It’s almost Bank Holiday season and that’s when sales of ice cream traditionally start to increase, especially if the weather’s good.

Last year the sun certainly shone on the ice cream category and forecourts put in a particularly strong performance, recording year-on-year growth of 6.7% compared to 5.6% for the total impulse sector. As a result, the sector’s ice cream sales were just shy of £12m, according to IRI data covering around 70% of the network.

These figures were welcome news for both manufacturers and retailers, following two years of lacklustre sales after the heatwave of 2003. But Al Wilson, Wall’s category operations manager for impulse, says it’s not just down to hot weather. "Obviously the weather was good last year, but innovation was also very strong and it wasn’t just the water-based refreshment products that did very well. While we had a really good July, we didn’t have the best August and up until around May or June we were actually wondering if we’d get any decent weather at all, " he comments.

In the forecourt sector, Wilson believes that continued improvements in the overall shop offer have helped boost sales: "Forecourt shops are generally seen as offering better value for money than they did a few years ago, with good quality ranges and good availability," he says. "A lot of forecourts have also invested in new equipment, such as our Maxivision cabinet, which has been very popular. It can help retailers to sell more ice cream all year round because it improves visibility and uses space more efficiently than a traditional chest freezer. Generally, forecourts are getting the basics right - things like keeping things well-stocked and ensuring visibility is good."

Impulse ice cream can account for as much as 10% of sales in forecourts during the summer, according to data from Unilever’s Partners for Growth initiative. And the margins are higher than those for many other snack products - typically between 30-40% - since consumers are prepared to pay more for an ice cream than they would for a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps. What’s more, forecourts tend to major on the higher-priced adult products, making it a particularly valuable category.

One of the most important things for forecourts, according to Unilever, is to ensure quick and easy access to products, since shoppers in this sector are usually in a hurry and won’t bother wasting time hunting for the freezer.

New product development is a key driver for ice cream sales and, according to Wilson, accounts for around 10% of category turnover in the impulse sector, so it’s important for retailers to keep up to date.

This year Wall’s is not only trying to tempt consumers with new products, it also aims to get them eating ice cream more often by challenging the perception that it’s unhealthy. Anuj Lal, ice cream business director at Unilever UK, says: "Despite the nation’s love of ice cream, consumer perception has historically been that it’s a treat product. We aim to change this and drive frequency of consumption through repositioning the category from a sweet treat to a more wholesome pleasure food."

There’s a new visual identity to promote the food values of the Wall’s range and a new slogan: ’a good honest scoop of daily pleasure’. The Wall’s red heart icon will feature prominently on livery and has been adapted to highlight the themes of ’Love Milk’, ’Love Fruit’, ’Love Chocolate’ and ’Love Ice Cream’.

Last year the 10 best-selling impulse lines in forecourts accounted for almost 60% of sales. And despite the nation’s growing preoccupation with healthier products, in forecourts it’s still the chocolate-based lines that perform most strongly. "Magnum and other chocolate products definitely over-index in forecourts," comments Wilson. "People who are on the move want something that’s filling but also indulgent and a bit of a treat. There can also be a male bias."

This year Magnum is reinforcing its premium indulgence credentials and tapping into the popularity of dark chocolate with the launch of Ecuador dark (rrp £1.10), which is made from vanilla ice cream covered in Ecuadorian plain chocolate with 62% cocoa content. The ingredients have been specifically sourced for their taste credentials and their exotic origins are highlighted on pack. Another new addition is coffee-flavoured Columbia aroma, but this isn’t available yet in the impulse trade.

The Magnum range is supported by a £6.5m media spend, including new TV ads. There will also be a major on-pack promotion running throughout July and August giving consumers the chance to win a luxury break to places including Rome, Paris and Barcelona. A text-to-win code will be printed on each stick and a holiday given away every day.

Wall’s has also brought an old chocolate favourite back to the impulse sector - mint Feast, which retails at 65p. New Choco Disc, meanwhile, gives the traditional Cornetto a different look. It consists of a cone filled with vanilla ice cream with a dulche de leche sauce core, topped with a milk chocolate disc and cashew nuts (rrp 99p).

