The challenge for ice cream manufacturers is to build on the growing trend for products to be sold all year round. Lisa Riley orders some premium products for her cool big night in

Considering that ice cream manufacturers see the weather as the main cause for both booming and faltering sales, hot countries such as Portugal, Spain or Italy would appear safe bets for having the highest ice cream consumption.
But, according to Fredericks Dairies, the cold climate is no more of a barrier to ice cream sales than the colour of a brand manager's socks.
Sweden and Denmark lead the way in Europe, it says, and neither is basking in temperatures of 100F.
Fredericks has a good idea why Nordic countries consume so much ice cream. "While ice cream is still mainly eaten in the summer in the UK, the Scandinavians' perception of the category is different - they see it much more as an everyday dessert option," says David Taylor, the company's marketing director.
Still, Britain is the third-largest consumer in Europe - eating around eight litres per person per year - with a take-home market worth £603m, up 1.8% on the previous year [TNS 52 w/e January 1, 2006].
The category is split more or less equally between handheld and dessert ice cream, but while the latter is struggling, down 1.1%, handheld multipacks are up 4.8%.
The market is also starting to mimic that of its Nordic counterparts, and peaks and troughs are now less obvious than a few years ago.
However, there is still lots of room for improvement. Icefresh Foods, a leading supplier of own label desserts and ice cream, is calling on retailers to help.
Simon Spence, MD, says: "Retailers should proactively try to attract shoppers to the total frozen fixture. Frozen is stuck in the 1970s with less than appealing point of sale in the majority of outlets."
He adds: "All-year-round flavours, particularly winter specials and warm chocolate flavours, will assist in ensuring that ice cream becomes popular in the colder months."
British manufacturers and retailers have both been hard at work trying to extend the summer season and deseasonalise the market.
Louise Dunford, category buyer for ice cream and frozen desserts at Somerfield, says: "Outside the main summer season, Christmas is an important sales opportunity not to be overlooked. Retailers are now trying to bring the summer season forward with some summer ranges being launched in-store as early as February."
Meanwhile, brand leader Wall's, which will be supporting its portfolio with £25m in 2006, is adamant that the key to less reliance upon the weather lies in three pillars: innovation, promotion and communication.
Anuj Lal, business director at brand owner Unilever Ice Cream & Frozen Food, says: "The launch of products every season brings excitement for the public, while promotional and communication activity drives awareness and trial of existing lines."
To this end, the food giant is taking its Magnum brand back to basics with a £6.5m relaunch and new flavours to reinforce its indulgence properties.
Looking ahead, the premium and healthy sectors are the most likely areas for growth. Premium, in particular, will continue to benefit from the ever-increasing popularity of the 'big night in', according to luxury ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's.
Antonia Kaul, brand manager, says: "Occasion consumption is a key trend, with people buying a tub of ice cream to eat in front of a film or at a barbecue, so Friday night is becoming a busy ice cream time when people treat themselves for the weekend."

Top ice cream brands
Consumer Feedback
Research Notes
Ice cream
>>By value1 Magnum2 Carte d'Or3 Cornetto4 Ben & Jerry's5 Häagen-Dazs multi-portion6 Viennetta7 Solero8 Wall's Blue Ribbon9 Mars10 CalippoSource: THE GROCER TOP PRODUCTS SURVEY 2005 [ACNIELSEN, 52 W/E OCT 1, 2005]
>>eating less often means greater indulgenceDiscounters show remarkable flair and bring something new to marketConsumers may be claiming to eat fewer fatty and indulgent foods, but their appetite for a really good treat remains undaunted, particularly as the adoption of healthier choices makes the quality and enjoyment of what are fewer treats, even more important.As in other markets, tastes are changing. Low-fat versions such as Skinny Cow and frozen yoghurt are increasingly well-received. But it is who is supplying them that is one of the most interesting features of change.While relative newcomers such as Fredericks and Richmond Foods are a continuing source of successful new ideas, over the past year it has been the hard discounters that made available some of the top new products. Ice creams from Lidl and Aldi head the ratings in both tub and handheld with maximum ratings - and were two of the top ten most popular products tested last year. Price is part of the reason, but not the whole story. Both products are sourced from Continental suppliers and bring something new to the market. Both are very good to eat and offer great value for money.
>>innovation and adding value essentialCurrently worth £603m, the take-home ice cream market has grown 1.8% in value in the latest year. The market split is split roughly equally between handheld and dessert ice cream but, while handheld has grown ahead of the market, dessert ice cream has faced a decline. Some 88% of GB households buy into the ice cream market, a slight decline from last year, but falling prices have led consumers to buy more, driving market growth.Repeating last year's trend, Iceland and Morrisons have caused the most value loss, however this has been countered by strong performances from Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda, leading to market growth. Chocolate snacks and premium dessert ice creams maintain their dominance of the handheld and dessert ice cream markets respectively. Although both have grown, only premium has risen ahead of the market, enhancing market share. While all areas in handheld have grown, premium is the only dessert ice cream area to have increased in value.Own label continues its domination of the take-home ice cream market, following growth in the chocolate snack and adult refresh ice cream sub-sectors. In the branded arena, Wall's Magnum and Carte D'or maintain their number one and two positions from last year. In terms of shoppers, the ice cream market is nearing saturation, so further growth is more likely to come from consumers increasing their category spend. Encouraging cross-sector purchasing will influence this, as will further innovation and adding value to existing offerings.Liz Da Cruz, TNS Worldpanel
>>By value Value Share % chg (£m) % y-o-yTotal ice cream 603.113 100 1.8HANDHELD MULTIPACKS 303.870 50.4 4.8Choc snacks 156.510 26.0 1.0Children's 61.519 10.2 5.8Filled cones 60.521 10.0 14.6Adult refresh 25.320 4.2 5.5DESSERT ICE CREAM 299.243 49.6 -1.1Premium ice cream 144.546 24.0 5.0Standard ice cream 70.321 11.7 -0.2Luxury ice cream 46.961 7.8 -9.4Family ice cream 26.565 4.4 -10.1Individual ice cream 10.849 1.8 -16.2Source: TNS worldpanel 52 w/e january 1, 2006