With Easter said to mark the start of the ice cream season, forecourt retailers should already be making sure their freezers are fully stocked and looking spick and span. In this trading sector children aren’t the main customers so forecourts can benefit from the popularity of higher-margin premium products that are specifically aimed at adults.
David Taylor, marketing director at Fredericks Dairies, says: "In the forecourt environment, the majority of your customers will be adults and therefore you need to focus on adult-eat. We’ve always performed very well in forecourts and I think the reason for that is that our products are more adult-focused and aimed at premium indulgence. The range fits well in forecourts and most importantly generates a healthy cash margin for retailers, with rrps of around £1."
The wrapped impulse ice cream market is currently worth £218m, according to IRI, and chocolate snacks - most of which fit into the adult indulgence sector - account for the biggest share of sales. The advice for convenience retailers from Unilever’s Partners for Growth initiative reflects this dominance, recommending stores devote 40% of their freezer space to chocolate-based ice cream products.
Heading up the chocolate indulgence sector, Unilever’s Magnum brand is now worth more than £80m in the UK and has a new look and flavours for 2006. In the impulse sector, new almond, mint and double caramel variants join the ever-popular Magnum classic and white, which now feature an ’M’ hallmark embossed in the chocolate as a stamp of quality. All the products in the range have new packaging, with eye-catching golden metallised wrap to reinforce their premium feel. TV advertising breaks this month, part of £6.5m-worth of support for the brand, which also includes press, cinema, online and outdoor posters.
Also driving the chocolate sector are ice cream versions of the popular confectionery brands. Fredericks Dairies produces a range of Cadbury-branded ice cream sticks for impulse, including new Cadbury Crunchie Blast, which mirrors its confectionery counterpart and features a mix of honeycomb-flavoured ice cream with popping candy encased in the Dairy Milk coating. Also new for this year is a Cadbury Creme Egg ice cream stick, which has been boosting sales in the run-up to Easter, when ice cream sales are traditionally lower.
Many of Fredericks’ products are also available in multipack formats, however, another new addition for 2006, Cadbury Flake ’99 Mint cone, will be exclusive to the impulse sector. "This is a product that will be unique to smaller retailers," says David Taylor. "We’re not launching it in take-home, so they’re not going to find a supermarket down the road selling the four-pack at a cheaper price. They will have something different.
"Flake ’99 is our icon brand and we want to drive distribution as much as possible this year. Mint is a very popular flavour and we’re combining it with a very successful brand which has a high rate of sale."
Meanwhile, Masterfoods is focusing on its Mars and Maltesers ice cream brands this year.
Andrea Taylor, trade relations manager, says: "Mars is the number one-selling ice cream bar and Maltesers had a fantastic launch of its milk chocolate version then, last year, its white chocolate stick in impulse. Mars is worth £19m in ice cream and Maltesers £13.5m. We know that they’re great performers."
Masterfoods brands saw an overall growth of 7% in forecourts last year, which matched their growth in the total market. This year, the Mars and Maltesers brands will have support to the tune of £3.6m specifically for ice cream, however, Taylor believes this will also be boosted by wider investment in their parent confectionery brands. "Masterfoods has a lot of iconic brands that people know and love and anything we do as an activity around those brands has positive implications on other pack formats, whether it be ice cream, Easter or other different categories," she says. "Mars and Maltesers have got between them a total of £28m marketing support for 2006. That’s a phenomenal investment that includes nationwide sampling with Mars ice cream this year."
In terms of NPD, Masterfoods’ big new launch this year aims to grow the adult refreshment sector of the market. Starburst lemon & lime ice cream stick is exclusive to impulse and like the existing strawberry variant has just 3.5% fat, tapping into the ever-increasing trend for healthier options. The product targets women aged 16-44.
Fredericks Dairies Del Monte range has similar appeal, with its low-fat, high-juice content products. David Taylor says: "This is our fourth season with the Del Monte brand and we’ve launched a new variant within that range which is a fruit double product. It’s effectively a strawberry split, but it’s a very healthy strawberry split. It’s almost 50% fruit juice, only 83 calories and less than 2% fat.
