1. Branded take home ice cream is up 31% vs 2021

2. 86% of people claim to enjoy ice cream most during the summer

3. Nearly a quarter (23%) of ice cream consumption occasions are now as a snack

4. Ice cream can be a year-round category

5. Free-from ice cream is growing

6. In the last five years indulgent ice creams have outperformed the rest of the category

Take Home Ice Cream Freezer

1. Branded take home ice cream is up 31% vs 2021


This summer, spare a thought for all the single ice creams. Because though they might get some attention when the mercury rises, it’s the multipacks that are increasingly capturing consumers’ eyes in c-stores.

“It has been take-home ice cream driving [c-stores’] performance and branded take home ice cream in particular with growth of 31% vs 2021 [Nielsen],” confirms Zak Dixon, category insight manager at Froneri.

The big switch in shopper behaviour is that those packs don’t necessarily make it all the way home. Instead, recession-hit families are splitting multipacks up to eat on the street.

“We used to have a massive range of single ice creams,” says Anita Nye from Eldred Drive Store in Kent. “But we’ve cut that right back and gone on to stock more of the multi-packs. And that’s purely about price. For the majority of families that come in, buying ice creams individually would cost too much money when multipacks are a fraction of the price overall.”

“I think some ice creams are pricing themselves out of the market,” adds Sue Nithyanandan from Costcutter Epsom in Surrey.

“When you look at a single Magnum, they’re more than two pounds and that’s too much for a lot of families, especially when they can get a similar size in the multipacks.”

She bolsters her sales by putting multipacks of core range favourites on a deal, such as four Cornetto’s for £1.70.

Michelle Frost, general manager at Mars Chocolate Drinks and Treats, maintains the multipack trend is here to stay – and a way to boost ice cream sales all year round.

“The impulse market will always spike during warmer spells, with a knock-on effect to sales within grocery, but it seems multipacks are proving to be the consistent all year-round favourite to combat the inconsistent patterns that weather can bring to the market,” she says.

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Teenagers eating ice cream on road trip

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2. 86% of people claim to enjoy ice cream most during the summer

More than four in five consumers say that ice cream is most enjoyable during the summer (Tesco). People may remember last year’s as particularly wet – and yet according to the Met Office, the UK recorded the hottest June and joint hottest September on record in 2023, with temperatures topping 33C.

“[Last summer’s weather overall] wasn’t that amazing but we did see steady sales, right?” says Sue.

“Ice cream will sell whatever the format, especially when it’s a nice day. It’s important to remember that not everybody has families [they need to buy ice cream for].

“So, people might come in to drop off a parcel and see the freezer there so it prompts them to pick up a single ice cream. I also have a sign I put out during summer just to remind people.”

If it is a scorcher for 2024 (and we’re all hoping) Unilever UK category director Lucy Richardson recommends making sure you have a second supplier up your sleeve in case of sell-outs.

“You can’t control the weather but, by planning ahead, you can make sure that you are in the best place to maximise sales when the sun does come out,” she says.

“Consider identifying a secondary supplier for ice cream, as stock can sell out fast in sunny weather – it’s disheartening to turn customers away because you haven’t stocked up.”

One British classic that covers all bases is Cadbury’s Flake 99.

“[It] remains the biggest cone in the total take home market [Nielsen] and it’s also the best-selling cone in the impulse market too, and the third bestselling product in the context of all impulse products [Nielsen] – so an absolute must stock!” says Dixon.

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Couple share ice cream tub in kitchen

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3. Nearly a quarter (23%) of ice cream consumption occasions are now as a snack

Thrift isn’t the only driver for take-home ice cream sales. The aftermath of Covid-19 has also had a lasting impact.

“Consumers have always snacked on ice cream but over the last couple of years we have seen this trend accelerating,” says Dixon.

“Covid-19 had a part to play in this as, whilst people were at home more, they looked more to their freezer for snacks. Consumers have stuck with these habits they formed during lockdown and when we look at consumption data, we can see that 23% of all ice cream consumption occasions are as a snack, up from just 19% 3 years ago [Kantar].”

