Single-serve products accounted for a quarter of global ice cream launches marketing analyst Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of October 2014, up from 22 per cent five years previously.
Single-serve lines appear to be most popular in Asia, where they accounted for 40 per cent of all ice cream introductions, compared with a nearer average 20 per cent in Europe and a below average 12 per cent in the US.
"The hand-held ice cream market is working hard to move on from its weather-dependant summer-only image," says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.
"The sector varies across a whole range of product types, from ice lollies for children to premium chocolate snacks for adults, and encompasses a wide range of formats including bars, sticks and cones, all offering a convenient, individual snack or treat suitable for any occasion and all types of consumer."
Hand-held ice creams in the US largely reside in the frozen novelties market, which has seen rising interest in fruit bars in recent years, with tracked NPD including licensed products such as Mars' Starburst Sorbet stick, as well as lines from established ice cream companies keen to offer a healthy option, including Blue Bell's Dipped Coconut Fruit Bars, Edy's Outshine, Dreyer's Coconut Water bars and Unilever's Fruttare bars.
Another key trend, the move of gelato from the foodservice to the retail market, is also evident in product activity, with launches such as Talenti's Gelato Pop range of dark-chocolate-coated gelato on sticks in a range of indulgent flavours.
The hand-held market in the UK has seen good growth over the past two years, largely as a result of hot summer weather.
Unilever has the two best-selling hand-held brands with its Magnum and Cornetto. Magnum is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014 and initiatives have included the reintroduction of its limited edition Magnum Gold and Magnum Pistachio alongside a new Marc de Champagne line.
The Cornetto brand was extended in 2014 with the launch of a new Cheesecake Glory variant, as well as Choc'n'Ball, a cone topped with a chocolate-covered ice cream ball.
Meanwhile, R&R launched the first Kit Kat ice cream in a cone format during the year, as well as an Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich and a Creme Egg stick product and also relaunching Cadbury Dairy Milk ice cream on a stick.
Across the Channel, France is seeing similar trends with new product activity including a limited edition extension of the Twix ice cream bar with Inspiration Speculoos, featuring the increasingly popular Speculoos gingerbread concept. The Daim confectionery brand also arrived on the ice cream market, featuring a number of options, including a hand-held stick variant.
Germany has also seen activity in licensed products, including a Haribo water ice line from Langnese (Unilever) featuring the famous flavoured gummi bears. A retro trend also brought back the Dolomiti stick ice cream popular with children in the 1970s and 1980s for the summer of 2014.