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Feature Article: Life in the Freezer

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Exciting new products should see ice cream sales sizzle this summer

With the temperatures slowly creeping up, forward-thinking convenience store operators are already contemplating how they are going to get the most out of the big summer sellers, with ice cream always high on the list.

The season always sees the introduction of some exciting new flavours and variants, bringing with it an opportunity for convenience to really lift sales. In ice cream, perhaps more than just about any other category, new news is vital. New product development currently amounts to 15% of total impulse ice cream dollar sales (Aztec MAT 10/5/18), and this percentage is growing year on year.

Manufacturers producing new products and flavours is only half the story though. Convenience operators need to work hard to take full advantage of the new news excitement in order to successfully drive shopper engagement and penetration.

The ice cream category is divided into four major segments – Indulgence, Fun and Value, Refreshment, and Snacking – and stores need to carry the range to cater for all of these. The right products need to be allocated sufficient space in the freezer, to be constantly in stock with reserve stock of higher sellers under the baskets, and to be easily accessible to consumers.

According to Peters, which is responsible for market leading brands such as Drumstick, Maxibon and Connoisseur, 70% of annual value sales happen between the months of October and March. However, ice cream is relevant to convenience shoppers 12 months of the year.

Segments like refreshment which includes products like Peters’ Frosty Fruit and Icy Pole, and Streets’ Splice and Calippo brands are obviously more very dependent on the weather than other segments like indulgence or snacking. The Snacking segment has been a real driver of growth in the convenience channel recently (+6% Aztec MAT 27/5/18) with new snacking occasions driving frequency of purchase in this space.

Ice cream is enjoyed by all ages, with mid afternoons typically a time that sees strong sales.  According to Convenience Measures Australia, ice cream over indexes on female shoppers at 49% versus the channel average of 38% in the channel; ice cream shoppers are three times more likely to be on a treat mission versus the average snacks shopper; and when ice cream shoppers are making a purchasing decision they are 70% more likely than the average snack shopper to be choosing by flavour.

While warmer weather obviously has an impact on ice cream consumption, it is not the only driver of purchase. Convenience operators can use price and combo deals to spark a sales uplift, but the real secret is to maximise the impact of new products by using bold and emotive point of sale material.

Strong point of sales exposure with lots of appetite appeal has been proven to drive strong consumption uplifts. According to Peters Ice cream, once the shopper gets to the freezer they will buy an ice cream more than 66% of the time. Therefore the key to conversion is getting shoppers to the ice cream freezer, aided by emotive point of sale along their path to purchase.

Take home ice cream is far less seasonal than the other segments, with minimal volume reductions into winter and this is an area which is seeing good growth in the channel. According to Convenience Measures Australia, the average spend of take home ice cream shoppers is double the channel average.

The most recent state of the industry report from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) said that this stronger take home performance was driven by ‘premium indulgence’.

“It reflects a trend toward evening at-home treats and sharing occasions that is driving ice cream growth in global markets,” the report said.

Peters Ice Cream is certainly aware of the growing take home trend.

“As we start to see a growing number of ‘top up’ shopper missions emerge within the channel we encourage all retailers to have take home ice cream offers for their shoppers,” said Peters’ Category Manager, Ronan O’Connell. “Ice cream is the number one go-to dessert for Australians and the channel needs to have offers across all formats to meet customer needs.”

Of course, grocery is still where most consumers traditionally get their take home tubs but it cannot match convenience for sheer accessibility and ease of purchase.  Price is the not the first consideration in the convenience consumer purchase decision hierarchy, and tapping into the emotive and impulse nature of the channel will continue to deliver sustainable growth. Conversely, the grocery shopper is driven by price and is disconnected from the joy of immediate consumption.

Ice cream is a category that is consumed by everyone and, as consumers continue to put greater priority on shopping location, the convenience channel has an opportunity to increase market share. Market leaders such as Peters certainly recognise that the petrol and convenience space can be just as important to ice cream as grocery.

“We see it as a medium that allows the consumer to trial and interact with our brands and products,” said Peters’ Ronan O’Connell. “Consumers now expect regular innovation from the ice cream category.”

