Healthy Proposition
By Julie Cook Ramirez
Despite low-carb’s fizzle, beter-for-you frozen desserts remain in strong demand.
Stung by high milkfat and vanilla prices, coupled with sky-high fuel costs, frozen dessert makers muddled through a less-than-stellar 2004. Even an onslaught of reduced-carbohydrate, no-sugar-added products, designed to meet consumers’ demand for healthy options, wasn’t enough to save the category.
As they approached the summer of 2005, those same manufacturers were understandably wary. Going in, they had sufficient cause to be hopeful. After all, milkfat prices had stabilized somewhat and the low-carb craze was dying down, giving them reason to believe consumers would be seeking out good, old-fashioned indulgence yet again.
Then it happened. The mercury began to rise and temperatures soared well past the 90-degree mark across much of the United States. With most of the country gripped in a heat wave, frozen dessert makers began to see a ray of hope that sales might rebound sufficiently to make up for last year’s dismal performance.
“With frozen [desserts], it really depends a lot on the weather and on people’s mindset, specifically whether it feels like summer,” observes Betsy Hoye, director of marketing, Anderson Erickson Dairy Co., Des Moines, Iowa. We’re pretty optimistic at this point because it looks like it’s going to be a pretty hot summer.”
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Dollar Share Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category $4,020.8 2.2% 100.0% 1,231.7 0.8%
Private Label 836.7 -0.6 20.8 288.1 -4.9
Breyers 546.8 3.9 13.6 158.9 4.9
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand 436.6 10.1 10.0 133.4 14.9
Blue Bell 246.8 2.5 6.1 74.2 -2.5
Häagen-Dazs 230.7 17.6 5.7 69.4 19.4
Ben & Jerry’s 189.5 3.9 4.7 60.9 4.3
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand Light 157.3 58.2 3.9 43.6 58.5
Wells’ Blue Bunny 104.4 -0.2 2.6 28.2 -0.3
Turkey Hill 99.2 15.2 2.5 35.4 17.3
Dreyer’s/Edy’s 76.4 1.2 1.9 21.0 2.4
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
When consumers reach into the freezer case this year, they are far less likely to be grabbing a low-carb variety than they were last year, however. As with so many other categories, frozen dessert manufacturers have witnessed a rapidly decreasing demand for the low-carb goodies they rushed to develop just a couple of years ago.
“Every food manufacture was jumping on the bandwagon, filling the shelves with a large assortment of low-carb items,” says Carl Breed, director of marketing, Blue Bell Creameries, Brenham, Texas. “It was practically forced upon everyone, but now, it definitely seems the craze is over,”
Breed admits his company was hesitant about developing a low-carb line, which it eventually did in the form of Crème de Carb. While the line remains in production at this point, its days may be numbered, as Breed reveals that Blue Bell plans to reexamine the demand for low-carb products at year’s end.
Carb Consequences
While actual low-carb products may not be as sought after as they were last year at this time, they apparently have had one lasting effect: Consumers are now more aware of what goes into their food.
 “Everyone is more aware of the nutritional panel now,” says Molly Murphy, marketing and sales director, Quality Chekd Dairy Products Association, Naperville, Ill. “They are looking at the sodium; they are looking at the fat. They are a more educated consumer and they know what they are willing to go with.”
Recognizing the growing demand for healthier options, frozen-dessert makers have unveiled a wealth of “better-for-you” products. Leading the charge has been Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc., which claims to have invented light ice cream in 1987. The only light ice cream to place in the top 10 brands, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand Light racked up impressive gains last year, rising a whopping 58.2 percent in dollar sales and 58.5 percent in unit sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) during the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
In large part, that’s due to the company’s new “slow churned” technology that promises to make light ice cream that tastes as good as full-fat premium and superpremium products. The proprietary low-temperature freezing technology “kneads fat molecules at a colder temperature, stretching and distributing them widely, so the ice cream tastes like it contains more butterfat,” the company explains. What’s more, the process involves no fat substitutes or artificial sweeteners.
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Dollar Share Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category $2,195.6 -2.8% 100.0% 758.4 -2.0%
Private Label 330.2 -0.4 15.0 140.9 -0.2
Nestlé Drumstick 132.7 11.1 6.0 40.0 19.3
Klondike 127.0 1.7 5.8 43.1 2.1
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Whole Fruit 98.4 9.3 4.5 33.3 9.1
Popsicle 92.9 1.1 4.2 36.3 4.3
Silhouette 79.7 -25.9 3.6 18.3 -23.0
Weight Watchers Smart Ones 69.6 -37.2 3.2 17.4 -36.6
Häagen-Dazs 57.2 14.0 2.6 18.9 16.4
Klondike Carb Smart 51.7 12.4 2.4 13.9 11.9
Klondike Slim-A-Bear 48.2 -7.7 2.2 14.9 -4.6
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
Backed by the largest marketing campaign in Dreyer’s history, the ice cream formerly known as Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand Light — now called Slow Churned Light Ice Cream — is available in 26 flavors, including Butter Pecan, Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Cookies ‘N Cream, French Vanilla, French Silk, Fudge Tracks, Mint Chocolate Chips, Mocha Almond Fudge, Neapolitan, Rocky Road and Strawberry, as well as classic favorites such as Vanilla and Chocolate and the seasonal Egg Nog.