"Everything we do with Del Monte is about finding a healthier, better, version of what is already in the market," he explains. "The premium orange ice lolly product, which is our biggest impulse line under the Del Monte brand, is 85% fruit juice."
An impulse version of the Del Monte Fruitini children’s product is also available, while a new range of Smoothies ices has just been launched in a multipack, available in mango and raspberry flavours.
Although adults make up the majority of forecourt customers, children should not be left out completely. Unilever’s Wall’s ice cream brand has injected plenty of fun into its kids range for 2006. The brand is the market leader in this sector. This year it is printing a ’nutrition promise’ on all its multipacks to help parents. In impulse there are some exciting new launches with added novelty value. The Spongebob Squarepants lolly will appeal to young fans of the popular TV cartoon character and each one comes with a free sticker. Better still, the new Ice Jet lolly has a stick that turns into a water shooter. Both have a rrp of 50p.
Forecourt-specific activity has been planned around the refreshing Calippo brand, with details soon to be announced, and there is also a new addition to the range - double flavour strawberry & tropical will replace strawberry in impulse. For the in-home multipack range, Mini Calippo is also available in the new flavour, while an orange and lemon-lime six-pack format is available for the first time. As well as the nutrition promise, the Calippo range has a new juice promise, stating that the product now contains more real fruit juice and less sugar than ever before.
Wall’s is also resurrecting some classic lollies from yesteryear, which will have retro-appeal for many bigger kids as well as youngsters. Lemonade Sparkle is available as an impulse single (rrp 35p) as well as a 10-stick multipack. Orange Frutie is also available as an impulse line (rrp 45p) as well as in a mixed multipack with Strawberry Spilt.
Wall’s iconic Cornetto brand has a new caramel variant available as both an individual impulse line and a multipack for in-home. The new product and the whole Cornetto range is being supported with a new TV, radio and cinema advertising campaign which breaks in May.
Overall support for the Wall’s brand in 2006 totals some £6.5m and includes further TV advertising for Wall’s soft scoop vanilla ice cream.
Ice cream is very much an impulse-driven purchase, so to make the most of the category the freezer needs to be positioned in a high-traffic part of the store where people will see it and be tempted, just like other snacks and confectionery.
Fredericks’ Taylor says: "It should be something you either see as soon as you walk in, on your way to the till or where people are queuing. Don’t hide it away, because unless they’re very desperate for an ice cream, people won’t go and look for it."
Andrea Taylor from Masterfoods says that forecourt retailers need to go that one step further and make sure customers know about their ice cream offer even before they get into the store. "On a hot day if people are going from A to B and see it advertised it will stimulate the impulse nature of the purchase," she says. "It’s all about communicating outside to the consumer that you’re stocking ice cream inside the store. We’d recommend retailers use the A-signs, flags and bins that are available so that people will see it from the road."
This year, Masterfoods has launched a bright new range of point of sale (POS) material, which includes all of its core brands under a parasol icon. The new image extends into branded freezers, which are available under Masterfoods’ freezer purchase scheme, which offers retailers free ice cream from the impulse range to offset some of the cost.
Masterfoods will also be visiting 23,000 independent stores this year as part of its ’feet on the street’ campaign, and this will include a significant number of forecourts. "What they’ll be doing is going in and re-energising the category and making sure that people are really signed on to the opportunity of ice cream as a sales and profit generator for their store," says Taylor.
As well as making use of the eye-catching new POS materials which the manufacturers provide each year, good basic housekeeping is vital to avoid missed sales. According to Unilever’s Partners for Growth advice, one of the main reasons that only 50% of intended ice cream purchases results in a sale is down to unappealing cabinets (data from Convenience Tracking Programme 2003). Keeping the cabinet clean and defrosted not only helps attract more sales, but will also lengthen the life of the appliance and keep running costs down.
Manufacturers and retailers alike always hope for a long hot summer to boost ice cream sales and this year will be no different. However, forecourts do have an advantage where the weather is concerned. Fredericks’ David Taylor says it’s important to start the season early, ready for all the Bank Holidays when people start to get out and about in their cars more. And it’s cars that can give forecourts an edge over traditional c-stores when the sun’s not shining. "In forecourts ice cream gets eaten for longer and the weather is not as important because people can buy an ice cream and sit in their car and eat it. It doesn’t matter if it’s wet outside," says Taylor.
