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Catman: el gran congelador

Catman: el gran congelador

Author: Liz Wells 


As the nights draw in and the weather gets progressively cooler, impulse sales of hand-held ice-creams from convenience stores inevitably tail off. But the change of seasons should not be a signal for independent retailers to abandon their ice-cream offer until the spring. Far from it. There are still rich pickings to be had from a category that is becoming increasingly versatile and is successfully tapping into emerging consumer trends.

Indulgent flavours
“The ice-cream market sees a severe sales decline of 23% over the winter months as a result of the reduced purchase of hand-held formats,” says Arjoon Bose, marketing manager for Häagen Dazs at brand owner General Mills. “In the winter, retailers could reduce their range of hand-held ice-creams to make way for tub formats, which hold their penetration over the winter. As colder weather sets in, consumers increasingly seek rich, indulgent flavours as the fresher, fruitier tastes of summer are replaced.” Over the winter, Bose says, consumers are looking for more-indulgent ice-creams “for that 9pm sofa moment” and tend to turn to luxury ice-cream tubs to satisfy their cravings.

Winter puddings
Sally Newall, managing director of Kent-based Simply Ice Cream, says cold-weather desserts are another major factor. “As hot winter puddings become more prevalent, so does the need for a quality ice-cream accompaniment.” But she has also identified a growing trend towards serving ice-cream as a standalone dish. This winter, Simply Ice Cream is introducing a mince pie flavour in time for the Christmas season, joining its existing Christmas Pudding and Cinnamon variants (500ml, £4.99).

Mars Ice Cream points out that the category as a whole is in strong growth, up 9% in value year on year, with hand-held ices up 10% and ice-cream tubs up 7%.

A big driver of this is the growing trend for entertaining at home, it says, with three-quarters of consumers saying they would serve ice-cream as a dessert to their guests and one-third saying they always keep ice-cream in the freezer for impromptu entertaining.

Home entertaining
Michelle Frost, general manager at Mars Ice Cream, says: “It’s great to see that ice-cream continues to dominate as a top choice for big nights in and home entertaining. It’s clear that tubs and share-at-home products are also driving growth within the ice-cream category. So, stock eye-catching packaging and familiar branded tubs to capatalise on the trend.”

Although health and wellbeing is now well established among UK consumers, the ice-cream category does not seem to have suffered. “We’re seeing growth at both ends of the spectrum, with both lower-calorie and indulgent products driving this,” says manufacturer Unilever, whose brands include Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s. “Consumers are still looking to treat themselves on special occasions with more-indulgent ice-creams.”

The company is, however, tapping into the health trend with its Breyers Delights range, which launched in January and comes in flavours including Creamy Chocolate and Cookies & Cream. The product is high in protein and lower in sugar, containing only 350 calories or fewer per tub. “With the lower-calorie segment driving incremental sales in the category, we expect this trend to continue,” Unilever says. Last month (September), the company added two lower-calorie ice-cream tubs to the Ben & Jerry’s range and it is also catering to the free-from and vegan movement with the launch in January 2018 of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy.

Impulse range
Despite the shift in emphasis towards ice-cream tubs during the winter, the hand-held segment should not be neglected, says Partners for Growth, the independent category advice programme from Unilever. “More than 22% of ice-cream is sold in the winter months, of which 70% is bought on impulse,” says Matthew Trembath, channel category manager. “It is therefore important to tailor your ice-cream cabinet depending on the time of year. As the weather gets cooler and winter approaches, demand for tub ice-creams and evening treats grows. But don’t forget to keep a good range of impulse ice-creams – for example, kids’ lollies, chocolate snacks and cones.”

When it comes to merchandising the category in-store, Trembath recommends a few key measures. “Simply letting people know you sell ice-cream could increase sales by up to 15%,” he says. “Don’t hide your cabinet. Keep it near the till and use POS outside the store to bring shoppers in.”

Further recommendations include:
■ Keep the cabinet clean, uncluttered and well-organised, and always have the best-sellers in stock.
■ Use bright and branded POS outside the store, such as pavement signs, flags and branded waste bins.
■ Make sure your pricing is clear.

While ice-cream is a vital component of the category for independents, it is important to remember that it only represents a quarter of frozen sales in convenience. Frozen food is currently growing in value by 5.4% in convenience stores, according to supplier Aunt Bessie’s. “Retailers should consider shrinking the space given to ice-cream and products that over-perform in the hot weather,” says assistant shopper marketing manager Natalie Lee.

Alongside ready meals and pizzas, frozen potato products are one of the big sellers. Manufacturer McCain says the strongest sub-sectors within this include chips, fries and sweet potato products. Crispy French fries, in particular, have seen strong growth, with a 9% rise in value sales over the past 12 months. Category controller Naomi Tinkler advises retailers: “Health and personalisation are two key consumer trends we see growing in frozen as consumers increasingly look for both lighter options and to be more involved in the cooking process.”

Consumers are also keen to replicate at home good experiences they have had when eating out. To tap into this, McCain launched its Gastro range in late 2016 and Skin-On Fries in 2017. And with people trading up to more premium and indulgent experiences at home, the company added a “super-premium” roast potato basted in goose fat. The personalisation trend is catered for by McCain’s Shake Shake Fries and Wedges, which come with a flavour sachet. Core products, however, remain fries, Home Chips, and (as winter approaches) roast potatoes and jackets.

Lee at Aunt Bessie’s says: “Products associated with roast dinners are likely to perform well over the autumn/winter period.” She says
its 12-pack Yorkshire Puddings (220g), Honey Parsnips (550g) and Roast Potatoes (800g) were top-sellers in the four weeks to 6 January this year.


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