Ice cream consumption is set to soar over the coming months as consumers seek a refreshing and cooling summer treat. Donna Ahern reports
As the countdown to the summer begins, the nation’s 'favourite dessert,' ice cream, which is synonymous with all things sweet and sunny, is repositioning itself as a seasonal essential.
Ice cream has always been an indulgent category, and research over the years has shown that it always comes out on top, maintaining its position as Irish consumers’ go-to dessert of choice.
According to research conducted by Nielsen, the ice-cream market in the Republic of Ireland was worth €150 million in the latest 52 weeks up to 23 February 2020.
Take home ice-cream currently accounts for 70% of the total ice-cream market, which is great news for grocery retailers.
Multiples account for 33% of total value ice cream sales, over-performing on take home ice-cream (44% share) and under-performing on impulse ice-cream (7% share).
Symbol groups and forecourts account for 40% of total ice-cream sales, over-performing on impulse ice-cream (93% share) and under-performing on take home ice-cream (18% share).
Discounters only stock take home ice-cream and have a 38% share of this market and a 27% share of the total ice-cream market.
The influence of the weather makes the ice cream sector unpredictable, so in Ireland, ice-cream sales figures can soar and decline as a result. Given that ice cream is synonymous with the summer, fine weather is crucial for sales.
Met Éireann confirmed that the summer of 2018 was one of the hottest and driest for more than 20 years.
In fact, data released by the forecaster in September 2018 revealed that Ireland experienced one of the warmest, sunniest summers on record that year.
Last year, certain typical summer categories felt the impact of the milder weather, most notably ice cream. A report published by Kantar Worldpanel on 28 August 2019 showed that ice-cream sales were down by 17.0% compared to the same period in 2018.
NPD & Innovation
Ireland’s erratic weather means that it is even more vital for Irish manufacturers and grocery retailers to react rapidly to changing trends within this category in the lead up to the summer months.
According to the most recent data from Euromonitor, which was published in August 2019, low-calorie ice cream is continuing to emerge as a growth category in Ireland, and the research also indicates that frozen yoghurt, which was once a popular choice, has become overshadowed by ‘healthier’ ice cream.
Compared to the previous year, sales of frozen yoghurt saw very little change in both value and volume terms in 2019, so what was a booming market may have just been a passing fad, overshadowed by rising demand for low-calorie and dairy-free ice cream.
The Euromonitor report also highlighted the fact that a multinational player continues to demonstrate its ability to react rapidly to changing trends and demand and that, despite the plethora of new products and flavours introduced annually in this category, sales of timeless classics continue to surge each year once the sun shines.
Unilever Ireland Ltd continued in its position as the dominant player in ice cream and frozen desserts in 2019 and its Magnum, Cornetto and Ben & Jerry’s brands remained the best sellers in the country.
Of course, a key driver of the bigger brands continued dominance in the Irish market is the nostalgia factor, as many consumers like to pick up one of their childhood favourites when summer rolls around.
Ice Cream Bars
The Euromonitor report also revealed that it is becoming more common for retailers across Ireland to offer ice cream bars as a high-margin in-store foodservice option.
For example, luxury Irish retailer Avoca joined forces with Irish family-owned ice cream brand Scúp Gelato to set up ice cream bars in three of its stores. In addition, the Mullins chain established a new takeaway ice cream parlour in one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions, Tayto Park, in 2018.
This outlet was the first in Ireland for the Northern Irish company and assured the ice cream retailer of significant footfall as the theme park and zoo welcome 850,000 visitors a year. Fresh The Good Food Market also unveiled an ice cream bar at its new Fresh Capital Dock store, which opened last year.
Package-Less Ice Cream
The rise in the popularity of ice cream bars does not come as a surprise as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of packaging waste and, of course, we are no strangers to ice cream cones. Unilever announced last year that it had launched its first wrapper-free, multipack ice cream for its Solero Organic Peach range in the UK.
The company said that the move was a part of a trial project, which was being conducted in collaboration with Ocado.
Commenting on the project, vice-president of refreshment at Unilever, Noel Clarke, said, "As we head towards summer, we’ve listened to our customers and are working hard to rethink plastic packaging for our ice cream ranges. If successful and the feedback from customers is positive, this innovative pack could reduce the amount of plastic we use in the future to package our ice creams.”
Ice cream is a category where consumption is, predominantly, an occasional and enjoyable one, and that is because of the taste of the product itself and often because of its link to fun and family occasions.
According to Nielsen, impulse ice-cream purchasing accounts for 30% of total ice-cream sales. This means that visibility in-store is crucial if retailers are to positively disrupt the shopper journey.
However, the frozen aisle, by its very nature, makes achieving strong visibility and creating a link with an enjoyable consumption occasion more difficult to achieve than in other categories.
Products are often hidden behind doors, or out of the shopper’s eye-line, so even the strongest packaging can only do so much.
Positioning of ice-cream freezers when the summer season sets in is therefore vital if retailers are to fully capitalise on the potential of this category to generate strong impulse purchasing.
From an in-store marketing perspective, ice-cream is a category that has a lot of untapped potential.
© 2020 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout