The good news is that as ice cream is viewed as a cheap treat, the category has been largely unaffected by the adverse economic conditions. The bad news is, of course, the weather and the UK’s lack of a summer. The simple truth is that when the sun shines, ice creams sell, but the sun seemed to have been more illusive than ever last year. That’s not to say that independent forecourt retailers should give up on impulse ice creams altogether as, according to IRI data, impulse ice cream sales are worth over £149m. However, maybe more concentration should be put on the indulgence lines like the Magnums and Cadbury ices rather than real refreshment lines. Plus there are the eat-at- home packs to consider too.

Charlotte Hambling, senior marketing manager at R&R Ice Cream, says: "In 2013, convenience store retailers should be aware of the popularity of less seasonal, more indulgent formats which can be enjoyed as a treat whatever the weather particularly the categories of indulgence and super premium. These sectors drove the market last year with 20% and 10% growth respectively (Nielsen data) and this is indicative of the way in which consumers now prefer to consume their ice cream."

Noel Clarke, brand building director for ice cream at Unilever UK & Ireland, says that although last year’s summer weather affected sales, there is good news to report. "Impulse ice cream products from Unilever such as Magnum Infinity and Twister drove sales last year. Magnum Infinity added £10m in incremental sales and Twister’s 27.8% increase in sales saw it overtake Calippo."

The Magnum Infinity range is now worth £17m, making it the third best-selling impulse line and the fastest-growing hand-held single chocolate snack, outselling all its competitors in this sector (IRI impulse market data).

Holly Ashton, trade category and marketing executive at Unilever UK, comments: "Despite the economic downturn, growth in premium brands such as Magnum demonstrates that ’treat’ occasions are on the up and that consumers continue to purchase impulse ice cream.

"For example, Magnum Infinity, priced at £1.75, was the fastest-selling hand-held single chocolate snack, out-selling all competitors with 75% distribution in the convenience channel. Similarly, Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough 150ml is the best-selling mini tub and Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie is the second best-selling impulse line.

"That said, given the economic climate, it’s important to offer consumers a range that plays at both ends of the price ladder. Retailers should consider stocking products such as the Wall’s kids range to cater for consumers looking for a lower price point, to maximise sales opportunities."

Price-marking has been well received in the ice cream cabinet. R&R reports a lot of interest in its £1 price-marked Nestlé Lion bars.

The company is now looking to grow its price-marked take-home convenience offering, introducing a value-driven £1.75 flash across Smarties cone and Munchies bar packs, while the Fab brand will be available for the first time in a six-pack price-marked at £2.

This will appeal to the value-conscious consumer and help bolster basket spend within the convenience take-home sector, says Hambling.

Meanwhile, Fredericks Dairies’ out-of-home sales director, Matt Fulbrook, says the ’big night in’ concept has been really good news for the ice cream category. "Many consumers have an indulgent ’nine o’clock moment’ on the couch or consume ice cream as part of a ’Big Night In’ with friends or family. With this in mind, retailers should stock a range of packs and tubs in a secondary freezer nearer the back of the store or keep them at the bottom of a typical ’maxivision’ freezer."

Fulbrook says 2012 was Fredericks’ best-ever year, as it became the second largest impulse ice cream manufacturer in the UK.

He explains: "Performance was particularly buoyed by Cadbury ice creams’ presence at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as the sole provider of packaged ice cream. Over three million Cadbury ice creams were sold during this period, with Cadbury Flake 99 accounting for one million of them. This high-profile presence drove mass exposure and trial across a mixed demographic of consumers which has laid the foundations for growth in 2013 and beyond."

Brand news

As usual for this time of year, there are many new lines being launched in both the impulse and take-home sectors.

Ben & Jerry’s has two new core variants: peanut butter me up and blondie brownie. The former has a raspberry jam core surrounded by peanut butter and vanilla ice creams with chocolatey covered peanut butter cups, while the latter has a soft salted caramel core surrounded by chocolate and vanilla ice creams with chocolate and blondie brownie chunks. Ben & Jerry’s core range will benefit from a £5m media campaign.

Clever cookies is the latest addition to Ben & Jerry’s classics range.

Magnum Infinity is currently giving consumers the chance to win a designer handbag worth £800, every day for three months. They enter the competition via a text-to-win mechanic featured on pack. There will also be coupon activity to support the brand in national newspapers.

Fredericks Dairies has partnered with the world’s number one biscuit brand, Oreo, to manufacture the brand’s UK ice cream debut. The new Oreo Cones four-pack is being described as "the most significant launch into the ice cream cone sub-category in years".

Last year Fredericks began manufacturing and marketing Britvic-branded ices under a 10-year licensing deal. The two products Fruit Shoot squeeze-ups and R Whites Lemonade ice lollies both surpassed forecasts achieving sales of £4.5m in their first 12 months on sale (KMP/SIG data). Fredericks is now working with Britvic on further ideas from various brands in the soft drink firm’s portfolio.

Fredericks will also be focused on driving distribution within independents and supporting the trade with what it says is a ’best in trade’ fully-funded freezer deal for the impulse channel as well as multi-case purchase incentives.

R&R is launching Mickey and Minnie ice cream lollies, supported by a national PR campaign and in-store promotional activity.

R&R’s Yoomoo now boasts a 54.9% share of the frozen yogurt sector (Nielsen data). A £2m support campaign aims to grow awareness and sales.

Mars Ice Cream is launching Galaxy almond dairy ice cream, covered in Galaxy chocolate and topped with nuts.

Also from Mars Ice Cream comes Mars Chocolate Core, which is a traditional Mars bar ice cream with a dark chocolate infused centre. The limited-edition product comes in a six-pack for consumers to enjoy at home. Two more new lines are Mars and Snickers ice creams in a new mini format in multipacks of 10.

Six steps to sell:

1. Let people know you sell ice cream. Use branded point-of-sale items like pavement signs, flags and bins.
2. Make sure your cabinet is easy to find. Place an attractive ice cream cabinet near both the till and other impulse products.
3. Draw attention to your ice cream cabinet. Use cabinet stickers, display boards and basket labels to make your freezer stand out.
4. Keep your cabinet clean and full. Fifty per cent of sales are lost due to unappealing cabinets.
5. Stock the best sellers. Wall’s has the top five selling impulse lines: Magnum classic, Magnum white, Magnum Infinity, Twister and Feast chocolate. Other strong sellers include Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough 150ml tub and the Cadbury Flake 99 cone.
6. Stock ice cream all year round. Twenty seven per cent of ice cream sales in the convenience channel occur in the winter.
Source: Unilever