Ice cream has always been a summertime sensation, but when the snow begins to fall, the ice cream tubs tend to hibernate in the back of the freezer.

From September to the end of the fourth quarter of 2008, ice cream and sherbet sales dropped about $249 million, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), a Chicago-based market research firm. Meanwhile, IRI reported that frozen novelties such as Nestlé Drumsticks, Good Humor, Dove and Klondike bars plummeted nearly $336 million in sales since Sept. 28, 2008.

Tough economy? Or a just a case of the wintertime blues?

Overall, sorbet, frozen yogurt and ice cream grossed the highest sales over a 15-week time frame, but show a higher decline in dollar sales from a year ago. For instance, frozen yogurt brands like Dreyer’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs are leading the pack.

Private label frozen yogurt actually comes in second behind Dreyer’s/Edy’s at $44 million, a brand that takes a third-place showing among ice cream brands behind private label ($993 million) and Unilever-owned Breyers ($549 million).

Private label also trumps the frozen novelties segment with a $171.4 million lead over Weight Watchers, a $210.5 million lead over Nestlé Drumstick and a $329.3 million lead over Eskimo Pie bars. Private label further stealing the show in the sorbet arena, with sales of $32.4 million.

The ripple effect of the recent peanut recall may impact future ice cream sales. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), more than 115 ice cream brands have been impacted (as of press time) as a result of Georgia-based Peanut Corp. of America’s apparent success in producing tainted peanut products. Although private label products have reaped the benefits of a down economy, major retailers whose house brands have been affected by the recall, including Chicago’s Jewel (Supervalu), Piggly Wiggly, Meijer and Wegmans, are feeling the heat.

The longevity of ice cream and frozen yogurt may lie in the freezers of its consumers, but here’s hoping for a sweaty summer and no more food safety emergencies. Ice cream manufacturers could use the helping hand.