The Grocer’s 2017 Top Products Survey, THE definitive guide to the current state of the UK’s grocery industry

A good summer has always translated into strong ice cream sales; a washout dampens demand. But this year it seems ice cream is finally managing to uncouple sales performance from the vagaries of the weather.

Sales of tub and handheld ice creams have soared by £44.7m (4.9%) on volumes up 1.5% in spite of a typically wet British summer, which saw 53% above average rainfall in July and 8% above average in August. So does ice cream still need the sunshine?

It certainly still helps, even if manufacturers and retailers are making ice cream more of a ‘whatever the weather’ treat through savvy NPD and promotions. “Ice cream surpassed the £1bn sales barrier in the year to 24 June - a milestone moment,” says Unilever VP for brand building Noel Clarke.

The period is significant. Although June was far wetter than average overall (it was the sixth wettest on record), there was a heatwave in the middle of the month in which temperatures exceeded 30C for five days straight. That’s perfect ice cream eating weather.

Our data covers the year to 9 September and shows that overall sales later dropped below the £1bn mark (combined handheld and tub sales stand at £953.9m here). Nevertheless, Brits are eating more ice cream, and paying more for the privilege, than a year ago.

Häagen-Dazs can take much of the credit for this. Sales are up by £10.6m (ice cream’s greatest gain) following the launch of single portion tubs for its ice creams and new sorbets. Owner General Mills said the launch was a bid to tap “trend-setting millennials”.

Indulgent NPD suited to at-home (and therefore less weather-reliant) occasions has helped Magnum add £5.8m in handheld. Clarke says Magnum’s raspberry and coconut Double lines have taken the top spot in both take home and impulse. The brand’s re-entry to tubs added another £5.3m (see below). The success of such premium brands as Häagen-Dazs and Magnum has been to the detriment of mid-tier lines from Cornetto and Carte D’Or.

Meal deals are also helping ice cream become a year-round treat, says Froneri head of marketing Charlotte Hambling. “Cadbury (up £4.9m in handheld) resonates with families,” she adds. “We’re driving family shoppers into the indulgent sticks market.”


magnum ice cream tub

Magnum Tubs by Unilever

Magnum is back in tubs with an ice cool trio aimed at cementing the brand’s high-end appeal. With the backing of an equally indulgent advertising budget, the tubs have totted up nearly £5.3 million in sales since their February launch. Following a yearlong absence, the new and improved range features indulgent vanilla ice cream with almond pieces or chocolate shards encased in a chocolatey shell that replicates Magnum’s trademark ‘snap’ when cracked with a spoon. Cracking stuff!

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The Grocer Top Products Survey 2017: Up!