According to Mintel’s 2006 ice cream report, the sizzling summer of 2003 was a landmark.
Sales rocketed during this year and while subsequent poorer summers in 2004 and 2005 have hit the impulse market, the legacy of 2003 is that because consumers were snacking on ice cream for longer, manufacturers have been able to reposition ice cream as more of an everyday treat and less of just a seasonal product.
Taylor says it’s important to understand how the seasons and weather conditions can affect sales and what products should be given dominance in the freezer.
"Your chocolate-based products should be used to kick the season off early," he says. "But by June, July and August it may be time to subtly change the range to include more refreshment products - if it gets hot people will want to quench their thirsts."
When it gets to the winter months, the main message is that if you are going to keep your impulse freezer then don’t do it half-heartedly - keep it tidy and well-stocked or take it away. "It’s almost worthless to have a freezer with 15-20 ice creams in," says Taylor.
"People will think there’s something wrong with them and they won’t sell. If it’s full you’ll actually get people to think ’it might be nice to have an ice cream’ instead of a bag of crisps of whatever. But think about it in terms of product. You almost don’t want to be selling any refreshment at that time of the year. In the winter there’s more of an opportunity for take-home and some of the space could be given over from impulse. Tubs sell very well."
Fredericks has recently launched a five-strong range of Cadbury Dairy Milk 900ml tubs, which have a rrp of £1.99. A ’two for £3’ price feature on-pack encourages customers to sample the different flavours, which are Flake, Dairy Milk, Dairy Milk Mint, Dairy Milk with Caramel and Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut.
Unilever has also added a new variant to its premium branded Wall’s Carte D’or range.
Greek yogurt & honey combines smooth ice cream made with authentic Greek yogurt, swirled and topped with Greek-style honey sauce and sprinkled with toasted almonds.
The new recipe is said to have gone down very well in consumer trials and will feature heavily in new TV advertising from May, which continues the ’aD’orable’ campaign of 2005.
The product is priced at £2.79 per tub, with six tubs per case. The brand will also be headline sponsor of the Carte D’or Summer Proms & Smooth Series of 20 outdoor concerts being held on summer evenings at some of the UK’s most beautiful and historic venues.
Meanwhile, luxury brand Häagen-Dazs is said to be benefiting from the rise of the ’treating’ phenomenon, with independent retailers ideally placed to take advantage of this.
Andy Foweather, sales director for manufacturer General Mills, says that customers looking for a treat are more likely to shop locally and on the spur of the moment. They are also less likely to worry about price and will reward themselves by trading up to an indulgent treat.
To maximise luxury ice cream sales, Foweather recommends a strong core range of four to six products covering the top three flavour territories, red fruit, chocolate and vanilla.
In the chocolate territory, new flavour chocolate cherry brownie has recently been rolled out to the independent sector.
General Mills also offers branded freezer deals for retailers, including a counter-top freezer with £395 worth of free stock.
THE FORECOURT 4
Richmond Ice Cream, which produces the Nestlé Rowntree confectionery brands in ice cream format, says it has selected an ideal everyday range specifically for forecourt customers.
Dubbed the Forecourt 4, the line-up includes Maxibon and Yorkie - two big chocolate snack products which appeal strongly to men, who make up a significant number of forecourt customers. Aimed more at kids are the popular Smarties Pop-up and Rowntrees Fruit Pastil-lolly.
In addition to this the company has launched two new instantly recognisable big-brand products - a Smarties cone and an After Eight stick. The Smarties cone has vanilla-flavoured ice cream with crushed Smarties and is topped with whole mini Smarties, while the After Eight stick has mint flavoured ice cream swirled with chocolate flavoured sauce and is covered in dark chocolate.
The Richmond range also includes the popular Fab and Ribena Ice brands. Ribena Ice has new packaging for 2006 and its impulse sales are said to be growing fast.