Not about to be upstaged by Dreyer’s, fellow Nestlé property Häagen-Dazs also this year unveiled its own proprietary European low-temperature blending technology for producing light ice cream. Whereas other ice creams are made “light” by injecting more air, Häagen-Dazs Light contains exactly the same amount of air as the company’s famously decadent original ice cream. According to Gulbin Hoeberechts, senior marketing manager, the blending process distributes the fat molecules more evenly, resulting in a product that boasts all the taste with less fat.
Sold in pint cartons in grocery stores nationwide, Häagen-Dazs Light is available in seven flavors: Vanilla Bean, Dutch Chocolate, Coffee, Dulce de Leche, Mint Chip, S’Mores and Cherry Fudge Truffle. It’s also marketed as a superpremium ice cream, despite the fact that the term “superpremium” has traditionally been used to describe ice cream containing the highest fat content.
This fall, Cleveland-based Pierre’s French Ice Cream Co. plans to unveil Smooth Churned Light Ice Cream, which contains half the fat and 30 percent fewer calories than regular ice cream. Sold in a 1.75 quart scround container, Smooth Churned will be available in Black Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate Silk, Mint Chocolate Chip and Vanilla.
In Green Bay, Wis., Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream Co. has unveiled, in addition to its own “double-churned” light flavors,  a line of “smart” ice cream and frozen novelty products, including an assortment of lowfat products, sold as HeartSmart. Ninety-eight percent fat-free and containing 1.5 fat grams per half-cup serving, Breyers HeartSmart packaged ice cream is available in Vanilla, Vanilla/Chocolate/Strawberry, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Novelties include Fudge Bars and Orange & Raspberry Fruit & Cream Bars, which combine lowfat ice cream with fruit sherbet. Breyers SugarSmart, meanwhile, is both lowfat and no-sugar-added. Sweetened with Splenda-brand sweetener, the line includes an assortment of packaged ice cream and novelties.
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Dollar Share Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category $171.2 -10.7% 100.0% 51.6 -11.2%
Private Label 34.1 -10.0 19.9 12.3 -9.8
Dreyer’s/Edy’s 32.9 -9.6 19.2 8.7 -10.0
Ben & Jerry’s 19.5 -18.7 11.4 6.0 -19.2
Turkey Hill 14.1 6.6 8.3 4.6 8.3
Häagen-Dazs 13.5 -7.7 7.9 4.1 -8.9
Kemps 7.3 -15.2 4.3 1.9 -16.6
Ben & Jerry’s 2Twisted 5.2 -6.3 3.0 1.6 -7.1
Organic Soy Delicious 4.8 14.3 2.8 1.2 15.8
Tofutti 4.4 -5.4 2.6 1.4 -9.3
Blue Bell 3.6 -4.4 2.1 0.8 -9.6
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
Earlier this year, South Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s rolled out Body & Soul, a new line of reduced-fat versions of four of its signature flavors — Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Half Baked. “We’re thrilled with the new Body & Soul flavors because we’ve found a way to reduce the fat, sugar and calories without reducing the taste,” says Arnold Carbone, whose title at the  off-the-wall processor is “conductor of bizarre and D.”
Focusing on the younger set, Toronto, Canada-based CoolBrands International Inc. entered into several new licensing agreements to produce a line of better-for-kids frozen treats, co-branded with the Care Bears, Justice League, Crayola and Trix. Altogether known as the “Better for Kids” line, these products offer parents an entire line of ice pops and ice cream sandwiches, each boasting added benefits, such as no-sugar-added or reduced-fat. According to Matt Smith, vice president of marketing, response has been very positive.
That said, manufacturers aren’t about to abandon those consumers who prefer the real deal — full-fat, premium ice cream loaded with inclusions and indulgence. Vying for the “extreme indulgence” award, Le Mars, Iowa-based Wells’ Dairy Inc. rolled out Ultimate Rewards dessert cups featuring premium ice cream layered with mousses, thick sauces and sweet candy toppings. Currently, they are available in two varieties: Grasshopper, which consists of mint ice cream with mint-flavored mousse, fudge sauce and mint candies; and Caramel Pecan, featuring caramel ice cream, caramel-flavored mousse, caramel sauce and glazed pecans.
Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook, Ore., introduced three new ice cream flavors — Espresso Mocha, Old-Fashioned Vanilla and Orange Cream — while Good Humor-Breyers rolled out seven new flavors featuring more inclusions. Inspired by desserts and classic ice cream sundaes, they include Chocolate Overload, All That and Caramel, Tin Roof Sundae, Brownie Mud Pie, Banana Bonanza, Peanut Butter Tracks and Very Chocolate Cherry.
Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled its annual onslaught of creatively named new flavors, including Marsha Marsha Marshmallow, offering chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks, toasted marshmallows and graham cracker swirls; Fossil Fuel, featuring sweet cream ice cream with chocolate cookie pieces, fudge dinosaurs and fudge swirl; The Gobfather, chocolate ice cream with fudge-covered almonds and nougat swirl; and Dave Matthews Band’s Magic Brownies, vanilla ice cream with fudge brownies and raspberry swirls.
Keeping the Faith
Consumers may have become more health conscious when it comes to their frozen dessert choices, but apparently, that hasn’t renewed interest in frozen yogurt. According to IRI, frozen yogurt sales continued their downward spiral last year, falling 10.7 percent in dollars and 11.2 percent in units throughout supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, during the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005. Processors generally seem to agree that the vast majority of even health-conscious consumers have turned their backs on frozen yogurt simply because they now have so many other “better-for-you” options to choose from in the frozen desserts category.
“We first noticed the decline with the legal approval to change ice milk to light or lowfat ice cream,” Breed says. “Since that time, there have been many other categories introduced that have affected yogurt sales, like no-sugar-added, reduced-fat and low-carb.”
Still, Breed says there definitely remains a market for frozen yogurt products. In fact, he reports that the decline in frozen yogurt sales has leveled off for Blue Bell and that he continues to see a strong enough demand to warrant an ongoing commitment to producing frozen yogurt products.
“There’s definitely not any new activity in the frozen yogurt, but from what our sales dictate there are some consumers out there that say we need to keep it around,” he explains.
And he’s not alone. Gary Hirshberg, president and chief executive officer of Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm, reports that his company’s frozen yogurt sales have been growing “incredibly fast” over the past two years. He believes most frozen yogurts failed to achieve a lasting consumer following because they failed to live up to consumer expectations.
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Dollar Share Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category $59.8 5.7% 100.0% 39.2 2.5%
Pop Ice 9.9 8.2 16.6 3.7 11.8
Select 7.9 33.2 13.2 2.8 35.0
FlaVorIce Spider-Man 7.3 22.7 12.2 5.9 25.2
Private Label 6.8 -9.6 11.4 2.8 -10.0
FlaVorIce 5.9 -2.1 9.8 2.4 -1.5
Bolis 5.7 -1.3 9.6 9.4 -2.4
Otter Pops 4.7 20.0 7.9 1.9 13.2
Kool Aid Kool Pops 2.9 -13.3 4.9 2.0 -16.5
Wyler’s 1.5 16.7 2.5 0.7 3.1
Dynoz Frootee 0.7 -2.1 1.2 0.4 10.6
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
“A lot of the frozen yogurts died off because they suffered from poor formulations,” Hirshberg says. “Organic has now become a very satisfying experience. It’s delicious, and people realize that they don’t have to give anything up on taste.”
Striving to give their consumers the very best tasting organic frozen yogurt, Stonyfield Farm recently entered into a partnership with Newman’s Own Organics, allowing the company to use Newman’s Own cookies in one of its latest frozen yogurts. Cookies ‘n Dream, which features Newman-O’s wafers, is said to evoke the sensation of “a scrumptious platter of cookies served with a glass of rich, creamy milk.”
Last year, Annette Jim, director of marketing for Syracuse, N.Y.-based Byrne Dairy Inc., attempted to revive frozen yogurt within her organization. She feels the product is due for a revival, particularly in schools, where there’s been a push for low-fat foods with high nutritional value.
“As they keep pushing this nutrition thing, frozen yogurt is dead-on with everything they are looking for,” she explains. “They meet the nutritional values that the schools have established and the kids think of it as a frozen dessert treat.”
Pampered Pooches
Recognizing it’s not just human children that like to indulge in a frosty snack from time to time, CoolBrands hooked up with Ed and Greg Deluca, creators of Dogsters brand frozen treats for dogs. Working together, they expanded the Dogsters line, which originally included just two versions of Dogsters flagship ice cream-style product, Snow Cups: Nutly, consisting of a Peanut Butter and Cheese flavor; and Minte Kissably Fresh.  
The latest Dogsters offerings include Yogurt Combos, carrot- and cheese-flavored frozen yogurt fortified with omega 3 and 6; United Fido Orbiters Cookies & Snow, an ice cream sandwich style treat consisting of oat cookies and cheese-flavored “ice cream”; and Ice Crunchies, beef-flavored ice pops infused with electrolytes. Smith describes them as “Gatorade for dogs.”
CoolBrands’ entrance into the pet ice cream category is sure to give chief competitor Frosty Paws a run for its money. A longtime favorite to doggie “parents,” Frosty Paws was recently acquired by Nestlé and is now distributed by Dreyer’s. It is sold in two varieties, Original and Peanut Butter.
According to Smith, the mounting interest in the frozen doggie dessert segment exhibited by both his company and Nestlé/Dreyer’s makes total sense in light of the billions of dollars pet-loving Americans spend each year pampering their pooches.
“You start looking at the size of the industry for dog products and dog care in the United States, and it just seemed like an idea whose time had come,” Smith says, noting that consumer response to the Dogsters line has been “very, very strong.”  
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