In ice cream companies up and down the country, many fingers are crossed and there’s lots of touching of wood. The reason? Well, as the firm’s unveil their 2009 line-ups, they’re hoping that the sun shines and people come out in force to buy their ice creams. After two lacklustre summers, they’re hoping it will be a case of third time lucky.

However despite the poor weather last summer, ice cream sales were still in growth in 2008. According to IRI data, the total ice cream market was worth £790m last year, up 5.9% on the previous year. But unit sales were down meaning most of the growth came from inflation.

Mel Rolfe, impulse ice cream category manager at Unilever UK, reckons temperature is not as important as sun to ice cream sales because once the sun comes out people move into ice cream mode. And she has high hopes for this year. "We believe there’s a massive opportunity in motorway service stations, for example, because we are expecting more people to take their holidays here in the UK this year."

She says Easter signals the start of the season with more people out and about: "That’s when forecourts need to shout ’ice cream is available here’ as much as possible using signage."

Chocolate snack ice creams are the big sellers in forecourts. And the good news is that because these are a snack, they still sell even when it’s not sunny.

Rolfe says that in the total impulse market they account for 50% of sales but in managed petrol forecourts the figure rises to 66%.

Mars, Maltesers and Snickers ice creams are particularly successful in forecourts, says Bep Sandhu, trade relations manager at Mars. "They are established best-selling brands that consumers identify with in traditional chocolate impulse purchases. They also benefit from increased exposure from our chocolate brand activities."

Nestlé Maxibon had a good year last year in forecourts. Charlotte Hambling, senior marketing manager at brand owner R&R, says it’s got a strong male following because of the size of the eat.

The company also makes other Nestlé-branded ices. Says Hambling: "Confectionery brands work well as ice creams because there is a high level of awareness."

It also makes the Thorntons ice cream range. "We had the Thorntons range in 17 Moto sites last year, in branded freezers and it sold well."

When it comes to equipment, Unilever’s Rolfe recommends the Maxivision three-tier freezer for forecourts and says research shows it can deliver 42% more sales than other freezers. These freezers are available from Total Refrigeration often with special deals where you buy the freezer but get free stock to the value of the unit.

All the major players have already unveiled their 2009 ranges. We take a look at the line-up:

== Frederick’s ==

Following a successful launch last year into the take-home market, Frederick’s Dairies is adding the Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut stick to its impulse range. The product is vanilla ice cream smothered in thick Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate loaded with almonds and raisins. Rrp is £1.40.

The company has unveiled a new brand identity for 2009, which includes a new logo, strap line (adventures in ice cream) and website.

In June the company will be introducing a new national PR campaign to ’Raise a Million Smiles’ with Cadbury and Del Monte ice creams. The campaign will feature a series of ice cream events designed to put a smile on the face of the nation during the recession. The company is also launching an aggressive marketing campaign with activity on the streets, in the papers and on the TV and radio this summer, in a bid to become the number two player in the UK ice cream market.

== Mars ==

Mars has announced a £1m ice cream-specific marketing spend that includes a new national advertising campaign for this year.

Bep Sandhu says: "Ice cream is a key focus for us in 2009 - we anticipate further strong growth in the category, driven by significant investments across our portfolio. We are focusing on our core range of best sellers implementing a strategy of ’fewer, bigger, better’. Having a strong range of best sellers is important to maximising retailer performance."

That means Mars is focusing on Mars, Snickers, Galaxy, Maltesers and Bounty.

In addition, Galaxy ice cream has a new pack design to bring it more in line with the confectionery range.

== R&R ==

KitKat is now available as an ice cream cone, which is exclusive to the impulse market. The KitKat cone is made of vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirled around a single finger of KitKat, all wrapped up in a crunchy wafer cone. Rrp is £1.32. R&R has already confirmed listings for KitKat Cone in BP and Moto outlets.

There are two new additions to the Thornton’s luxury sticks range: pure white delight which is made with white chocolate ice cream, covered in thick white Belgian chocolate; and the mint choc truffle which is milk chocolate ice cream with Thornton’s chocolate truffle sauce covered in thick Belgian milk chocolate with crunchy mint pieces. Rrp is £1.52.

New Rowntree’s Fruit Screamers are mini ice lollies which contain 20% real fruit juice and no artificial colours or flavours. They come in strawberry, orange, lemon, lime and pineapple flavours. There is an impulse mixed pack of five, rrp £1.22 and a take-home pack of 15, rrp £2.69.

In addition R&R will be supporting its Fab lollies with a £1m spend this year including women’s press advertising.

== Wall’s ==

New to the best-selling Magnum range is Temptation, which is described as "supremely indulgent". There are two varieties: chocolate and caramel & almonds which come in a three-pack multipack, with only the chocolate one available as a single. It comprises chocolate ice cream enriched with chocolate sauce, white Belgian chocolate chunks and brownie pieces, all encased in dark Belgian chocolate. Rrp is £1.76. The launch is backed by TV advertising and in-store support.

Further support for Magnum comes from an on-pack promotion which launches this month where consumers get the chance to win a Magnum Pleasure Card.

Every promotional Magnum pack has a unique code on its stick, which consumers can text or enter online to win. Each Magnum Pleasure Card is a prepaid MasterCard card worth between £10 and £1,000 for winners to spend on whatever ’pleasure’ they choose. The promotion will run across multipacks and impulse singles of Magnum classic and white and also on multipacks of almond and Ecuador dark.

Anna Ford, senior Magnum brand manager at Unilever UK, says: "We are offering a massive prize pool of over £1m-worth of Pleasure Cards, with 25 cards to be won every hour in April, May and June. We will be driving consumer awareness with advertising and in-store activity through the period of the promotion."

Meanwhile, cashing in on the health trend is new Solero Berry Berry, 50% of which is fruit (both real fruit pieces and fruit juice). Rrp is £1.08.

For kids there’s the Lemon Age lolly which ties in with the new Ice Age 3 movie. Rrp is 49p.

For chocolate lovers there’s new Cornetto Love Chocolate, a premium cone which should add value to the category. Wall’s says it is the first chocolate wafer cone on the market. Rrp is £1.08.

== Take home ==

All the ice cream manufacturers reckon there is an opportunity for forecourts to stock take-home products depending on the space they have available.

Mars’ Sandhu comments: "Our best practice recommendations to retailers are about getting the basics right. It is important to provide a core range of best-selling, fast-moving products. Implementing good display and ensuring high availability is key to any sales growth. If a forecourt has just an impulse-only freezer offering then consumers would not expect to see a take-home pack. If they also provide another freezer for take-home foods, then best-selling ice cream brands can be used."

A big hit for Unilever last year was the launch of Magnum Minis which, according to IRI data, delivered £10m-worth of retail sales. There are three variety packs: chocolate & strawberry; classic, white & almond; and double caramel & double chocolate. Rrp is £2.93. There are six ices in each pack.

And new to the Carte D’Or range is caramel cinnamon waffle which is caramel ice cream, a hint of cinnamon and waffle pieces. It will be backed by marketing support including TV advertising. Rrp is £3.21.

For take-home, R&R offers the Nestlé Lion bar which comes in a pack of four for just £1.

Also available is the Lyons Maid range which comprises an eight-pack of raspberry ripple mousse; a three-pack of milk chocolate sticks; 800ml vanilla, raspberry ripple and Neapolitan oval tubs; and a mixed six-pack of strawberry, blackcurrant and pineapple splits. All are priced at £1.

Meanwhile the new Del Monte Superfruits Smoothie is described as a refreshing blend of blueberries, pomegranate and cranberries. Virtually fat free, it contains just 86 calories per stick. Rrp is £2.29 for a pack of three.

From Mars there is a new Galaxy caramel craving five-pack multipack while the Mars, Snickers and Maltesers six-packs will be pricemarked with a ’just £2’ flash.

For retailers looking for something that will stand out in their freezers, Kelly’s of Cornwall has launched a new range of Cornish dairy ice cream cones to complement its existing tubs range.

The new cones help to promote Kelly’s as a genuine Cornish brand offering quality, heritage and provenance using milk and cream sourced from Cornish dairy herds. The launch follows recent research by Kelly’s which revealed consumer demand for quality, branded, real Cornish ice cream with ’British-ness’ as a key motivator for purchase.

The hand-finished cones come in traditional Cornish flavours: strawberries & cream and toffee fudge. Made with Cornish whole milk and clotted cream, a high percentage of real fruit and fudge sauce, they’re aimed at consumers who are prepared to pay more for quality.

