Birds Eye Arctic Roll – whose relaunch came to symbolise the creditcrunch- inspired retro food craze – has fallen on hard times, with only one of the big four retailers still listing the ice-cream logs.

The 1970s classic returned to shelves at the end of 2008 supported by a £3m marketing push, and by March 2009 was back in all of the big four. Industry observers suggested its combination of nostalgic charm and low cost – it was priced at about £1.99 but could regularly be snapped up for just £1 on deal – made it a winner with recession-hit shoppers.

It was a key player in the retro food revival that brought back Wispa and Monster Munch in its original 1970s packaging.

But Arctic Roll’s comeback has since faltered. After the 36% fall recorded in last year’s Top Products survey (The Grocer, 18 December 2010) the decline has accelerated, with sales down 38% year-on-year in the past 12 months to less than £4m, according to SymphonyIRI data [52w/e 29 October 2011]. It was delisted by Asda last year, Tesco this spring and, most recently, Sainsbury’s. It is still stocked by Waitrose and Morrisons, which also carries a chocolate variant.

Increased competition may have taken a toll on the brand, suggested David Ware, head of grocery at SymphonyIRI. “Premium desserts have become cheaper and as the downturn climate lingers shoppers have moved to other alternatives,” he said.

Birds Eye said it still saw a future for the brand – at least for the next year – though it admitted volumes had dropped even when sold on promotion. “We have recently appraised the product and found that it enjoys a consistent level of weekly sales. We have orders from some retailers in the UK and for export that will last for 2012 and beyond,” said a spokeswoman.

It was no surprise that Arctic Roll was in decline, said branding experts, as retro products typically followed a pattern of peaking soon after launch and then slowly declining.

“Comeback positioning isn’t sustainable,” said Sally Kay, consultant at branding agency The Value Engineers. “Lasting nostalgia is very diffi cult for brands to pull off . For Arctic Roll to be sustainable it needs to create a more distinctive and relevant positioning.”

She added that the relaunch might not be viewed as a failure by Birds Eye, however. “Retro desserts and confectionery can be used very eff ectively to generate buzz around a parent brand, even if this particular SKU doesn’t last .”