Ice cream sales worth melting for: Bestsellers, NPDs, trends to know

As the weather turns sunnier amid a flood of new flavours and innovations in frozen desserts, it is time to make some sweet creamy sales.

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From “instagrammable” lollies bursting with fruit to frozen treats made from coconut and peas, ice creams in the UK have come a long way yet they are not ready to slow down.

They may not be healthy, but they are fun, indulgent and happy things that leave
both shoppers of all ages as well as retailers smiling at the end of the day.

Frozen desserts, such as ice cream, gelato, sorbet, frozen yoghurt, and others are popular treats that have been a rage among consumers, with some devouring it straight from a tub.

Data from Statista shows that the overall volume of ice cream sold in the country’s retail exceeds 400,000 metric tons. The popularity of frozen deserts can be ascertained by the fact that the UK’s ice cream market has been recording a CAGR of 3.93 percent since 2010. No wonder, in recent years, sales have steadily increased to over £1.3 billion.

With increasing hot weather and rising disposable incomes, the ice cream and frozen dessert segment has been performing well especially over the past five years and is expected to do so in the coming times too. Since convenience stores form an important distribution channel, stocking the bestselling range as well as new launches is only going to bring them sweet creamy returns.

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Niki Jenman –Director at New Forest Ice Cream, strongly advises store owners to keep freezers stocked as the weather is turning sunnier.

“Ice cream should be a staple item in any retailer’s freezer for customers to enjoy on a
hot sunny day, as a guilty late-night snack, or as an accompaniment to a dessert,”
Jenman told Asian Trader.

Michelle Frost, General Manager at Mars Chocolate Drinks and Treats, on the other hand believes ice cream is no longer restricted to being either a special dessert or a hot weather snack so there is need to stay well stocked all year round to meet this demand.

“Our handheld multipacks are testament to this, as more consumers are buying to have
at home for all occasions,” Frost said.

Melting Trends

After Covid-19 outbreak, the makers are responding to consumer health concerns  while preserving the inherently indulgent nature of the ice cream category. Makers lately have been mindful to tackle sugar levels across their ice cream portfolio.

Jose Alves, Marketing Manager, Ice Cream at General Mills UK, notes that there has been a holistic shift to “better for you” and healthier options post pandemic.

“Our reports show 36 percent of consumers are treating themselves more than ever- at the same time, we are seeing a more holistic shift to ‘better for you’ products.

“Shoppers are torn between the push towards healthier living and their desire for comfort and indulgence,” revealed Alvis, adding that the maker is trying to tap into “the mindful indulgence trend” by introducing the new DUO mini cup collection with premium ingredients in portion-controlled sizes.

End users here surely want to explore more, in terms of taste, texture and looks.

Alves reveals that innovation is what 53 percent of luxury shoppers are calling out for and is a key driver for growth.

“Last year, we introduced our unique DUO 2-in-1 multi-sensory smooth-meets-crunchy sensation range which directly answers the growing consumer need for both elevated indulgence and unique product experiences.

Tubs, he said, have seen significant growth as well.

“Luxury pints remain the heartland for category penetration, and this will also be seen through premium and indulgence – the ability to innovate within this space is key to
generating excitement,” Alves told Asian Trader.

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Jenman too believes that momentum gained by ice cream tubs over the pandemic is here to stay- something which presents a huge opportunity for convenience stores.

“This provides retailers with additional opportunities, especially within take home tubs. New Forest Ice Cream offers a full range of ten flavours, in 500ml tubs, that make for a luxurious dessert either on their own, or alongside a suitable pudding,” she said.

Functional ingredients, organic herbal fillings, and exotic flavours are the new buzzwords, partly driven by consumers’ demands and partly by innovations. Makers are now including exotic flavours such as tropical fruits, lemons, and coconuts to cater to changing tastes of consumers while health-conscious customers are seeking out low-calorie and low-fat ice creams.

Vegan segment is expected to showcase rapid growth in this segment as well.

The demand for lactose-free ice cream is also expected to contribute to market growth during the forecast period. This niche market is driven by an increase in the cases of food intolerances and allergies. Additionally, health-conscious consumers also prefer these variants.

Dairy free alternate ice creams use peas or coconut and not cow’s milk. As per experts, plant-based ice-cream now makes up 14 percent of the new launches in the UK ice cream market, bolstered by high-profile products such as the vegan Magnum.

The luxury and premium ice cream categories also saw sales shoot up 18.4 percent and 18.3 percent respectively last year, as per Kantar.