This ‘freezer-as-snack-cupboard’ trend is influencing innovation. The new Carte d’Or Mini Indulgence range offers 200ml tubs for portion-controlled ice cream snacking. Mini pot singles are showing strong demand, up 10% YoY [Nielsen].

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Woolly glove holding Cornetto

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4. Ice cream can be a year-round category

One of the selling points behind the new Carte D’Or range is what Unilever describes as its “deseasonalisation” strategy for ice cream. And that’s always been retailers’ ice cream dream: to maintain sales year-round with minimum tweaking.

To help achieve this, Chloe Taylor-Green from Spar Western Downs in Staffordshire saw a store refurb which maximised space for ice cream.

“We used to have a stand-up fridge with ice at the bottom so it only gave you a certain amount of space,” she says.

“Then when we had the store refurb [in June 2024] we invested in a two-door cabinet which just gives us more space to play with.”

That means she can have the full Ben & Jerry’s core range, plus also the Spar ranges and multipacks of Magnums and Rocket lollies to boot. Shoppers can also choose an ice cream milkshake through the store’s f’Real machine too.

“We’re really blessed to have a walk-in freezer out back so we can keep our ice cream backed up really efficiently,” she says.

Sue says that some symbol groups have been advising against ice cream freezers, as they see sales as purely seasonal. She runs cold on the idea.

“In winter we keep the section going by putting more of the ice cream tubs [in our freezer] she says.

“We don’t leave it empty. And that’s because people still treat themselves over winter, it’s not like this winter was particularly cold either! You know, ice cream sells all year round, in some format or the other.”

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Vegan ice cream

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5. Free-from ice cream is growing

Stocking free-from ice cream isn’t going to hit the hot spot for every c-store. Yet, if you’re in the kind of area where dairy-reducers abound it’s worth investing in this expanding category.

“Free From makes up 4% of the category and is growing [Kantar],” says Richardson“If you have customers that you know have special dietary needs, consider offering a vegan product.

There’s certainly plenty around. Magnum was definitely a trailblazer in the category, with Unilever launching vegan versions of the decadent dessert back in 2018 – which won PETA’s stamp of approval at its Vegan Food Awards 2019. This year it’s pushing the envelope even further with new vegan Magnum Chill Blueberry Cookie, offering a “multisensory experience” through blueberry sorbet encased in vanilla biscuit flavour ice cream and crunchy cookie pieces.

Elsewhere, Ben & Jerry’s is hopping on the trend for oat milk with its Oat of this Swirled Sundae, the first flavour to use the brand’s new oat recipe.

“Using oat for our new dairy alternative base offers an improved taste and texture, resulting in a dairy-free tub with no compromise,” says Flo Howell, country business lead at Ben & Jerry’s UK. “The rest of our non-dairy range will also be making the switch to the new oat base throughout the year.”

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Chocolate stick ice cream

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6. In the last five years indulgent ice creams have outperformed the rest of the category

So, shoppers are skint right now. But Dixon maintains this means they’re looking for ‘elevated experiences’ every day – including luxury ice cream.

“Ice cream has benefitted because it is one of the most treaty things you can eat!”, he says.

“If we look at more indulgent types of ice cream product, [like chocolate coated sticks and things with inclusions and sauce] we can see that these have outperformed the rest of the category over the last five years (up 34.4% vs the rest of the category at 24.6%) so it’s clear that indulgence is important to consumers [Nielsen].

“It’s this shopper behaviour trend which will have been playing a key role in the success of the Nuii indulgent ice cream stick brand. This has grown to be the third largest brand in the largest sector of the ice cream category now [Kantar]. 

In recent data it has been the only added-value sticks range to grow year on year [Nielsen] .”

Chloe says that premium products are all part of the mix, but reckons you have to get them in “on a decent deal”. This chimes with Anita’s thoughts on Magnum in her store.

“We used to do quite well with Magnums a few years ago but then Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis hit and now they feel like a real luxury for most people. They only did well on a promotion or as part of a meal deal – now we concentrate more on the tubs: it’s all about feeding more than one person.”

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