The public is warming to premium frozen desserts, helping the category come in from the cold

The frozen desserts sector has taken a beating over recent years. While the total category is worth £258m and growing by 5% year on year, according to TNS data, this growth is all being driven by own label. The branded desserts sector, which makes up a third of all frozen desserts, is declining at -12% year on year in the total market.
But brands are still the priority for convenience stores and suppliers are fighting the decline with more premium offers. Alain Chua, marketing manager at RHM Frozen (part of Premier Foods), which manufactures the Cadbury cakes and McDougall's Upper Crust brands, says: "There is a general trend towards premiumisation. If consumers want a dessert, they want to be treated. Premium desserts account for 15% of the frozen dessert category and this figure is growing.
"There are more than 12 brands fighting for 33% of the market," he adds. "At the moment we are looking at how consumers shop the frozen desserts fixture. The sector is quite fragmented and we have to understand why consumers are buying different products. The category is currently broken down into three sectors - family, individual, and hot desserts - but we don't think that's quite right."
Frozen desserts haven't escaped the healthy eating drive and, as such, many brands are reformulating recipes. RHM Frozen's revamped McDougall's Upper Crust family fruit pie range is now free from trans and hydrogenated fats, artificial colours and flavourings. There are two 800g deep-filled pies in the range - rhubarb & raspberry lattice and apple, plum & cinnamon lattice. Both have a rrp of £2.99.
Heinz invested £5m in its Weight Watchers from Heinz brand at the end of last year, and part of that investment included the addition of three new desserts - caramel crunch, mochaccino and mint chocolate top desserts, all with a rrp of £1.49 for a pack of two desserts. Since the launch in 2005, the Weight Watchers from Heinz desserts have been growing by 35% year on year, according to IRI data for November 2006.
Heinz Frozen & Chilled UK marketing director Amanda Walker says: "Weight Watchers membership is increasing as more people are being careful about what they eat, which has created a growing demand for diet and Weight Watchers products. In response, Heinz has introduced new varieties that allow dieters to avoid the guilt usually associated with indulgence."
Tryton Foods, meanwhile, is tapping into the £60m muffin sector with the launch of Aunt Bessie's ready-to-bake double chocolate chip muffins. Tryton Foods commercial director John Hendy says: "With more than 40% of UK households buying muffins, our new double chocolate chip muffins have mass-market potential."
The company is investing £1m in a new TV campaign to promote the ready-to-bake range, which also includes a 12-pack of fairy cakes, an eight-pack of fruit scones, eight milk chocolate cookies, and a Victoria sponge cake. All the products contain no preservatives, artificial colours or sweeteners, and can be cooked straight from the freezer in 15-25 minutes.

Top 20 brands in c-stores

1. Jusrol shortcrust pastry 2kg
2. Jusrol puff pastry 1kg
3. Coppenrath & Wiese fruit strudel 600g
4. Sara Lee lemon meringue pie 417g
5. Coppenrath & Wiese apple strudel 600g
6. Sheerway raspberries 45 0g
7. Heinz banoffee cream pie 380g
8. Cadbury chocolate gateaux 8-9 portions
9. Weight Watchers eclairs 6-pack
10. Jusrol shortcrust pastry 500g
11. Country Style cream & jam doughnut 6-pack
12. McVitie's strawberry cheesecake 395g
13. Sheerway summer fruit mix
14. Aunt Bessie's spotted dick 300g
15. Aunt Bessie's jam roly poly 300g
16. Ross strawberry cheesecake 370g
17. Jusrol puff pastry 500g
18. Jusrol puff pastry 2 sheets
19. Aunt Bessie's Ready to Bake Lemon Meringue Pie 425g
20. Weight Watchers Double Chocolate 2-pack
Source: TNS, 52 weeks ending April 22, 2007