after what can only be described as two abysmal summers weather-wise, manufacturers and retailers will be hoping against hope that it will be third time lucky this year, and that the sun will shine on 2009.

And if English folklore is to be believed, it looks as though their wishes could be granted. It dictates that a cold winter precedes a hot summer, and there is little doubt that the start of 2009 has been cold.

While much of the UK shivered under a blanket of snow and ice, manufacturers were putting the final touches to new product launches and campaigns to melt even the iciest of hearts.

Value for money looks set to be the biggest focus for manufacturers this year as they seek to beat the effects of the credit crunch and induce shoppers to buy.

R&R Ice Cream, one of the fastest-growing manufacturers of impulse lines, is kicking off the 2009 ice cream season with the launch of further brand extensions for its Lyons Maid value range. Priced at just £1 each, the range consists of: an eight-pack of raspberry ripple mousse; three-pack of milk chocolate sticks; and 800ml vanilla raspberry ripple and Neapolitan oval tubs. A new pack of strawberry, blackcurrant and pineapple splits is also available to retailers now.

According to Mars trade relations manager Bep Sandhu, the number of products bearing a pricemark is set to rocket this year and in-store promotions will be a key sales driver.

This year Mars plans to focus on its core range of best-sellers, introducing 'just £2' price flashes on Mars Snickers and Maltesers multipacks.

Melanie Rolfe, category manager for Unilever Ice Cream, believes that the credit crunch could actually be good news for the UK ice cream category. "Many people will choose to take their summer holidays at home this summer, rather than spending lots of money on expensive holidays abroad. This is obviously great news for manufacturers, and particularly for convenience store retailers who will benefit from increased impulse purchases.

"We are also expecting more people to eat at home rather than going out for meals, which is obviously more good news for the sector," she adds.

Another trend driving innovation in the ice cream category is nostalgia. As the economic environment worsens shoppers are keen to reminisce on happier times, and indulgent products such as ice cream can be key in helping them do so, says Birds Eye head of trade marketing Chester Robinson.

Earlier this year Birds Eye announced the return of iconic dessert brand Arctic Roll. The retro treat is now available in raspberry ripple and triple chocolate flavours, backed by a high-profile £3m multimedia campaign.

"Arctic Roll is an iconic classic," says Robinson. "During the '80s the dessert was so popular that more than 25 miles of Arctic Roll were produced and sold each month."

The company is hoping to re-ignite the popularity of Arctic Roll among new generations. "We will be particularly focusing on mums aged between 28 and 44, offering a low-cost tasty treat for the family," he adds.

Another iconic brand looking to fire up the ice cream market is KitKat. From March onwards the popular chocolate treat will be available as an ice cream cone complete with a real KitKat finger, and it's exclusive to the impulse market. R&R is also looking to build on its successful Huge Value Nestlé bars range with a new Lion ice cream bar.

Indulgent eats

Despite the financial crisis, manufacturers remain bullish about the prospects for premium and luxury ice cream products in 2009 and beyond.

TNS Word Panel data shows that the market for everyday premium ice cream products increased by 12.8% in the 24 weeks to September 7, 2008, while the super premium category grew by 7.8%.

Green & Blacks senior brand manager Natalie Brown is confident that this trend will continue. "We all know that the credit crunch is affecting consumers' buying behaviour, but indulgent products such as Green & Blacks are all about luxury and consumers are still keen to treat themselves. They may not be able to afford an expensive new handbag, but they are happy to indulge with ice cream," she says.

R&R's Hambling believes that the credit crunch could actually benefit indulgent ice cream brands, as high-pressure lifestyles and stress prompt people to treat themselves more often.

As a result, R&R is launching two new indulgent impulse variants to its already successful Thorntons sticks range. Priced at £1.52 for a 100ml stick, Pure White Delight and Mint Choc Truffle are available to retailers now.

Häagen-Dazs is also investing heavily in its range of luxury ice creams. This month marks the launch of Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition cherries & cream. The product, which combines indulgent cherry ice cream with sweet black cherry pieces, will be available for six months from March.

