Pity the ice cream manufacturers. There’s no doubt the product is popular Mintel reports that it’s eaten by eight out of 10 adults but not that often, with only 18% of users eating a handheld ice cream at least once a week. Obviously, if we have a good summer, consumption goes up as Mintel says half of ice cream consumers eat it to cool themselves down. But 2014 was one of the coolest summers on record and last year was not a lot better. Charlotte Hambling, head of UK marketing at R&R Ice Cream, says: "The impulse category, particularly water-based lollies, is affected the most when the weather is cooler. Cooler weather across the summer of 2015 hindered the performance of the ice cream category, with convenience sales down 4.2% year-on-year (Nielsen data)."

However, the manufacturers are doing their utmost to entice people to buy. Unilever has announced that it is significantly increasing its field sales force in a bid to reach five times as many retailers with expert advice, guidance and support. Plus the company has pledged to place more freezers into the trade this year.

On the product front, Magnum has two new flavours: Double Chocolate and Double Peanut. They promise "an even more decadent Magnum experience", with ice cream covered in a chocolatey coating, then a sauce layer, and finally wrapped in a layer of cracking Magnum chocolate. Rrp is £1.90, with multipacks of three available at £3.35.

But Magnum has competition from three new Häagen-Dazs stick bars. Available exclusively to the convenience channel, the Salted Caramel, Vanilla Caramel Almond and White Almond bars each retail at £2.29. They were launched in France last year, where they’ve been a great success. Sales have already reached 10.4m, with almost a third of consumers making repeat purchases (Nielsen data).

Arjoon Bose, marketing manager (UK and Northern Europe), says: "Our R&D teams have ensured this breakthrough innovation meets demanding UK shopper needs, giving consumers a luxury stick bar that offers more than just a chocolate hit on the outside.

"Our new technology allows us to capture the much-loved Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavour and texture that shoppers seek inside our stick bar, enveloped in a coating of our rich signature Belgian chocolate and made even more irresistible with surprising inclusions like salted caramel brittle and crunchy almonds."

The launch is supported by PR activity, sampling and pos material.

Pure indulgence

Nielsen data reveals that the indulgent sticks sector is performing very well in the convenience channel with year-on-year growth of 5.9%. Capitalising on this, R&R Ice Cream is introducing Daim and Oreo sticks. The Daim stick comprises caramel ice cream with Daim pieces, covered in milk chocolate, while the Oreo stick is made up of vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreo pieces, covered in an Oreo biscuit coating.

Hambling confirms that consumers still like ice creams which encompass their favourite brands of confectionery with the Flake Cone and Oreo Sandwich both proving a popular choice.

"Flake Cone is the best-selling cone in the impulse market and the Oreo sandwich is a great opportunity for the convenience sector, both in impulse and take-home lines. The Oreo brand is worth £11.5m overall and the sandwich in impulse is the best-selling SKU in the bars sector."

Meanwhile, Unilever hopes to revitalise the premium filled cones segment with the launch of a new variant Choc ’n’ Caramel Disc. The company reckons the new flavour will appeal to the growing number of consumers who consider ice cream a snack, while the disc format, which first hit freezers in 2015, is designed to encourage existing Cornetto fans to trade up. Rrp is £1.50, but there is also a multipack of four, rrp £2.99.

Cornetto Choc ’n’ Caramel Disc will be supported by a £3m marketing campaign, including TV and digital activity.

The Ben & Jerry’s brand is resurrecting its ’Wich ice cream sandwiches. The latest version of the ’Wich sandwiches feature two of Ben & Jerry’s best-loved ice cream flavours Cookie Dough and Chocolate Fudge Brownie between two soft-baked cookies. The range comprises an individually wrapped ’Wich, £2.49; a Cookie Dough multipack of three, £4.19; a Son of a ’Wich pack of eight mini ’Wiches, £4.99; as well as a Cookie Dough S’Wich Up combining the cookies and ice cream in a tub, rrp £4.99.

And Feast is entering the bar segment with a new Snack Bar, available in a peanut butter flavour. Rrp is £1 and there is also a multipack of six, rrp £2.25.

On the refreshment front, Unilever UK is tapping into the growing demand for healthier and more permissible ice cream choices as well as the trend for fruit flavours with the launch of Solero Red Berries. The new flavour blends together strawberry ice cream with a raspberry swirl, finished with a raspberry coating. Solero Red Berries has an rrp of £1.25 and is available in multipacks of three, with an rrp of £3.49. Unilever is confident its new flavour, which contains 111 calories, will meet the consumer demand for permissible treats that fit into a healthy lifestyle.

Meanwhile, existing variety, Solero Exotic, is now made with sustainably farmed fruits.

Overall, the Solero brand has a refreshed logo and new packaging design, highlighting the brand’s fresh and natural fruit properties.

