Frozen food shoppers spend twice as long in store, and 62 per cent more than the average convenience customer, according to Harris International Marketing’s Convenience Tracking Programme, so it’s a category not to be ignored.

For forecourts, the frozen food category is divided into traditional frozen foods such as pizza, chips and ready meals, and ice cream and desserts. And when it comes to ice cream, if last year is anything to go by, the sector could be in for another successful season. Impulse ice cream sales in forecourts grew by 12 per cent in 2003, but while the same hot and sunny weather cannot be guaranteed this year, following category management basics will help retailers boost impulse ice cream sales regardless of the weather.

“There are five main factors that play a part in driving sales – freezer location, point of sale, ranging, in-store availability and the weather,” says Matthew Wilson, category marketing manager at Richmond. “The key is to make it easy for consumers – position the freezer near the door with the point of sale material prominent and reflecting what is in the freezer. Consumers don’t like jumbled baskets and will be disappointed if their favourites are not easy to find.”

Effective ranging across brands and sectors is a key factor – a correct balance needs to be struck between new products, market sector splits and brands. “Retailers should consider innovation in their range every year as consumers expect to see new products each season and NPD accounts for nearly nine per cent of impulse sales,” says Wilson. “Be aware of the cash rate of sale of different products and choose the best sellers in each category. Be ruthless and dismiss cabinet cloggers – concentrate on the brands that sell, and include a range of price points that reflect the demographics of the area.”

Availability and merchandising disciplines play a huge part in building sales. “Ensure baskets are tidy and well-stocked and remember to keep freezers frost-free so consumers can easily see what is on offer,” advises Wilson.


While Britain is notorious for unpredictable summer weather, it’s worth keeping an eye on both national five-day weather forecasts and the local outlook. It is sunshine hours rather than temperature that impacts on sales, so be ready to take full advantage of increased demand.

“In 2003 we saw the first year-on-year growth in the impulse sales market for a number of years, due primarily to the weather,” explains Wilson. “In particular it was the 11 per cent more sunshine hours as opposed to just the one per cent increase in average temperatures that drove demand.”

While hot weather can bring about a big boost in ice cream sales, it also presents supply problems. Last summer many independents reported a break down in distribution making them unable to meet customer demand. “There were delivery issues last summer as some distributors struggled to cope with an unprecedented rise in orders across a range of items,” says Greg Barton, national sales manager at distributor Ice Cream World.

“Pre-arranged, twice-weekly drops of ice cream products are insufficient if a heat wave appears. Many of our customers cannot stock more than a day’s supply of ice cream and therefore need daily deliveries to help keep freezers fully stocked.” This year Ice Cream World is supplying more than 200 products including Wall’s, Nestlé, Treats, Mars, Cadbury’s, Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s as well as regional ice cream brands. Ice Cream World’s sales for 2003 approached £60m – up from £50m the previous year.


New product development is a key driver of ice cream sales so it’s important to keep up-to-date with new launches. Richmond’s Nestlé brand has two new major ice cream launches – Yorkie (rrp £1 for a 95ml bar) and Toffee Crisp (rrp 70p for 70ml bar) – which it hopes will add some excitement to the chocolate snacks sector of the ice cream category.

“Development in chocolate snacks is long overdue,” says Matthew Wilson. “Our research revealed that consumers are bored with what is on offer. The same brands have been in the market for some 10 years and there is a strong desire for both new brands and product formats.”

Ben & Jerry’s has launched ’Wich, a full layer of premium vanilla fudge chip ice cream sandwiched between two American-style, fudge-swirled chocolate-chunk cookies. ’Wich is available through independent outlets priced at £1.49 for a 118ml bar.

Wall’s is splashing out £23m to support its revamped and broadened ice cream for 2004. Heading the cast is six limited-edition Cornetto Love Potions, which will be introduced in pairs throughout the year. There will also be a Love Potions variant released under the Cornetto Soft platform.

Other Wall’s highlights include Magnum Intense, a heart of soft truffle in vanilla ice cream and covered in thick chocolate; and the return of Funny Foot and Rocket kids’ products.

Masterfoods has launched a Bounty Mango & Passion Fruit stick into its range this year. With mango fruit swirls in Bounty coconut ice cream coated with a mango & passion fruit sorbet, the new stick has a rrp of £1.

Strawberry Starburst ice cream stick and Galaxy ice cream stick have also been added to Masterfood’s core impulse ice creams, which include Mars, Snickers, Maltesers and Bounty.

Country Choice is kicking off its 2004 launch with a ‘buy any five cases and get one case free’ deal across all impulse ice creams, followed by promotional activity across all major brands throughout the season. The launch is supported by a self-funding freezer deal, point of sale material and planogram advice. Country Choice markets all the major brands including Wall’s, Mars, Nestlé, Cadbury, Ben & Jerry’s, Treats and Häagen-Dazs.

Cadbury Ice Cream’s Flake 99 Cone range is trialling a new Limited Edition Caramel Cone in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and will bring it to the rest of the UK if demand warrants it. The Cadbury Dream stick brand is being extended to include a new Strawberry variant for 2004 after a successful Strawberries & Dream promotion with McDonalds McFlurry Also in the sticks range for 2004 are Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury Bournville, Cadbury Crunchie Ice Cream bar, Refreshers and Del Monte Orange.

