Mars UK has become the latest manufacturer to try and give ice cream year-round appeal and tap into the burgeoning sharing market with mini-format ice creams.

Galaxy Minis and multipacks of bitesize Bounty, Snickers and Mars hit shelves in the next few weeks and will be supported with a £1m summer ice cream ad campaign.

Their launch, which follows Unilever's launch of Magnum Minis last week (The Grocer, 9 February, p61), forms part of a two-pronged strategy aimed at deseasonalising the category and extending the growing 'sharing' market from chocolate and confectionery into ice cream.

"There really isn't an ice cream sharing market as it stands at the moment and we genuinely think this will bring it into new occasions that ice cream does not currently satisfy," said Sam Fielding, Mars Ice Cream brand manager.

"We are hoping to establish a sharing segment within the category and we are confident we have two brands that can do that."

Sales of Galaxy Minis and the 'A little bit of...' multipacks would not be as dependent as larger formats on good summer weather, said Fielding, predicting combined sales of £3m for the new lines.

The smaller format would also help assuage consumer concerns about rising obesity levels, which have turned sharing formats into a major growth area in recent years.

The sharing confectionery sector is now worth £1.4bn, according to IRI.

Mars is also launching two new products to the impulse sector over the next few weeks.

It forecast combined sales of £4m for the new Galaxy Vanilla & Chocolate Temptation cone and Starburst Smoothie lollies, which contain 30% real fruit and fewer than 100 calories per bar.

Separately, Del Monte announced this week that it would launch a new 100%-Juice range of fruit ice in March. It claims it is the first branded range of fruit ices to provide one of the recommended 5-a-day.

The 100% Juice range, which is available in a three-pack, will be supported by a £250,000 above-the-line marketing spend and in-store promotions throughout 2008.