The launch will be supported via the £3.5m Wall’s out-of-home Talking Ice Creams campaign, called Goodbye Serious. The campaign includes advertising, digital, social, experiential and in-store activity.

In its 2016 kids’ range, Unilever has new Twister Blackcurrant, made with blackcurrants and strawberry juice. Rrp is £1 with a multipack of six also available, rrp £2.49.

In-home treats

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Ice Cream, says the trend for sharing has become even more popular as people look for treats to enjoy during their nights in at home with friends and family, with ice cream being the third largest category for such treats. "For this reason, ice cream multipacks are a ’must stock’ for forecourts looking to capitalise on the big trend for at-home consumption. Mars ice cream bars remain the most popular ice cream bar in the UK (Nielsen), available in four-, six- and seven-pack multipacks," she explains.

She adds that take-home, multipack formats give consumers even more flexible ways to enjoy ice cream at home, extending the ’traditional’ season.

"Retailers should capitalise on the peak season by focusing on stocking more single handheld ice cream bars and sticks in the summer, and by introducing these brands in multipack format during the winter months for a treat at home."

The latest launch from Mars Ice Cream is that of its popular Maltesers Teasers in a four-pack (rrp £3.35) capitalising on the trend for in-home treats to share, the growing popularity of ice cream on a stick and the brand strength of Maltesers.

The ice cream has crunchy mini Maltesers pieces in ice cream, covered in a chocolate layer to give consumers the "perfect Maltesers experience in an ice cream".

Last year, sales of the Maltesers Teasers ice cream single grew by some 13%, making it the number three best-selling branded ice cream on a stick in the market (Nielsen).

Parlour games

To capitalise on the indulgence and premiumisation trend, R&R Ice Cream has relaunched its Kelly’s of Cornwall take-home range to make the brand more appealing to younger consumers and reflect its heritage, provenance and Cornish roots.

The new-look, take-home Parlour range has been designed to replicate the delivery of ice cream served in a traditional Cornish scooping parlour. There are four new flavours: Berry Eton Mess, Praline Caramel, Lemon Curd Tart and Chocolate Brownie Salted Caramel which join Kelly’s existing best-selling Honeycomb Crunch and Clotted Cream flavours.

The packaging has been redesigned with a clear lid so shoppers can see the ’scooping finish’ and ripples of ice cream with sauce and inclusions exactly as it would look through an ice cream parlour’s glass. And the brand’s logo has been revamped to communicate the fact that the ice cream is made from local milk and clotted cream.

Kelly’s will be supported by a £2m media campaign, which will see the brand make a return to TV screens with a new advert. There will also be advertising, in-store activation and sampling.

R&R Ice Cream has also added a new variety to its popular Cadbury’s Marvellous range Rocky Mallow Road. In its first year, Marvellous Ice Creams contributed 83% incremental growth to the super premium ice cream category and the Jelly Popping Candy SKU was the number one best-selling super premium NPD in 2015 (Nielsen data).

The new 500ml Rocky Mallow Road sharing tub builds on the success of the flavour in the confectionery category.

Rocky Mallow Road joins Jelly Popping Candy, Fair Ground Candy Crush and Zingy Raspberry Chocolate Brownie. Since the ice creams were launched last year, they have delivered a strong performance, with the brand already worth £6m in retail sales.

The Marvellous band of marching Penguin characters will continue to front all of Marvellous Ice Creams’ marketing activity. In total, R&R Ice Cream will invest £1m behind Cadbury’s Ice Creams and Sticks in 2016, with activity including outdoor, digital and social advertising.

A Marvellous Roadshow will also travel the UK with sampling taking place at key retail outlets.

Calorie cuts

Unilever is reducing the size of several of its key single-serve lines to ensure they contain less than 250 calories. Magnum, Cornetto, Ben & Jerry’s small tubs and Feast are all being made a bit smaller.
Under the new regime, several products are being dropped from the range including the Choc ’n’ Ball which, when launched in 2014, was described as the ’ultimate manly ice cream’. It weighed a hefty 160ml versus a typical Cornetto’s 90g.

Scooping up lots of sales

Customers looking for something a bit different to the bog standard packaged ice creams are well catered for at Spar Ballyclare Mileston, where they have a Quinns handmade gelato freezer. The display is particularly eye-catching thanks to the different colours of the flavours, which include raspberry sorbet, mint, honeycomb, Werther’s Caramel, Ferrero Rocher and Kinder, with Kinder the best seller.
Assistant manager Daniel Mellor says: "We offer the ice cream all year round but most sales come in the summer when we get queues out the door. Quinns are just 45 minutes away from us so locals know the name and we were the first shop to offer it around here, so it gave us a real point of difference."
Single cones retail at £1.70; doubles at £2.45 and family tubs at £7.50. The double cones are the biggest sellers but at this time of year, the large tubs are popular with families, particularly on Sundays.