Perfectly Portioned
by Julie Cook Ramirez
Seeking to manage their caloric intake, more consumers are turning to frozen novelties.

In our super-sized nation, it’s come to be all about portion size. Though maligned by nutritionists, sizing up is big business.
But as media coverage of obesity has grown, so, too, has consumer awareness of the health risks. So, downsizing, or “right-sizing,” has come into vogue, with an increasing number of manufacturers rolling out 100-calorie packs of crackers, cookies, yogurt, ice cream and other goodies.
Granted, frozen novelties don’t typically come to mind when the discussion turns to healthy snacking, but interestingly enough, the trend toward smaller portion sizes has led more consumers to the category. It’s certainly not the case with ice cream, but consumers are increasingly turning to frozen novelties, as they seek to indulge without “blowing the calorie meter,” according to Matt Smith, vice president of marketing, CoolBrands International, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
“Frozen novelties have the edge over packaged ice cream because it’s portion-controlled,” Smith explains. “When people are consuming ice cream, they pull out a pint, grab a spoon and go to town. Before they know it, they’ve had 500 calories. That’s not an issue with frozen novelties.”
Consumers also appreciate the wide variety of products offered by the frozen novelties category, Smith says. From blatantly “better-for-you” snacks, boasting reduced sugar content and low fat, to full-on indulgent fare, loaded with saturated fat and rich, decadent ingredients, frozen novelties offer something for everyone.
“As people are snacking, and they are looking to the portfolio of different products that they could have, they have started going to frozen novelties more because they’ve got the option of indulgence or better-for-you,” Smith says. “And it’s a lot more convenient. You reach in, grab one and consume it. You don’t have to grab the tub, grab a spoon, grab the bowl, scoop it out and put it away.”
Recognizing the growing interest in frozen novelties — and, in particular, portion-controlled indulgence — manufacturers have fine-tuned their R&D efforts, developing a wide array of portable, perfectly portioned snacks. Introduced last year, Dibs bite-sized ice cream snacks have proven so popular that Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream has already extended the line with five new varieties: Peanut Butter, Caramel, Cookies ‘n Cream, Strawberry and Toffee Almond.
Not about to be outdone, Green Bay, Wis.-based Good Humor-Breyers followed suit, introducing Ice Cream Poppers, a line of co-branded bite-sized ice cream snacks, featuring favorite cookie and candy flavors.
Portion control has even become top-of-mind when it comes to kids’ frozen novelties. According to Smith, CoolBrands developed its new five-item Disney line specifically to meet parents’ desire for a low-calorie, kid-sized snack they could feel good about feeding their children. At 120 calories, Chocolate Ears Mickey is a rich and creamy treat, featuring both vanilla and chocolate ice cream, with the “ears” dipped in chocolate. Likewise, CoolBrands’ Nemo bar features orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream, but packs just 60 calories.
TOP 10 FROZEN NOVELTY BRANDS*
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category$2,209.00.0%763.20.8%
Private Label319.3-4.5133.7-5.6
Klondike132.74.846.49.9
Nestlé Drumstick131.2-1.438.9-1.8
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Whole Fruit 107.511.835.0 8.5
Popsicle106.418.540.417.5
Weight Watchers106.1332.624.3317.5
The Skinny Cow74.00.417.99.0
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Dibs67.021,799.220.520,260.8
Häagen-Dazs52.8-7.917.3-9.3
Fudgesicle49.313.318.015.5
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending May 21, 2006.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
TOP 10 ICE POP NOVELTY BRANDS*
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category$59.73.1%37.2-2.5%
Select9.636.63.439.8
Pop Ice9.0-11.03.3-15.5
Fla Vor Ice6.522.12.414.8
Private Label6.4-7.72.4-16.3
Fla Vor Ice Spiderman6.2-8.15.0-6.2
Bolis5.4-3.48.7-6.2
Otter Pops5.111.92.111.8
Kool Aid Kool Pops2.7-11.21.9-10.1
Wylers1.768.80.842.5
Wells’ Blue Bunny Chill1.0394.40.4466.5
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending May 21, 2006.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
As Smith makes the case for kid-sized novelties, he points to the difference between his company’s Incredibles Cone and the higher-calorie competition: the Incredibles Cone delivers 120 calories and 7 grams of fat. According to Smith, parents view that product as a real value because many frozen novelties on the market today are simply too large and children leave a significant portion of them on their plate.
“Mom’s biggest concern is, ‘I buy this stuff and my child won’t finish it all,’” Smith says. “This is a cone that a kid will actually finish and a mom can feel good about because it’s only 120 calories.”
Instant Indulgence
When it comes to treating themselves, moms — and dads — have plenty of new adult-oriented options for a tasty frozen treat. Fans of cone novelties have a new option in the form of The Cone from South Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s. Said to be the first packaged superpremium ice cream cone, the frozen novelty is available in two Ben & Jerry’s signature flavors — Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cherry Garcia — and each is topped with fudge chunks and served up in an all-natural waffle cone coated with chocolate on the inside.
Meanwhile, Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries built on the success of its popular ice cream The Great Divide by introducing The Great Divide Cone and The Great Divide Bar. Like its namesake ice cream, The Great Divide bar combines consumers’ two favorite Blue Bell flavors — Homemade Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate — covered half in vanilla coating and half in chocolate coating.
For those grown-ups seeking an ultra-indulgent frozen novelty, CoolBrands recently unveiled Godiva Ice Cream Bars. As with Ben & Jerry’s The Cone, Godiva Ice Cream Bars were developed based on the best-selling pint flavors of Godiva superpremium ice cream. The White Chocolate Raspberry Bar features white chocolate ice cream with raspberry swirls enrobed in Godiva dark chocolate coating, while the Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar features Belgian dark chocolate ice cream enrobed in Godiva milk chocolate coating. Seeking to kick off the product launch in style, CoolBrands sponsored the Godiva Diva Dreams sweepstakes, featuring a grand prize of a one-week trip for two to Paris, along with $25,000 for a Parisian shopping spree.
CoolBrands also embarked on what Smith describes as a “major upgrade” of its classic Eskimo Pie bars. Rather than using a liquid mix that would then be poured into a mold and frozen, new Eskimo Pie Premium bars are produced first as actual ice cream, which is then extruded through a pipe and cut into small patties before being covered with coating. The result, Smith says, is a creamier, richer, better-tasting, textured ice cream version of three flagship Eskimo Pie bars: Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Éclair and Toasted Almond.
For those consumers who are a little more health-minded — or who were simply looking for a way to enjoy frozen novelties for breakfast — Cool Brands recently introduced Yoplait Frozen Yogurt & Cereal Bars. Touted as a nutritious, on-the-go frozen snack for any time of day, Yoplait Frozen Yogurt & Cereal Bars combine frozen yogurt with fortified cereal and provide up to 15 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, D, B6 and B12, as well as thiamin, niacin, zinc and iron. In addition, all three varieties — Strawberry, Vanilla & Wildberry and Vanilla & Raspberry — provide as much calcium as an 8-oz. glass of milk.
With this introduction, Smith says, CoolBrands has successfully taken frozen novelties beyond better-for-you into the realm of nutritious frozen snacks. “When it comes to better-for-you, it’s traditionally been about what’s been taken out,” he says. “Here’s an example of really emphasizing what’s been put in.”
Julie Cook Ramirez is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.