It looks like there's a light at the end of the tunnel for ice cream makers. Quarterly sales have gradually improved, and unit sales have crossed over into a growth pattern for the most recent two quarters. Meanwhile, the cheese and yogurt categories are whizzing along, with some stalwart brands in both arenas really burning up the road. And as with ice cream, there may be some hope for orange juice.

The most recent numbers from Information Resources Inc., show that the ice cream-exclusive subcategory (this does not include sherbet or novelties), grew by 0.7% in the 13 weeks ended Dec. 26, 2004, and by 0.4% for the period ended March 27. That's not much, but it is better than the shrinkage that occurred in at least four quarters prior. Dollar sales have been growing for a longer period. All the figures referenced in this article represent food, drugstore and mass merchandiser retail sales, but do not include convenience channels, foodservice or Wal-Mart.

Dollar sales in the natural cheese category are up by more than 10% for the 52 weeks leading up to April 17, and most of the top 10 brands are showing significant unit growth at the same time. Crystal Farms, Polly-O and Precious brands had double-digit growth by both measures.

A look at the yogurt case tells a similar story. Sales were up significantly by dollar and unit measures for most of the top brands. Two in particular-Yoplait Light and Stonyfield-are growing by leaps and bounds.

Finally, the refrigerated orange juice category took a big hit in 2003 and 2004 as carb and calorie counting were in vogue. Just like in the ice cream freezer, juice makers responded quickly with products that addressed those nutritional concerns, and it may be starting to pay off. In the first quarter of 2005, O.J. sales were up by more than 2.5% by both dollar and unit measures.