While chocolate is popular, consumer demand for healthier products has unleashed a whole new ice cream sector.

Under the healthier ’Love Fruit’ banner, the Wall’s Solero brand has had a revamp and includes two new Smoothies, each containing just 99 calories. The strawberry & banana Smoothie is made from banana ice cream, swirled with fruit sorbet and coated in a strawberry and cranberry fruit outer, while the blackcurrant & banana variant has a blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry coating.

Solero Exotic completes the line up and has new packaging, highlighting its fruit credentials plus the fact that it now contains just 99 calories. All products in the range have a rrp of 90p in impulse and £1.99 for three-packs. An outdoor advertising campaign will support the brand in June and July.

Continuing with the health trend, Fredericks Dairy has also launched new smoothie-style lollies into impulse under its licensed Del Monte brand. This follows the success of two multipack versions launched last year, which are said to have delivered sales of £5.3m. Sales and marketing director, David Taylor, says: "Del Monte Smoothies were a phenomenon for us last year and several of our competitors have now jumped on the bandwagon. Health was a key factor in their success and the Del Monte brand, with its obvious fruit credentials, fits very well."

A new strawberry & banana flavour has joined the existing mango and raspberry variants (rrp £1 for singles, £1.99 for three-packs).

In the indulgence sector Fredericks produces a range of Cadbury branded products and scored another big hit in 2006 with Cadbury Crunchie blast. In forecourts it was one of Fredericks’ top three best sellers, along with the Cadbury Flake ’99 original cone and Cadbury Dairy Milk stick. This year the company has launched Cadbury Chunky choc ice, which it claims has more chocolate than any other choc ice on the market. It is exclusive to the impulse sector and Taylor says this will help to support smaller retailers’ margins since nearby supermarkets won’t be selling cheaper multipacks. It comes in cases of 35 bars (rrp 65p).

Also new is a Cadbury Creme Egg ice cream bar (rrp 75p), which mirrors the Cadbury Dairy Milk with Creme Egg bar launched in confectionery last year. The Cadbury stick range has new packaging with embossed graphics across all variants.

Cadbury Flake 99 also has a new addition, the Classic raspberry cone, which aims to replicate what you might buy from a traditional ice cream van. The cone is lined with milk chocolate and filled with vanilla ice cream, churned with a raspberry sauce and smothered with hundreds and thousands, finished off with a piece of Cadbury Flake. It has a rrp of £1.10 (multipack £2.49) and joins mint Flake, which was launched last year and remains exclusive to impulse.

sweet treats

When it comes to producing ice cream versions of the big confectionery brands, Masterfoods is the clear winner - its Mars and Snickers ice cream bars are the top two-selling bars in the market, worth £12m and £8m respectively in ice cream alone, according to IRI figures.

This year they will be joined by a new Twix ’Xtra bar (rrp £1), re-launched after an absence of several years during which the recipe has been tweaked to create a product that is a better translation of the chocolate bar. Masterfoods also claims it’s the only ice cream on the market that contains biscuit. All three bars come under the new ’Xtra banner and will be supported by a £3.6m marketing spend across the Masterfoods ice cream portfolio. This will include an on-pack promotion on all three variants as part of the Snickers brand’s sponsorship of the film Die Hard 4, released in July. Prizes include six ’exhilarating New York adventures’.

Staying with ice cream versions of confectionery, Richmond Ice Cream produces a range of Nestlé lines in ice cream and lolly formats. New to impulse is a three-strong range of Quality Street-branded luxury ice cream sticks, including The Big Purple One, The Big Green Triangle and The Big Orange Crunch (rrp £1.10).

Richmond also produces Fab and Fruit Pastil ice lollies. This year Fab, which is also now available in a cone format, will receive significant marketing support to celebrate its 40th birthday. Clare McIntosh, marketing manager at Richmond, says Fab and Fruit Pastil are popular as refreshment products when the weather improves.

She adds: "Retailers need to ensure their freezers are fully stocked with brands people recognise. Additionally, brands that are benefiting from significant media support should always be stocked as they’ll be front-of-mind for consumers."

