ICE CREAM & FROZEN DESSERTS
Best of Both Worlds
By Julie Cook Ramirez
Contributing Editor

Frozen dessert makers respond to consumer demand for a wide spectrum of products that meet their every desire.
The landscape of the frozen dessert section has changed considerably in recent years. Thanks to advances in technology, as well as a renewed interest in healthy eating, a wealth of reduced-fat products have flooded the market, as well as a growing number of no-sugar-added varieties, some of which were originally introduced to meet consumers’ demand for low-carb products during the Atkins and South Beach diet crazes.
There’s Dreyer’s/Edy’s Slow-Churned Light Ice Cream, Pierre’s Smooth Churned Light Ice Cream and Häagen-Dazs Light, as well as Unilever’s Double Churned Ice Cream, which is available in light, no-sugar-added and 98 percent fat-free varieties.
Recently, Orrville, Ohio-based Smith Dairy Products Co. joined the “churned” ranks, rolling out Ruggles Churned Premium Light Ice Cream in March. The company’s proprietary production method uses no synthetics, stabilizers or emulsifiers. The result is said to be a light ice cream with the same smooth, creamy texture and flavor as traditional ice cream. It is currently available in eight flavors: Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Cookies ‘N Cream, Strawberry, Cherry Vanilla, French Silk, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, and Caramel Fudge.
“People want their ice cream to be a real treat with lots of inclusions and indulgence, yet they’re still health-conscious, too,” says Penny Baker, Smith’s director of marketing. “That compelled us to come up with something where they can have that rich, indulgent treat without the guilt. Our Ruggles Churned line gives them the best of both worlds.”
In the wake of yet another down year for the ice cream category, processors have begun wondering whether consumers are really seeking out so-called “better-for-you” products or just saying what may be considered politically correct — or dietarily correct, as the case may be.
A 2007 survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Wayland, Mich.-based Denali Flavors seems to back up that suspicion, with 67 percent of U.S. adults agreeing that indulging in full-fat ice cream is worth the guilt. “These findings suggest that ice cream stands apart as the kind of treat that consumers are simply unwilling to compromise on the pleasure of eating,” says Neal Glaeser, president, Denali Flavors.
After reporting that low-fat ice cream was the fastest-growing ice cream category in 2006, the Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) changed its tune this year, reporting that sales of low-fat ice cream dropped more than 80 percent and sales of fat-free ice cream fell 51 percent during the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period last year.
Part of the problem may lie with the fact that consumers may already consider ice cream a healthier snack option. According to the Denali survey, 73 percent of men and 66 percent of women say they would rather eat full-fat ice cream than full-fat varieties of other popular snacks, including cookies, chips and candy. This finding comes as no surprise to Jill Meneilley, market research analytics manager for Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., a division of Unilever North American Ice Cream.
“We often hear consumers tell us that if they’re going to indulge themselves, they consider a dairy product such as ice cream to be more wholesome than eating something like a bag of Doritos,” Meneilley says.
That leaves some processors wondering whether the industry could be doing more to promote ice cream as the smarter snacking choice.
“Ice cream is a nutritious food that supplies nutritious milk proteins and calcium and vitamin A and other nutrients that are beneficial to us,” says Carl Breed, director of marketing for Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries. “There’s still a lot of work to be done to get the message across that ice cream really does have some healthy traits. That’s something I would like to see the ice cream industry get more behind.”
Of course, the ice cream category has long been plagued by the image of overindulgence. All too often, people simply don’t know when to rein themselves in — sitting down with a movie and a pint of ice cream, for example, and before they know it, both the movie and the ice cream are finished.
Novelty Nation
The desire for portion control could very well be at the heart of growth of the frozen novelty category. While sales of packaged ice cream fell 1.1 percent in dollars and 1.9 percent in units across super­markets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, during the 52-week period ending June 17, 2007, the ice pop novelty segment racked up an impressive 9.4 percent increase in dollars and a 6.2 percent increase in units, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI). Other frozen novelties — ice cream sandwiches, cones and the like — didn’t fare quite as well, inching up a meager 1.5 percent in dollars, while falling 0.7 percent in units.
“Consumers are looking for products that take the guesswork out of calorie control,” says Rachel Kyllo, vice president of marketing for St. Paul, Minn.-based Kemps LLC. “Frozen novelties are perfect for on-the-go snacking without having to worry about overindulging.”
What’s more, the individual snacking nature of novelties allows each member of the family to have the treat that they want, points out Micheale Kester, associate new product manager for ice cream at Phoenix-based Shamrock Farms.
Seeking to ensure that there’s something for everyone, frozen novelty makers have unleashed a veritable onslaught of new treats in recent months. For the chocoholics among us, Green Bay, Wis.-based Unilever Ice Cream rolled out Triple Chocolate Brownie, touted as a “treat of epic proportions.” The company also partnered with Hershey to produce Breyers Hershey Kisses Ice Cream Poppers, featuring vanilla or chocolate ice cream in the shape of a Hershey’s Kiss and coated with Hershey’s chocolate.