Sustainability, like in other segments, is running high in the freezer as well. And a noteworthy brand to tap this trend is Jude’s. British ice cream brand Jude’s announced in June last year that it is officially carbon negative – removing 10 percent more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it is emitting. The B Corp-certified company also claims to be the UK’s first carbon negative ice cream brand.

The claims were clearly taken well by Britons as they embraced the brand with £3.2
million sales, up by 76.2 percent.

Northern Bloc, which last year became the first brand in the UK to launch fully biodegradable packaging of its 500ml tubs, replacing the plastic coating with a natural alternative. Its sales shot up by 76 percent.

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Responding to the sustainability wave, Carte D’Or, the UK’s iconic ice cream dessert brand, has transitioned its entire range from plastic tubs, to responsibly sourced, recyclable paper packaging.

Set to save over 900 tonnes of virgin plastic annually, the packaging move from Carte D’Or will see the brand use 93 percent less plastic per tub. In addition to providing great quality ice cream, now in a responsibly sourced, recyclable paper pack, Carte D’or has also revitalised the packaging design, giving it a refreshed look and feel for standout in the freezer.

“For over 40 years, Carte D’or has been committed to crafting delicious desserts made with some of the finest quality ingredients, which we strive to source in a sustainable way”, Horacio Cal, Ice Cream Marketing Director Unilever UK & I said. 

“Now, we’re proud to have made this move to paper packaging, saving over 900 tonnes of virgin plastic every year – helping shoppers to reduce their plastic packaging footprint at home.”

Bestsellers and NPDs

Magnum, the UK’s one of the leading ice cream brands, is launching a significant £10 million ATL campaign to support its core Classics range relaunch. The packaging revamp of the iconic range, which accounts for 50 percent of all Magnum products sold, will highlight the brand’s premium quality by emphasising Magnum’s cracking chocolate and highlighting that Magnum’s cocoa is sustainably sourced. 

Whether due to its refreshing fruity Twister or a deliciously chocolatey Cornetto, Unilever’s Wall’s has maintained its status as the country’s one of the most sought-after ice creams.

This year, Unilever is helping Wall’s to celebrate its 100th birthday with the launch of limited edition ranges.

Cal from Unilever UK&I said that to celebrate this momentous occasion, “we are continuing to brighten up freezers across the country with a selection of new products for our ice cream lovers to try – from the reinvention of the iconic Rocket Lolly to the family favourite Viennetta in a fitting Birthday cake flavour”.

“Our new products are the perfect way to help shoppers and retailers mark the special occasion with us,” Cal said.

Adding to the “Responsibly Made for Kids” range, Rocket Lolly combines blueberry, strawberry and blackcurrant flavours with no artificial colours or flavours. 

With a clear logo on pack to help parents make informed decisions about the nutritional content, this lolly contains 44 calories, with a maximum of 9.9g of sugar per portion and adheres to Unilever’s responsible marketing to children principles.

Viennetta Birthday Cake combines delicious vanilla and strawberry flavour ice creams with Viennetta’s classic crisp chocolate flavour layers topped with multi-colored sprinkles.

UK’s another favourite Ben & Jerry’s has also recently introduced two brand new tub-less treats joining their frozen snacking range. This includes the ice cream innovators first ever Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bites ‘Peaces’, alongside additions to their Peace Pop range.

Cookie Dough Peaces is creamy vanilla ice cream covered in a chocolate coating with bonus chocolatey crumbs for good measure. Salted Caramel Brownie Peace Pop is a sweet cream ice cream with a thick brownie sauce centre and covered in a gooey salted caramel coating and popped on a stick.

The two launches came a month after Ben & Jerry introduced their new sundae range in “chunkiest and swirliest flavours ever”. The four new deliciously decadent Sundae flavours are Cookie Vermont-ster (sweet cream ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and chocolatey cookie swirls), Hazel-nuttin’ but Chocolate (ice cream with brownie pieces and  sea salt chocolatey swirls), Oh My! Banoffee Pie! (pie with creamy banana ice cream, chocolatey caramel cups and cookie swirls) and Non-Dairy Berry Revolutionary (Non-Dairy ice cream with sandwich cookies and chocolatey cookie swirls).

Another topseller, Häagen-Dazs, is using its gelato range to unlock key category growth post-HFSS restrictions. With more additions to the collection and a strong campaign, the maker is trying to establish the brand as the gold standard within the wellness category.

After launching nationwide in March, Häagen-Dazs’ “Gelato” range now includes delicious new Creamy Fudge Brownie flavour, as well as a format expansion of the top-performing Caramel Swirl which is at just 150 calories per serving- both available in pints. 