"Luxury is still the jewel in the ice cream crown," says the company's sales director Andy Foweather. "It's for this reason that retailers should allocate sufficient freezer space to luxury ice cream."

Creamy luxury products also tend to be much less weather dependent than their more refreshing juicier cousins, good news if the UK does get hit by another wet and cold summer.

One brand sure to brighten up the chiller aisle regardless of the weather is new Magnum Temptation. The brand, positioned as a "supremely indulgent" addition, hit shelves last week.

The sticks are made using new 'cold shaping' technology, and come as singles, packaged in their own boxes, or in a multipack of four.

Unilever UK senior Magnum brand manager Anna Ford says: "Magnum Temptation has been a storming success elsewhere in Europe. In these gloomy economic times, we offer consumers an affordable bite of luxury."

The range comprises Magnum Temptation caramel & almonds and Magnum Temptation chocolate (chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce plus white Belgian chocolate chunks and brownie pieces in a dark Belgian chocolate shell).

Mars is also attempting to capitalise on its Galaxy brand by enriching its ice cream range with a new indulgent pack design. Packs will also bear a new 'real dairy ice cream' flash to further enhance its luxury perception.
Top 10
1 Luxury Magnum Classic

2 Luxury Magnum White

3 Flake Cone

4 Luxury Magnum Double Caramel

5 Luxury Thorntons triple choc sticks

6 Luxury Magnum Mint

7 Galaxy Cones Ice Cream

8 Th/tons choc ice Toffee Temptation

9 Mars Xtra Ice Cream Bar

10 Cornetto Whippy

Source: AC Nielsen impulse 24 weeks to Sep 6 '08
top tips
Site freezers in a visible place — preferably next to other impulse categories such as crisps, confectionery and soft drinks

Ensure good visibility and lighting

Branded merchandising trays can help tidy up the freezer and give it a professional look

If you have the space a great way of generating sales in independent retail outlets is through branded freezers

Use outdoor pos material such as flags and swing signs to let customers know that you sell ice cream, and to lure them into your store

Select the right range — remove slow sellers that tie up money and space. Offer a balanced choice for kids and adults with different product types such as bars and cones and so on

Remember that new products can stimulate sales.
retailer opinion
"Ice cream is a big seller in my store and I sell it all year round, not just in the summer. My freezer is located right at the front of the store by the checkouts, perfect for people doing a larger shop and buying multipacks, or for impulse purchases.

"Premium products are still performing well, although they fly out of the freezer as soon as there is any kind of promotion on.

"People clearly want luxury, but they are looking at the price at the same time; it's a real sign of the times. Low-fat and diet products don't sell at all well in my store and I have now removed all of these types of products from my freezer for this year as I wasn't making any money on them.

"My top-selling product by far is good old-fashioned Wall's vanilla ice cream in a 2ltr tub. It just goes to show that despite all the new launches of the past years, shoppers still prefer the old classics. They are classic because they are simple and versatile. Vanilla goes with almost everything."

Mike Boyce, Daisy Fresh and Essential, Wolverhampton
new products
Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's is unveiling its fourth Fairtrade flavour in the UK. New Fairtrade chocolate macadamia is a delicate mix of Fairtrade chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with a heap of chunky chocolate covered Macadamia nuts.

It is thought to be a good fit with the brand's other Fairtrade flavours: classic vanilla, vanilla toffee crunch and chunky monkey.

Fairtrade chocolate macadamia is available in 500ml tubs (eight per case) with a rrp of £4.19.

Carte D'Or

Carte D'Or is continuing to innovate with a new caramel cinnamon waffle flavour ice cream tub. The latest addition to the successful Carte D'Or family will benefit from marketing support, including TV.

It combines a smooth caramel cinnamon ice cream with a vanilla cinnamon flavour ice cream, swirled with a caramel cinnamon sauce and topped with waffle pieces. The company is hoping to repeat the success of its Chocolate Inspiration variant launched last year.