as the traditional choices.
“I think [frozen yogurt] has definitely added to the mix, the healthy aspect of it. The yogurt, I’ve had it for nine years now. We started with just the ice cream and four years after we started yogurt became the new thing, it’s definitely a must-have.”
While popsicles and colourful, fruity treats are a hit with kids, traditional, rich ice cream retains its connoisseurs as well, Bruder said, and nowhere is it more apparent than the townships.
“In Elmira the Mennonites do buy a lot of the ice cream, and they like the heavier cream stuff. They like the good stuff,” he said.
Ice cream sales traditionally see a spike during the warm months, but as local vendors are enjoying more-or-less typical numbers Canada-wide, the industry is seeing a decline in consumption. According to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre, per capita ice cream consumption has been declining steadily in the past decade. In 2002 consumption was at 9.50 litres, dropping to 8.03 litres five years later in 2007. Last year saw the lowest numbers, 5.61 litres, dropping from 5.72 litres in 2011. (Yogurt consumption, on the other hand, increased to 8.29 litres from 5.39 litres in the same ten-year period).
The industry reports we’ve been eating less, but splurging more on higher-priced premium brands, opting, it seems, for quality over quantity.
While temperatures are expected to be more seasonal when National Ice Cream Day arrives on Sunday, it’s a safe bet there’ll be more than a few of us celebrating appropriately.