Appalling summer weather dampened an already double-dipped economy, but the steep and indeed accelerating volume declines in ice cream - 6.9% in tubs, and 4.6% in sticks - are to some extent misleading, says Nielsen ice cream client manager Justin Kenna. “A combination of price insensitivity and value engineering resulted in the UK buying the same or more packs than before, despite a sharp price increase.”

That meant smaller packs to hit round-pound price points, and new entrants, including Carte d’Or, into mini pots (sales are up 23%). Sales growth for Kelly’s of Cornwall, last year’s star performer in tubs, accelerated to 25.7%, while the most impressive turnaround came from market leader Ben & Jerry’s, spearheaded by its new super-premium ‘Core’ extension - featuring either chocolate or fudge in the middle - whose higher price point (rsp: £4.99) helped drive value by 16.1% and volume by 3.7%, with Core contributing £11.9m.

“The weather hasn’t been great,” says Unilever brand building director Noel Clarke, “but the sun doesn’t shine in December and I’m trying to run a business through innovation.” Magnum Infinity is another case in point, adding £10m in incremental sales to the number one handheld brand. And such is Unilever’s confidence in Magnum, it has just launched the brand into tubs.

Solero didn’t fare as well, with a further 8.8% deterioration in sales, following last year’s 17.7% decline. “We, as a team, decided to blow the doors off on Magnum. But it’s a refreshment product: ice lollies are the most seasonally affected part of the market,” Clarke explains. Twister’s volume-fuelled 27.8% increase in sales helped saw it to overtake Calippo, but Rowntree’s 10.4% value sales charge was price driven, as sugar price inflation provided an additional headache for lolly manufacturers. Fab volumes also slipped, despite a second variant. “Everyone has had to promote really hard to achieve lolly sales,” says R&R marketing director Phil Griffin. He promises further miniaturisation in 2013. “It’s going to be the year of the mini. We’re currently in mini pots. But I’m talking handheld minis. At the moment Magnum has the market to itself. Not for long.”

TOP LAUNCH 2012
Yoomoo Yoomoo/R&R Ice Cream

Yoomoo frozen yoghurt 150

Yoomoo’s April arrival on the UK’s supermarket shelves, courtesy of a joint venture with R&R Ice Cream, has captured a mood. Available in four flavours in mini, and three in 750ml, it’s already the biggest frozen yoghurt player in grocery, outflanking Ben & Jerry’s best efforts and ing . Indeed, in its first three months, its strawberry minitub SKU was outselling all other minitubs in market. Wow!

A great year for sport. A washout for grocery...