If you're curious, over-55 set eats the most ice cream

It's not just the kids who fit the rhyme ``We all scream for ice cream.'' Americans over age 55 eat more ice cream per capita than any other age group, according to a new study on frozen sweets. The average American eats ice cream at home 41 times per year, but the over-55-year-olds eat it an average of 56 times annually.

This age group even tops children aged 6 to 12, who average only 43 times a year at home, and teen-agers, who average 41 times. Both these groups may add to their consumption by eating ice cream away from home, of course. The group that eats ice cream at home least often is the 18- to 34-year-olds, with an average of 29 times a year. Average times for the 35- to 54-year-olds is 38 times a year.

``Ice cream is thought of as a treat that appeals to the young,'' says David Fencl of MRCA Information Services, publisher of the study. ``Surprisingly, we find the over-55 age group consuming both premium-brand and regular ice cream at nearly 50 percent above the national average.''

Mr. Fencl explained that ``eating dessert at home has been declining steadily for years,'' and ice cream consumption has declined 2 percent a year since 1977. But consumption of premium ice cream rose 38 percent last year. And it is obvious that ice cream is definitely a favorite dessert, either alone or with another food.

The MRCA study, based on a representative sample of 2,000 households, shows that ``premium'' ice creams are most popular in the Northeast, with smaller families, and in households earning more than $30,000 a year.

The study not only analyzes ice cream consumption, but also covers frozen cakes and pies, frozen whipped topping, dessert novelties such as pudding pops, and breakfast products such as frozen croissants and waffles.

Other findings about frozen sweets include:

Vanilla ice cream is 21/2 times as popular as the runner-up flavor, chocolate. Neapolitan, a combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, is a distant third. Vanilla is up 6 percent since last year, while most other traditional flavors have declined.

Men eat ice cream at home nearly 10 percent more often than women.

Consumption of frozen pies fell 16 percent last year and frozen cakes, 20 percent.

Consumption of frozen whipped topping is up 7 percent; frozen waffles, 9 percent; frozen pancakes, 41 percent; and frozen croissants, 161 percent.

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