The family ice cream desserts sector is struggling to reverse the falling sales of recent years. In the past year alone, sales plummeted by more than 10% in value [TNS 52 w/e to January 1, 2006], as the ice cream market continued to suffer from deep discounting as well as a lack of innovation.
Valued at £26.6m, the sector now accounts for 4% of the total take home ice cream market.
Unilever Ice Cream & Frozen Food, manufacturer of brand leader Viennetta, has a good idea of what needs to be done to attract consumers back to the arena.
"For the sector to thrive, other manufacturers need to put more focus on it. The sector would benefit from rejuvenation and the right promotional activity," says business director Anuj Lal.
Recognising the importance of promotional activity, Viennetta last year benefited from a £500,000 national radio campaign over the important Christmas period, which raised awareness of in-store festive promotional activity. As a direct result an uplift in sales was seen in the majority of accounts, according to Lal.
Innovation, meanwhile, has been sorely lacking and the sector is dominated by products that have been around since the 1960s, such as Arctic roll.
And, according to Icefresh Foods, the future looks bleak for that somewhat dated offering. Mark Cobb, sales manager, says: "The staying power and appeal of the Arctic roll is not good. If the current trend continues, it will not last longer than a couple of years. Most manufacturers are concentrating on the large volume areas and ice cream desserts could very well be overlooked."
But despite all the doom and gloom, Cobb has not completely written off ice cream desserts yet. In September, Richmond Foods launched three ice cream rolls in a bid to rejuvenate the category. Cobb says there is still an opportunity in this sub-category and points to Asda's broader range of ice cream desserts such as brandy snap baskets filled with ice cream and a new Strawberry Shake cake selling at 49p.
"But, retailing at low prices is not how we pull this sector out of the doldrums. There needs to be an injection of innovation and quality."
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