The summer of 2007 sent a collective shiver through the ice cream industry when the predicted heatwave failed to materialise. It was a record-breaking year for all the wrong reasons; the wettest May to July since 1766, recording a whopping 387.6mm of rain compared with a yearly average of 186.3mm. Hours of sunshine were, unsurprisingly, below average, and bad news for impulse ice cream.
What really seemed to confound retailers was that most manufacturers Convenience Store spoke to in March last year were looking forward to an above-average summer - not quite rivalling 2003, but getting there. Met Office spokesman Barry Gromett says that he thinks the mix-up may have been due to people taking global forecasts and using them to predict British weather. "The problems arose after we had issued a forecast for the mean temperatures across the globe, which suggested that because of El Niño, 2007 was likely to end up as one of the warmest years on record, if not the warmest. As it happened El Niño declined much more rapidly than we thought and actually went into a reverse phase and cooled."
But, he says, even if the mean global temperature had been high, it couldn't be taken for granted that Britain would be basking in sunshine. Not that this bothered some of the tabloid headline writers. Gromett says that sensationalist reporting led to a mistaken belief that the UK was in for a record-breaking summer. "You just can't predict from that distance," says Gromett. "If you ask me about this summer, I'd have to say I just don't know. The first summer forecast will be at the end of April covering June, July and August, but even then it'll be couched in the most general terms."
For a market so disproportionally reliant on weather, the effect on impulse was significant. Fredericks sales and marketing director David Taylor says: "The market was down about 15% and the weather really took its toll."
Wall's out-of-home category manager Mel Rolfe agrees. "The market in hand-held singles lost almost £23m in sales, so you can see that it had a big effect," she says.
R&R senior marketing manager Charlotte Hambling also concurs: "It was an incredibly difficult year, particularly in ice lollies. It's especially hard in a sector where you are building stock very early.
In April we thought it would be a great summer."
All are hopeful for growth this year. Says Taylor: "We went into last year with the expectation that we were going to grow. We had better distribution and this year lots more people were listing our product. I think that this year we'll benefit from that delayed bounce and I've no doubt we'll see a nice growth this year over and above the market."
Says Mars Snackfood trade relations manager Bep Sandhu:
"The weather obviously plays a key role in sales and we would love to see a better summer this year. But our role is to ensure that retailers are able to maximise their sales, whatever the weather."
One way to try to put some volume back is with new products, which can account for as much as 10% of sales. Last year the Wall's range had a hit with its Choco Disc in the Cornetto range and this year it's introducing Cornetto Frutti Disc (rrp £1.10). This cheesecake flavour ice cream has a raspberry ripple sauce topped with a disc of fruit of the forest purée with milk chocolate.
Adding some fun to the children's sector is the brand's other piece of npd for the year, Footballissimo (rrp 65p). The ice cream is shaped like a football with four whistle sticks to collect and comprises vanilla and chocolate flavour ice cream.
In take home, Wall's continues its policy of driving frequency by targeting snacking occasions, adding to its Milk Time range with the UK's first probiotic lolly. The six-pack (rrp £1.99) lolly is a mixture of milk and probiotic yogurt plus strawberry sauce, in a bottle shape. Also new are Cornetto Minis - six mini Classico and six mini Chocolate (rrp £1.99).
Further npd comes from the Magnum brand. Mayan Mystica (rrp £1.10 for singles and £2.79 for a multipack for three) is a combination of chocolate ice cream coated with milk chocolate blended with cinnamon, honey and nutmeg flavours. Says Magnum senior brand manager Anna Ford: "Rather than talking about the provenance of cocoa beans, which we did last year, we've taken the story back to the ancient Mayans and the birthplace of chocolate."
Backing the launch is the new 'face' of Magnum, actress Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives fame, who will be fronting all advertising including TV, posters, pos and PR. The launch brings the Magnum singles range to seven with the only delist being Columbian Aroma in take-home multipack.
In its place, and as predicted in C-Store last year, comes a miniature version of Magnum. Magnum Minis are half the size of impulse Magnums and are available in three variants: new chocolate & strawberry; classic, white & almond; and double caramel & double chocolate. Each pack contains six Magnum minis and retails at £2.99. According to Ford the minis take the brand into snacking, designed for those looking for a smaller mid-week treat. "They're not a diet snack, they're just smaller to open up more occasions," says Ford.
A growing trend over the past few years in ice cream has been smoothies. Several launches hit the market this year, including the £147m Ribena brand, which is already performing well in lollies and push-ups.
