Top launch: Magnum Pink & Black - Unilever

Magnum pulled out the big guns this year. And they were pink and black. Unilever splashed out a lot of lolly on marketing these raspberry and espresso-flavoured variants, devoting a good chunk of its £13m ice cream marketing budget to TV ads, and vinyl wrapping five London Routemasters in pink and black livery. It paid off. Unilever says the new sticks added £23.8m to total brand sales, making it one of the most successful launches of the year, and our top launch for ice cream.

What a washout! June’s heatwave showed promise, but the British summer soon returned to its characteristic cool, damp self in 2015. 

And it hit the ice cream sector hard. “The great British summer, or lack of one, can have a big impact on category performance,” says Unilever brand building director Noel Clarke, pointing to the £10m that’s been wiped off the ice cream market in the past year. 

In handhelds (down £8.9m), lollies such as Solero, Twister, Calippo and Fab felt the pinch as impulse sales were dampened by the weather. Even a host of NPD for Cornetto, such as taco and mini products aimed at the at-home market, and what Unilever claimed was the brand’s biggest marketing push since the 1980s, couldn’t stop sales sliding fast. 

It’s not all bad. Magnum, which has been gunning for the after-dinner crowd with innovations such as a sea salt caramel variant and the rollout of four-stick multipacks, is up 3.1% on flat volumes. Magnum’s biggest NPD of the year, Pink & Black (see below), contributed £23.8m, or 16% of the brand’s total sales. 

R&R has also defied the big freeze with its licensed chocolate handhelds Oreo and Cadbury Dairy Milk, which have racked up an extra £5.6m between them, thanks partly to the launch of a Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel stick and an Oreo stick. 

The at-home market continues to be a key target, says Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager at Mars, which has seen £3.2m wiped off its combined handheld sales. “The trend for sharing has become more prevalent, creating a boom in the ‘Big Night In’ occasion,” she says. 

The rising price of ice cream tubs bears this out. While value is down 0.3% and volumes fell 4.5%, it’s clear some are prepared to pay slightly more for a posher ice cream: average price per litre has risen by 10p to £2.47. NPD, such as Ben & Jerry’s Cookies Cores, is partly responsible for this, helping to add £4.2m in extra sales, but there’s another factor pushing up prices. 

“The rise of c-stores has aided the decrease in unit weight of larger ice cream tubs,” says Nielsen analyst Rob Fife, who tips frozen yoghurt and healthier ice cream as the key trend to watch in 2016, citing 50% value growth over the past two years.

TOP 10 Handheld ice cream   SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –1.6% Total Category 506.4 –8.9 –1.7
      Total Own Label 128.2 2.7 2.1
1 1 Magnum Unilever 152 4.5 3.1
2 2 Cornetto Unilever 36.4 –1.7 –4.5
3 3 Twister Unilever 16.2 –2.4 –13.1
4 9 Cadbury Dairy Milk R&R Ice Cream 13.8 2.5 22.2
5 4 Calippo Unilever 13.6 –0.8 –5.8
6 5 Solero Unilever 13.4 –0.7 –5.1
7 11 Oreo R&R Ice Cream 13.2 3.1 30.5
8 8 Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles R&R Ice Cream 11.8 –0.1 –1.2
9 6 Fab R&R Ice Cream 11.6 –2.1 –15.4
10 7 Mars Mars 11.5 –1.8 –13.3

 Get 20% off the full category ranking. Click here and enter discount code NIELSENGROCER

TOP 10 Ice cream tubs   SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –4.5% Total Category 395.5 –1.1 –0.3
      Total Own Label 113.4 –4.5 –3.8
1 1 Ben & Jerry’s Unilever 93.3 4.2 4.7
2 2 Carte D’Or Unilever 47.4 –2.7 –5.4
3 3 Häagen-Dazs General Mills 42.9 –4.7 –9.9
4 4 Wall’s Unilever 24.8 –0.3 –1.3
5 5 Kelly’s R&R Ice Cream 23.4 –0.9 –3.7
6 6 Viennetta Unilever 14.4 –0.8 –5.1
7 7 Mackies Mackies 12 0.8 6.9
8 8 Carte D’Or Light Unilever 4.5 –0.9 –16.4
9 9 Swedish Glace Unilever 4.1 0.2 4.9
10 11 Green & Black’s Organic Whole Earth 3.6 0.3 9

Get 20% off the full category ranking. Click here and enter discount code NIELSENGROCER