CHILD’s play

The kids handheld ice cream market was worth £35m last year and while forecourts tend to be more adult focused children shouldn’t be ignored. And that’s because Wall’s Twister and Calippo are top 10 best sellers in the sector - although the company suspects that a lot of adults eat them too. Wall’s has a leading share in the market and a long heritage of providing fun new products. This year is no different with the launch of The Simpsons Sour Fizz, a lemon & pineapple-flavoured ice lolly with sour fizzy sweets inside (rrp 50p). It’s aimed at children aged eight-and-a-half plus and coincides with the release of The Simpsons Movie in July.

Wall’s is also targeting mums with its new Milk Time range, which focuses on the goodness of dairy. Available mainly in multipacks at the moment, the packaging emphasises the calcium content of the products and the fact that they contain no artificial colours or flavours. It will be supported by TV advertising in May. In impulse, the Mini Milk lolly comes under the Milk Time banner and has new packaging.

Along with stocking the right products, good merchandising is crucial. Fredericks’ David Taylor says: "Always keep your freezers clean and well-stocked. Not only are people far more likely to shop them but you never know when the hot weather’s going to hit. If you’re only half-stocked you will lose sales. The British summer can be very unpredictable, so don’t carry minimal stock."

Freezers can quickly look old and tired if they’re neglected - a freezer covered in stickers of products that nobody makes anymore won’t create a good impression. To encourage retailers to keep their imagery exciting and up to date the major manufacturers supply fresh pos each year. Fredericks’, for example, is putting new freezer stickers into cases of its impulse lines for the first couple of product runs to ensure retailers have instant access to the latest pos.

Last year both Wall’s and Masterfoods ran ’Feet on the Street’ campaigns, with company reps visiting thousands of c-stores, including forecourts, to ensure retailers were getting the most from their ranges. Wall’s claims that the stores it worked with achieved around 20% category growth.

This year its programme is called ’Beat on the Street’ and has been extended to cover 45,000 stores, including some in Scotland. Retailers are being given discount vouchers to redeem against purchases of products. The company is also putting out more than 70,000 pos kits, which feature the new ’Love’ logos.

Masterfoods will also be visiting more stores than last year and offering ice cream deals, merchandising advice and new pos. The company has launched Easy ID cases for its impulse lines, with standard brown boxes replaced by fully-branded versions that are designed to be easier for shop staff to spot and grab in a hurry.

Most of the major manufacturers also offer freezer deals to encourage retailers to invest in the latest kit. Wall’s Al Wilson says: "The more up-to-date and clean your equipment is the better. It’s also important to ensure freezers are turned on, lit up and well-stocked all year round, not just in the summer months."

The Wall’s Maxivision freezer accounted for half of all the cabinets sold by the company last year. It has a three-tiered display and comes in standard and slimline versions, costing £949 and £799 respectively, excluding VAT. Each comes with £200-worth of free-stock vouchers, worth up to £300 at rrp. Wall’s claims that retailers using the Maxivision can achieve 30-40% more sales from the same floor space. Masterfoods also has a freezer purchase scheme with Caravell (UK), which offers free ice cream from the Masterfoods impulse range when retailers buy a branded freezer.


While forecourts are advised to focus on impulse ice cream at the height of the ice cream selling season, tubs will sell all year round and can give an added boost during the winter months when people are more likely to want to indulge at home.

Fredericks’ David Taylor says tubs will sell best in forecourts that have a strong c-store offer and frozen food section, where people shop for their evening meal.

Fredericks has extended its Del Monte brand into tubs, with the launch of a new iced dessert called Fruit Burst, which contains real fruit pieces and has only 67 calories per serving. It comes in two flavours: peach & raspberry and mango & pineapple, (rrp £1.99). A ’two for £3’ price feature on-pack aims to drive trial and boost weight of purchase.

Wall’s premium Carte D’Or brand has £6.5m marketing support this year and also has a new variant.

Strawberry & yoghurt délice is made with smooth yoghurt ice cream, swirled with real strawberry sorbet, blended and topped with strawberry coulis. It has a rrp of £2.79 for 900ml and comes in cases of six tubs.

Richmond’s Fab brand has been extended into tubs this year, along with a new Milkybar tub, both aimed at mums. They are available as part of a ’two for £3’ value offer along with Smarties, Rolo and After Eight.