Maker R&R says that most Smoothies currently on the market are aimed at adult consumers, while the Ribena brand brings the smoothie into the family market. The new launch contains 70 calories and is virtually fat free with no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners. Ribena Blackcurrant Smoothie retails at £1.10 for impulse and £1.99 for a three-pack take-home pack.
Another major brand extension from R&R is in the Nestlé Munchies brand, which has seen year on year growth of 25% in confectionery. An ice cream version of the bar was launched in take home last winter exclusively in Asda, with a good response. A bigger version of this is now being rolled out in impulse. Rrp is £1.10.
Staying within the Nestlé brand, but this time in luxury sticks, is new Nestlé Cheesecake stick. The ice cream (rrp £1.25) is aimed at adult consumers and shaped to reflect the Nestlé logo. The cheesecake-flavoured ice cream has a yogurt-flavour coating with biscuit inclusions and raspberry sauce.
For the premium market, R&R has launched a multipack of three Thornton's ice cream sticks in two flavours: toffee temptation and chocolate trio, a half-white, half-dark ice cream. Packs retail at £2.69.
Mars Snackfood is aiming at the impulse market, and female consumers in particular, with its new Galaxy Vanilla & Chocolate Temptation cone (rrp £1.25). Exclusive to the impulse market, the cone contains dairy ice cream with chocolate ripples and Galaxy milk chocolate. The launch will be backed by a £9m media spend in 2008, including advertising.
This year Mars is replacing its Starburst lolly and entering the smoothies market with Starburst Smoothies, available in Berry Blast and Exotic Fruits variants. Both have a rrp of £1 and contain 30% real fruit and 100 calories.
A £2m campaign for ice cream will run throughout 2008.
This year Fredericks' Del Monte range becomes the first branded range of fruit ices to earn the Food Standard Agency 5-a-day message. The 100% juice lollies are available in three-packs of orange and pineapple flavours and are free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives (rrp £1.99).
In the Bassett's range Fredericks is introducing Jelly Babies Wobbly lollies, which contain 25% real fruit juice and have 65 calories per stick. There are four flavours in the range - orange, strawberry, blackcurrant and lime - and they are available in singles (rrp 50p) or in an assorted eight-pack (£1.99).
Fredericks has also introduced three new sticks to the Cadbury range: Strawberries & Dream and Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut, available in a three-pack with a rrp of £2.39; and Bourneville Deeply Dark, available in a three-pack with a pricemark of £1.50.
Also new for kids is the Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons cone, in a six-pack with a £2 price flash. Other new cones include Cadbury Twist, available in chocolate, chocolate & fudge and chocolate & mint flavours, with
a rrp of £2.39 for a four-pack.
What's new in impulse
Wall's Cornetto Frutti Disc (rrp £1.10)
Wall's Footballissimo (rrp 65p)
Magnum Mayan Mystica (rrp £1.10)
Ribena Blackcurrant Smoothie (rrp £1.10)
Nestle Munchies ice cream (rrp £1.10)
Nestle Cheesecake stick (rrp £1.25)
Mars Galaxy Vanilla & Chocolate Temptation cone (rrp £1.25)
Mars Starburst Smoothie lolly (rrp £1)
Bassett's Jelly Babies Wobbly lollies (rrp 50p)
The Cadbury portfolio from Fredericks has undergone a redesign and now boasts a square tub design. Two new tubs join the range: Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury Flake 1ltr tubs, rrp £2.79.
As in all sectors of ice cream, premiumisation continues to drive growth. Luxury ice cream brand Haägen-Dazs has revealed its latest limited-edition flavour, raspberries & meringue, available for six months. It follows the previous limited-edition double chocolate & cookies.
General Mills is backing the brand with a £5m marketing campaign this year and will further benefit from its association with Wimbledon Tennis Championships as it is Official Ice Cream Supplier.
There is also a joint venture with chef Heston Blumenthal to discover more about Britain's obsession with ice cream.
Unilever has added to the premium Carte D'Or range with Chocolate Inspiration. The chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate pieces is swirled with vanilla ice cream and blended and topped with dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with dark chocolate. It retails at £2.79 for 900ml, with six tubs to a case.
Also under the Carte D'Or name come three new fruit sorbets containing fruit pieces. The sorbets are virtually fat free in lemon, mango and blackcurrant, with a rrp of £2.79 for 1ltr, with six tubs to a case. The Carte D'Or brand is being backed with a £6.5m marketing investment for 2008.
In super premium, R&R has teamed up with the Rachels organic brand. Double cherry and raspberry ice creams come in 500ml tubs with a rrp of £4.29.