This summer looks set to be another very exciting one in the ice cream freezer in terms of innovation. Peters has just extended the range of high quality tubs and sticks of its premium ice cream brand, Connoisseur, to include a new, exciting innovation – Gourmet Ice Cream Cookies.  In the convenience channel, customers can enjoy Madagascan vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, and Murray River salted caramel with macadamia and white chocolate cookies.

Unilever – which boasts the Streets Ice Cream brand and iconic products such as Magnum, Gaytime, Paddle Pop, and Cornetto – is also gearing up for a big summer.

Since first being introduced in Australia in 1959, the Gaytime’s basic combination of toffee and vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in honeycomb biscuit crumbs has been tweaked multiple times. This recent introduction of the Golden Gaytime Sanga which promised ‘improved crumb technology’ and more ice cream, sandwiched between two soft, golden biscuits, has proved to be a huge sales driver.

Similarly, Streets has shown itself to be always willing to experiment with its iconic Paddle Pop range to spark new interest in the category.

It is re-introducing Paddle Pop Choc-Mint Paw Print just in time for the warmer months. The favourite from the ’90s consists of chocolate ice cream coated with mint and dusted with chocolate paw prints. Some of the other much-loved retro products that have recently been brought back for a limited time include Caramel Choc-Dip, and Bionic Bubble Gum.

“Streets Paddle Pop believes in wholesome childhood fun,” said a Streets spokesperson. “We want each generation to grow up sharing happy moments with Streets Paddle Pop, just like their parents did.”

Market research company Euromonitor International says the re-launching of Paddle Pop’s Bionic Bubble Gum flavour has been a way of paying homage to consumer childhood memories. It also notes a new demand for premium ice cream offers.

“Co-branding strategies have enabled brands to not only experiment with new flavours, but to also experiment with new marketing techniques,” said Fatima Marquez, research associate at Euromonitor International. “This has been particularly successful for high equity brands like Bulla who partnered with Bailey’s in 2017 to launch ‘The Bailey’s Chocolat Luxe’.”

In its state of the industry report, the AACS said this premiumisation was a phenomenon that looked set to continue.

“It reflects an observable trend in ice cream globally whereby consumers are slowly moving away from standard everyday ice cream to authentic and flavoursome upscale brands that deliver better quality experiences,” it said.

In the Indulgence segment, Peters’ Connoisseur is a brand that continues to go from strength to strength in the Australian market.

“Flavours that push the boundaries in this segment are most successful and Connoisseur continues to pride itself on being a leader in this space,” said Ronan O’Connell from Peters. “Our Murray River Salted Caramel SKU is a very strong performer, as well as our recent addition White Choc, Coconut and Queensland Mango.”

Another interesting trend noticed by Euromonitor International which appears likely to grow over coming years is the increased demand in the ‘better for you space’.

“Health and wellness remained at the forefront of product innovation and category development, with Free From Dairy Products experiencing strongest value growth,” said Euromonitor International’s Fatima Marquez. “Adjacent to other snacking categories, brands are encouraged to consider health and wellness alternatives especially as consumers health concerns heighten.”

Peters says that, with 57% of shoppers trying to make healthier choices, the category needs to start catering for this demand, driving penetration of ice cream, and making ice cream more of a permissible treat.

As always then, there is plenty going on in this most innovative of categories. With summer on its way, convenience store operators need to ensure freezers are clean and defrosted and to be fully prepared for ice creams’ time in the sun. Getting the ranging right will be absolutely critical, but so too will be making good use of point of sale material to highlight exciting new products. Stores that employ big and bold in-store activation can expect to see ice cream sales sizzle.

* Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine would like to thank Peters, Unilever, Convenience Measures Australia, and Euromonitor International for supplying information for this article.

AT A GLANCE

  • New product development currently amounts to 15% of total impulse ice cream dollar sales (Aztec MAT 10/5/18), and this percentage is growing year on year.
  • The right ice cream products need to be allocated sufficient space in the freezer, to be constantly in stock with reserve stock of higher sellers under the baskets, and to be easily accessible to consumers.
  • The most effective tool for stores seeking to maximise the impact of new ice cream products is to use bold and emotive point of sale material.
  • Take home ice cream is far less seasonal than the other segments, with minimal volume reductions into winter and this is one area which is seeing good growth in the channel.

 

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