Sales of chilled rice pudding are soaring as shoppers give canned products the cold shoulder.

In the past year, sales of chilled rice puds have risen 10.9% in value, while canned rice puds have fallen 1.8% [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 30 October 2011].

Industry observers say the growth is evidence of a trend dubbed ‘cold comfort’, whereby shoppers seek to ward off the economic gloom with higher-quality chilled versions of classic comfort foods.

“It’s about taking the stodge out of comfort foods,” said Giles Lury, chairman at brand agency The Value Engineers. “The black-packaged indulgent Rachel’s rice puddings, for example, are perceived as more of a comforting dessert than old-fashioned cans.”

While Premier Foods’ ambient Ambrosia brand has slumped 5.8% year-on-year to £25.9m, chilled brands are steaming ahead - with Müllerice up 5.1%, Rachel’s up 12.5% and Tideford up 27.9% [SymphonyIRI 52w/e 29 October 2011].

Chilled rice puddings are not the only classic hot dessert to have performed well in the past 12 months. Spotted dick has grown 13.2% by value, while pies and tarts have grown 7.1% [Kantar].

However, many other hot desserts are in decline, including crumble and soufflé. Bread & butter pudding has fared particularly poorly, and is down 10.2% to £9.5m [Kantar].

The poor performance of bread & butter pudding was a result of many retailers moving such products from premium ranges to the core tier, said Jamie Fyne, category manager at Farmhouse Fare.