The category is often motivated by trends, and it has a history of offering alternatives to full fat ice cream, so there is no shortage of low-carb, low-cal, lowfat and no-sugar-added products available to consumers.
Has it helped sales? Well there is evidence that the tide is turning.
Looking at quarterly sales for all ice cream and sherbet products through the end of 2004, unit losses of 2 to 3% slowed to 0.3% in the period ended Dec. 26. If we look at the bottom of the top 10 brands graphic, the total category was off by that same figure for the entire 52 weeks through May 15, 2005-so it's essentially holding steady.
Many major brands are showing respectable or even substantial growth in the same period. Brands owned by Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc. are doing particularly well as the company is maximizing the efficiencies of its merged operation with Nestle. And Dreyer's Grand Light is the runaway horse benefiting from improvements associated with a low-temperature extrusion process, and from the multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that has introduced it. Interestingly, private label lost some traction during this period.
These numbers, from Information Resources Inc., represent food, drug store, and mass merchandiser stores other than Wal-Mart.
The novelty category (includes all kinds of frozen novelties including water ice) which had been on a tear just a year or so ago slowed a bit through 2004, and has now registered three periods of decline.
A look at the top 10 brands of novelties shows that again, private label is just about flat while the leading brands are all over the place. The business terrain for ice cream has changed significantly in the last couple of years and some of that change is reflected here. And look at the Klondike Carb Smart product. If low-carb is dead, someone forgot to tell ice cream fans.