The cones come in black cartons which feature images of Cornwall and food photography. The individual cone packaging has been designed with clear lids to showcase the products.

Packs contain four cones, rrp is £2.99.

A marketing campaign for Kelly’s of Cornwall, including TV advertising, in-store sampling and PR, is planned for later this year.

== A bit of luxury ==

According to IRI figures, luxury ice cream is growing twice as fast as total ice cream (12% versus 6%), and Häagen-Dazs is doing even better with growth of 16.2% year-on-year, making it now worth almost £43m

Andy Foweather, sales director at Haagen-Dazs’ brand owner General Mills attributes some of this growth to the rise in treating. "People love to treat themselves and Häagen-Dazs is inextricably linked with treating and also with special occasions."

The Häagen-Dazs range has been boosted in time for summer with the launch of Ice Cream Smoothies. Foweather says the launch is a category first as the products combine fruit sorbet with creamy ice cream. There are two flavours: mango & apricot and raspberry & summer berries, both of which come in 500ml packs.

Also new is Häagen-Dazs limited-edition cherries & cream.

General Mills UK is backing the brand with a £5m campaign including national TV and consumer press advertising.

Ed Culf, marketing director at General Mills, comments: "Strong marketing support is essential in today’s highly-competitive retail environment. With a brand like Häagen-Dazs it enables us to communicate the product’s quality credentials and core values to a mass audience, drive shoppers to the luxury ice cream freezer and ultimately generate sales."

Häagen-Dazs also benefits from its association with Wimbledon where it is the official ice cream supplier. Says Foweather: "Wimbledon proved a great success for us in 2008. Häagen-Dazs had its best month for four years, both in value and penetration terms."

He says a great way of generating sales in forecourt shops is through branded freezers. "When well positioned, and neatly merchandised they can be effective in creating theatre and standout in store, clearly signposting the luxury ice cream category and attracting impulse sales."

General Mills offers Häagen-Dazs-branded freezers which come in a range of sizes to suit the space requirements of different stores. The units are available for purchase and come with free Häagen-Dazs stock.

Finally, Ben & Jerry’s has unveiled its fourth fairtrade flavour in the UK: chocolate macadamia, a fairtrade chocolate and vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered nuts.


=== Top 10 impulse ice creams ===

1 Magnum classic

2 Magnum white

3 Tangle Twister

4 Cornetto strawberry

5 Calippo orange

6 Solero exotic

7 Big Feast chocolate

8 Mars

9 Cadbury Flake 99

10 Cornetto Classico

Source: IRI Sept 08


=== Top tips ===

1. Create awareness outside the store

2. Site cabinets in impulse areas

3. Use pos in store to direct shoppers to the cabinets

4. Stock the best sellers and make products easy to find by segmenting eg chocolate snack, cones, refreshment and kids

5. Keep cabinets clean and attractive

6. Stock ice cream all year round but in the winter months introduce blocks and tubs to capitalise on in-home sharing opportunities.

Source: Unilever Partners for Growth


=== Case study: Spar, Coleraine ===

The Spar Castlerock Road site in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, won Best Impulse Ice Cream outlet (sponsored by Wall’s) at the Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards 2008.

Steve Morton is a supervisor at the store and says they stock ice cream all year round. "We have one freezer of ice cream in the winter but three during the summer. It’s usually around Easter time that we put in more freezers ready for the summer. Sales are definitely dependent on the weather; if the sun shines we sell more. We get a lot of school children in the shop so they buy a lot of the ice cream. We stock Wall’s and Dale Farm and other brands if they are on offer. Anything on promotion through our wholesaler we stock, as it always sells well."


=== Guilt-free treats ===

Weight Watchers is launching Smoothie Sticks, its first ever hand-held iced fruit product. Made from nearly 40% fruit puree, and based on consumers’ favourite smoothies, the sticks are available in two flavours: mango & passion fruit and raspberry & blackberry. Each has a Weight Watchers points value of one or less per stick and is virtually fat free.

Also new are Weight Watchers Luxury Iced Desserts in three flavours: strawberry meringue; chocolate brownie; and caramel shortcake. These all have a points value of one or two per pot.

The products will benefit from a £2m national outdoor and press campaign, part of the £27m marketing spend by Weight Watchers in 2009.