Sales of confectionery brand ice creams lurch about because they are dependent on heavy advertising and on the perception of their mainstream siblings. One buyer is not impressed

t has been a mixed year for confectionery brands with sales of some big brand names, including Mars and Galaxy, experiencing serious downturns, while others, such as products under the Cadbury and Nestlé brands, have managed to produce strong figures.
According to ACNielsen, Cadbury-branded products have had a very good year with its two main brands experiencing double digit growth. Dairy Milk ice creams were up 16.4% in value and Flake rose 34.8% [52 w/e October 1, 2005]. Masterfoods, on the other hand, had a very poor year with its confectionery branded products. Its Maltesers brand fell 5.7% for the same period, Mars ice cream dropped 17.7% and Galaxy fared even worse, dropping 25%.
"Confectionery brands continue to be an important product slot within the ice cream fixture although there is little growth in the area overall," says Somerfield's category buyer for ice cream and frozen desserts Louise Dunford.
"Individual manufacturers compete for the top spot, which is generally determined by promotional activity. Therefore, they will see growth at the expense of their competitors, which explains the big gaps in the performance of brands within the sector."
With price and promotion key factors in ensuring sales, Masterfoods is, in its eagerness to halt plummeting sales, putting substantial marketing support behind its ice cream portfolio, including struggling Mars and Galaxy, which will benefit from a £3.6m marketing support programme this year - a 38% increase on 2005's spend.
The push will incorporate nationwide sampling and a direct mail campaign throughout the summer period.
The company also recently announced that it was providing an everyday, lighter way to enjoy Maltesers ice cream with the launch of a 31g ball-shaped bar containing mini-sized versions of the chocolate brand.
Fredericks Dairies, which, according to TNS data, last year became the number two branded ice cream manufacturer in the UK, plays a big part when it comes to confectionery brands.
Its portfolio includes both Cadbury and Del Monte lines and the company strongly believes that the sector offers lots of scope for further growth.
"The trend of consumers trading up is bound to add growth to the sector and we would expect to see the confectionery brands sector increase by 3-4% in value in the coming year," says David Taylor, marketing director. "Meanwhile, we expect 20% growth from our offerings as a whole."
The ice cream manufacturer has a raft of new product developments up its sleeve for this year, some of which have already hit freezers.
Newcomers from Fredericks Dairies in 2006 includes well-known Cadbury confectionery brands such as Creme Egg stick, Dairy Milk Fudge bar, Crunchie Blast stick, as well as Flake '99 Mint.
Not to be left out, Richmond Foods has this month launched a £2 Huge Value campaign across its Nestlé branded confectionery range following last year's £1 Huge Value campaign, which the company said proved to be a major success with shoppers.
The products featured in the campaign are Smarties and After Eight cones, Rolo and After Eight sticks and Toffee Crisp and Rolo bars, with a Rolo cone joining the range later this year.
However, despite the flurry of activity, not everyone is enthusiastic about the future of the confectionery brands market. David Lunn, chill & freeze trading controller at Nisa-Today's, for one, is sceptical of further growth in the category and believes that ice cream brands need to be marketed as strongly as their confectionery counterparts to be a success.
"I do believe that there is a place for selected confectionery brands in the market but the category relies too much on the confectionery advertising of sweets with not enough emphasis put on ice cream," he says. "I don't see this as an area of growth."