Eva brings ice cream back in from the cold

A rain-drenched 2007 that, at one point, saw Unilever's ice-cream facilities in Tewkesbury submerged under water, was followed by another sodden summer, including the wettest August on record. With dairy, cocoa and sugar prices all rising rapidly, 2008 proved every bit as challenging as the previous 12 months.

Eva Longoria, the face of Magnum's £7m campaign, brought a little sunshine to sales for Britain's number one handheld ice-cream maker, however. Combined with the launch of Magnum minis, her face - and let's face it, diminutive figure - helped sales grow by ­almost 12%, against 3% for this largely impulse-driven sub-category as a whole.

There were other bright spots. Feast made a surprise leap up the charts from 15th place to 8th, increasing sales 39.1% to £8.9m. The classic treat had a packaging redesign in 2007 and it is to this that Unilever attributes the growth of the brand.

Top Launch - Jelly Babies Wobbly Lollies (Frederick Daries) 
It takes a certain kind of vision to look at a Jelly Baby and think it could become an ice lolly. That's just what someone at Fredericks Dairies did - and the company's white-coated visionaries even managed to make it wobbly. Bassett's Jelly

Babies Wobbly Ice Lollies, launched in March this year, clearly appeal to grown-ups with their 25% fruit juice content and modest 65 calories. We reckon kids will like them too.
"The redesigned packs have a more retro style, which has proved popular with consumers," said a spokesman. "Feast is now positioned as a fun product, great for snacking, while the message on multipacks has changed from 'mini' to 'bite-size'.

Distribution has also increased, with gains in both variants across multiple and impulse channels.

Meanwhile, tubs have had a good year. Sales across the category have increased by 12.2%, with Ben & Jerry's now a whisker away from overtaking Unilever sister brand Carte D'Or. As consumers move from eating out to holding dinner parties at home, the tub has an important role to play, either as a dessert in its own right or as an accompaniment to other sweet dishes.

Hill Station, which makes own-label and Loseley-branded ice-cream, saw sales increase 33.3%. But the company had accrued debts of £10m and went into administration in October. Turnaround specialist David Lavelle and Acuity Capital bought its assets, and next year will see aggressive cost saving measures implemented to shift the business back into profit.

View The Grocer's definitive Top Products 2008 survey