Del Monte’s premium orange juice lolly enjoyed enormous success after its launch in 2003. Being 85 per cent pure orange juice, the lolly is targeted at health conscious adults. As a result Frederick’s plans to further expand on this area with some new launches in 2004. Frank Frederick, of Fredericks Dairies, says: “Consumers have concerns about levels of sugar, flavourings and colours. We believe the new Del Monte range addresses all of these issues. The products are soft textured, have very high fruit contents, less than 90 calories each and are virtually fat free.”

Fab, the UK’s number one lolly brand, saw sales leap by 23 per cent in 2003. This year sees the brand sponsor the Thunderbirds movie, which premieres in July. The support forms part of the £28.5m spend behind Richmond’s parent brand produc ts during 2004. Launched on test market last year, Fab It’s Orange – made from real orange juice – will now be permanently available in take home (rrp £1.99 for eight lollies) and as a limited edition in impulse (rrp 50p).

Continuing the orange flavour trend, an orange Ribena Ice will be making its debut in impulse this year with a rrp of 65p. Zoom lollies (rrp 50p) have been re-formulated and there are also several new products under Richmond’s value Treats brand, including Cherry Cola Crush (rrp 50p) and Lemo-pop (rrp 22p).

Offering soft ice cream as well as the traditional hand-held products will also help achieve incremental business. Retailers can take advantage of this demand with systems such as the Nestlé Ice Creamery.

New for this year is the Carpigiani 191 soft ice cream machine – a countertop machine that can produce five ice cream cones per minute. The entry-level machine is available to buy or lease and is backed by Ingrams-ServEquip’s two years’ parts and labour warranty. Also available in the 191 range is the option of a 14-day clean, pump, self pasteurising machine as well as branded options designed to attract impulse sales.


This month Unilever Ice Cream and Frozen Food’s (ICF) new brand identity for Bird’s Eye will be launched to consumers, supported by a campaign worth £30m. In addition, ICF has committed another £10m investment behind understanding the shopper and working with retailers to improve the appeal of the frozen aisles.

The Service Package was launched in September 2003 and is dedicated to making shopping and replenishment easier by improving the merchandising of the food on shelves; improving category layout and communicating this simply and clearly to shoppers; sharpening promotions to make them more engaging for shoppers and store colleagues; improving implementation on the shelf; developing new types of refrigeration equipment; and improving the flow of stock from the back of the store to the shelf.

February 2004 also saw Unilever extend its Partners for Growth initiative, offering objective advice to help convenience retailers maximise their business across eight core categories, including ice cream and frozen food. One of Unilever’s key messages is that customers need to know that retailers sell frozen food and ice cream because, according to Harris International Marketing’s Convenience Tracking Programme, 28 per cent of convenience shoppers weren’t aware their c-store sold frozen food.

“Shoppers need to be clearly directed to the ice cream and freezer cabinets,” says Tom Hazelden, ice cream and frozen category manager at Unilever. “Retailers should increase awareness with point of sale and promotions. A significant number of both frozen foods and wrapped ice cream purchasers buy on impulse and 66 per cent of frozen food products are bought for immediate consumption so sales will be maximised by placement among other impulse products.”

To help shoppers make purchasing decisions, Hazelden says the freezer cabinet should be segmented into different areas. For frozen food the four key segments are meals (40 per cent of space available), family products such as chips and pizza (20 per cent of space), vegetables/potatoes (20 per cent of space) and desserts (20 per cent of space).

“People know what they like and when they can’t find it, they don’t buy,” says Hazelden. “Retailers should ensure they stock the top-selling brands in each range and avoid duplicating flavours and formats. Best-selling lines should be easy to find and clearly priced but new products can also stimulate sales and can easily become a new favourite.”

Must-stocks under the Bird’s Eye brand include ready meals such as Roast Chicken Dinner, Chicken Curry & Rice, and Spaghetti Bolognese; and family products such as Bird’s Eye Cod Fillet Fish Fingers and Bird’s Eye Chicken Pie.

Other popular products with forecourt shoppers are ‘fast’ frozen foods such as the McCain Micro range and Aldo’s Pizza Bars. Must-stocks include McCains Micro BBQ Chicken Wings, Micro chicken Nuggets, Micro Garlic Bread, Micro Toastie in Cheese & Ham and Cheese & Tomato varieties, and Micro Pepperoni Pizza.

With convenience playing such a big role in family meal times, the Aunt Bessie’s brand continues to grow at 49 per cent year on year. Aunt Bessie’s Roast Potatoes is the number one sku in the frozen roast potato market, and continues to show strong growth at 38 per cent value year on year.

The meat-free market is also continuing to grow, prompting more NPD in this sector. Heinz has launched four products in the Linda McCartney Kitchen Garden range – Cauliflower Cheese Pie, Spicy Vegetable Fajita Kit, Creamy Garlic & White Wine Mushroom Pie, and Spicy Wedges & Creamy Garlic Mushroom Dip.