Luxury ice cream is benefiting from the rise of the ’treating’ phenomenon. Andy Foweather, sales director at General Mills, manufacturer of the Häagen-Dazs brand, explains: "High-pressured living and an increase in the debit and credit mindset means consumers are treating themselves more. A typical example is when consumers settle down at the end of a hard-working day to watch a DVD at home with their partner - this is also the number one occasion for the consumption of luxury ice cream."

Foweather says the c-store sector is ideally placed to exploit this trend as most people treat themselves on the spur of the moment. The company is launching summer berries flavour into the independent sector this year, along with a new Little Favourites format, which includes four of the best-selling flavours in a multipack of 100ml individual portions. The brand is backed by a £5m marketing campaign, including TV advertising.

Finally, Ben & Jerry’s 500ml tubs are performing well in forecourts according to UK brand manager, Caroline Simpson. She says: "We’re the top-selling premium ice cream brand in Esso and Total company-owned stores, and the only premium brand stocked by Shell. We’re just going into BP stores, which will hopefully follow this trend."

Product-wise, a Fairtrade version of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla toffee crunch flavour has just been launched. The company is also trying to make its mark in impulse by driving sales of its 150ml ’Shorty’ format, which has a spoon in the lid.

The brand has a £2.5m marketing spend this year and Simpson says it is looking to do more with forecourts and in particular is exploring meal deal opportunities.

She says Ben & Jerry’s performs particularly well around special occasions such as Christmas and Easter. And during Valentine’s week can see as much as a whopping 400% uplift in sales.


=== A Local touch ===

West Country retailer Julian Holliss runs three BP-branded forecourts with Spar stores, all of which have a strong offer in locally sourced foods, including ice cream.

All the sites are en route for the Devon coast and attract a lot of holiday trade. As well as stocking the usual major brands, Julian sells traditional ice cream from nearby Langage Farm, which specialises in dairy produce. His stores stock large tubs for take-home and smaller impulse tubs, which are particularly popular with tourists.

Julian is planning a renewed focus on ice cream this summer. "It’s an easy category to neglect," he says. "We’re looking to invest in some new-style freezer cabinets, like the Maxivision, which I think will give sales a boost. Presentation is key."

In take-home ice cream Julian makes the most of Spar’s promotional deals on tubs and also stocks the Spar Indulgence range. "We always try to have a branded tub, a value tub and a local tub available," he says. "The range changes quite often, for example if there’s a promotion or a new product. We try to offer something to suit different budgets and tastes, but obviously within reason for a forecourt store."


=== Soft-serve solution ===

For retailers looking to offer more than just pre-packaged ice creams, ServEquip has launched a soft-serve ice cream solution. The One-Shot dispensing system allows operators to serve multiple flavours from a single unit, without the need for time-consuming cleaning regimes.

The ice cream used comes in single-serve containers, meaning there is minimal wastage. The container is simply inserted into the patented dispenser, where a plunger forces the frozen product into the cone or serving tub. As the ingredients do not come into contact with the equipment, there are no components to clean. Extra toppings, such as nuts, fruit and chocolate chips, can also be added.

ServEquip’s managing director, Paul Williams, says the system can easily dispense at least 150 portions per hour. "Historically, operators have offered just one soft-serve ice cream flavour - usually vanilla - from the one unit and relied upon staff to ensure that the equipment is used correctly and then stringently cleaned to meet health and safety standards," he says. "This innovative system gives operators greater freedom when planning what to sell."

The complete system costs around £2,000. A wide range of ice cream flavours are available, produced at a licensed One-Shot dairy.


=== Product ranking in managed forecourts - value sales ===

1. Wall’s Magnum Classic £1,045,248

2. Wall’s Magnum White £1,003,594

3. Wall’s Twister £748,251

4. Wall’s Magnum Double Caramel £709,632

5. Wall’s Feast £641,469

6. Wall’s Magnum Mint £613,080

7. Bounty Coconut £571,001

8. Wall’s Calippo Orange £506,903

9. Maltesers Chocolate £487,145

10. Wall’s Magnum Almond £486,974

Total value £6,813,297

(Source: IRI 52 w/e 30 Dec 2006)


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