“We recently launched our new Gelato Caramel Swirl in pint format, following strong sales of its portion-controlled mini cups launched in 2019. The new flavour is the quintessential guilt-free treat to share with friends and will challenge the category of low calorie alternatives without compromise on quality, taste, or experience,” Alves said.

Häagen-Dazs’ mini cups provide individual portion-sizes, ideal for those snacking occasions, while also catering to the mindful consumption trend. They are the only format that combine the benefits of spoonable and on-the-go for maximum indulgence.

“Häagen-Dazs mini cups currently outperform the category. We will be accelerating this growth through the introduction of new, indulgent innovations across 2022,” Alves from General Mills said.

After the successful launch of DUO range, General Mills is elevating indulgence of the nation’s favourite ice cream flavour vanilla, which is currently faced with the lowest average retail price in the category.

“We wanted to premiumise vanilla with new flavour combinations that maximise multi-sensory indulgence beyond the current standardised offering,” Alves said.

DUO range is now being extended into DUO mini cups. The two new irresistible 4*95ml mini cups multipacks will offer a variety of flavours within each flavour camp, to broaden consumer appeal. The offerings present the perfect answer to the growing trend for ‘portion controlled’ ice cream without compromising on taste, ingredients, or indulgence levels.

The maker has also brought back Lime Mojito Sorbet and Piña Colada ice cream pints. The iconic flavours are also introduced in a new mini cup format. The refreshing cocktails, brought to life in ice cream and sorbet, is the perfect treat for adults this summer. 

This year, Mars Chocolate Drinks and Treats is also coming up with new surprises in both single handheld and multipack format. 

Announcing the launch of Skittles Stix and Starburst Ice Lolly, Frost said that by bringing even more confectionery favourites to the freezer aisles, the maker hopes to continue to drive consumer interest and sales.

Skittle Stix is a fruity flavoured ice cream with a secret pearl centre while Starburst Ice Lolly, first of its kind in the UK, is a flavoured lolly with jelly base.

New Forest Ice Cream is another leading name when it comes to tub range. Their latest release, the Vegan Vanilla Fudge ice cream, has the delicious taste of vanilla and a vegan fudge ripple.

The plant-based market is growing fast and this treat is sure to be one of the best around, giving customers the option of having a luxury vegan ice cream at home. Not only this, the ice cream is gluten free, meaning that customers will be able to buy it knowing that it is a dietary friendly option, Jenman said

To offer a dairy-free option, New Forest Ice Cream has also come up with Lemon and Lime sorbet. A gluten free lemon water ice with a lime ripple that makes a refreshing flavour- this needs to be in all freezers.

For creamy sweet sales

Very basic yet often overlooked aspect in this segment is unclear information. Being an impulse product, availability of ice creams should be highlighted very prominently in the key locations in the store. 

Remember, clear, eye-catching signage often leads to unplanned impulsive sales.

Best-selling lines should be easy to find and clearly priced. Make sure to stock top-selling brands in each segment.

Frost from Mars Chocolate Drinks and Treats advises retailers to position their freezer cabinet near the front of the store so that it is not overlooked by shoppers.

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Jenman from New Forest Ice Creams points out how independents have a distinct advantage over multiples when it comes to ice cream as they have the flexibility to offer something different.

“They can explore local suppliers, try new brands and give themselves a point of difference and a reason for customers to visit. Why not support other independent brands and become an ambassador for the products?

“There are plenty of ways to do that, especially when it comes to New Forest Ice Cream. By ensuring that only the highest quality ingredients are used, the powerful flavours rival the largest household names, making it the clear winner to be stocked in any store,” she said.

Wrap

Today’s consumers, after the setback of Covid-19 pandemic, are more health-conscious. No wonder, they are looking for healthier options in this aisle as well.

Make sure that dairy-free, low-sugar, as well as vegan ranges are also stocked well alongside classic ranges. Premium ranges are also a good bet to create a brand image of the store in the shoppers’ minds. 

Despite concerns about obesity, Mintel expects UK ice-cream sales to hit nearly £1.5bn this year, up from last year’s £1.4bn. Today, there is a wide choice of ice creams and  Instagram-age lollies to choose from, yet it is interesting to see that the demand for novelty too is relentless. The choices are only going to increase with more exotic and new flavours coming in to tantalise our taste buds.

In fact, experts are predicting that an explosion of choice will see Britons spending an extra £100 million on ice-cream this year. With c-stores being one of the leading sales channels, it is time that store owners make more space in their freezers to stock as much and as widely as they can.

Current cost of living crisis may affect this segment as well but the warm weather will still make shoppers go for simple impulsive treats. After all, as the saying goes, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream, and that is pretty much the same thing”.