In response to growing consumer demand for portion-controlled snacks, Unilever also developed several Good Humor-Breyers 100 Calorie frozen novelties, including Slim-a-Bear 100 Calorie ice cream sandwiches, Slim-a-Bear 100 Calorie ice cream bars, and Fudgsicle 100 Calorie fudge bars. Kemps also rolled out a number of 100 calorie mini ice cream bars and sandwiches, including Mini Cones, Mini Vanilla Nuggets, Mini Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches and Mini Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches.  
Le Mars, Iowa-based Wells Dairy Inc. recently expanded its line of better-for-you products, introducing Premium Light Cookies & Cream Bar, Premium Light Triple Chocolate Sandwich and Premium Light Sundae Cone Variety Pack, offering light vanilla, caramel swirl and fudge swirl varieties, all dipped in chocolate coating and rolled in a crunchy topping of peanuts and cone bits. Wells also expanded its Sweet Freedom line with the introduction of Sweet Freedom Low Fat Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches and Sweet Freedom Low Fat Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches. Borrowing from hot trends in juices, the company also rolled out two new bars: FrozFruit Superfruit Pomegranate Cherry and FrozFruit Superfruit Raspberry Acai.
Seeking to ensure that even the family dog isn’t left out of ice cream time, Unilever joined the growing number of companies producing frozen doggie desserts. Through a partnership with the Pedigree pet food company, Unilever now sells Pedigree Ice Cream Sandwich Treats for Dogs, a dairy-based product said to be the first real ice cream sandwich formulated especially for dogs. They are being positioned as a “fetch-friendly” treat, which is not only tasty but nutritious as well.
“With this product, dog owners can feel good about giving their pets a treat that not only tastes delicious, but also is low in fat, has no sugar added, and contains protein, vitamins, and minerals,” says Dan Hammer, vice president of marketing.  
The Tide Turns
As consumers come to realize that healthy indulgence — for themselves or their pets — can actually taste good, they are giving the frozen yogurt category another look. According to IRI, the frozen yogurt/tofu category experienced its best growth in years, rising 4.0 percent in dollars and 1.9 percent in units. That’s quite a change from last year at this time, when 52-week sales showed both dollar and unit sales of frozen yogurt and tofu down 7.2 percent.
“There’s such a plethora of low-fat products being introduced, and there are huge amounts of advertising, promoting and discounting taking place,” Breed says. “Then you’ve got all the media attention on the obesity health situation in the U.S. The growth of frozen yogurt is coming from all the emphasis being put on all this other stuff.”
Within the category, Kemps’ Live Healthy brand experienced the greatest growth: up a whopping 62.1 percent and 55.2 percent, respectively. Live Healthy is available in eight low-fat varieties: Chocolate Almond, Chocolate Chip, Peach, Chocolate Caramel Brownie, Moose Tracks, Raspberry, Strawberry and Vanilla; six fat-free varieties: Caramel Praline, Cookies ‘N Cream, Strawberry, Chocolate, Peach, and Vanilla; and two no sugar added/fat-free varieties: Strawberry and Vanilla.
Among processors, there is a growing sense that the rise in frozen yogurt sales comes as a direct result of consumers recognizing that they can reap many of the same benefits from frozen yogurt as they do from refrigerated yogurt.
“What’s happened is that consumers who are engaged in the fresh yogurt category are looking for the benefits that they can potentially find from those products in the frozen state as well,” says Adam Baumgartner, Wells’ senior marketing manager for retail brand development. “As a result, you are seeing more innovation in frozen yogurt, such as incorporating live and active cultures or probiotics in there. That’s going to be powerful for the consumer.”
Nestlé-owned Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Inc., Oakland, Calif., rolled out Slow Churned Yogurt Blends, a line of “cultured frozen dairy desserts, promising improved taste and texture thanks to Dreyer’s ultra-low temperature freezing process.” Sold under both the Dreyer’s and Edy’s brand names, Yogurt Blends are available in seven flavors: Black Cherry Vanilla Swirl, Cappuccino Chip, Caramel Praline Crunch, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Vanilla Swirl, Strawberry and Vanilla. All contain live and active cultures, an attribute the company promotes on-pack to help consumers make the connection between refrigerated yogurt and frozen yogurt.
Smith Dairy considers the renewed interest in frozen yogurt an opportunity to expand its existing product line. In June, the company rolled out three new Ruggles Premium Frozen Yogurt flavors: Strawberry, Black Cherry Vanilla and Blackberries & Cream. Looking forward, Baker says, Smith Dairy may add more new varieties, possibly with additional health benefits.
“We’ve always had good success and strong sales with frozen yogurt, even throughout the 90s when it was dying off,” Baker says. “Right now, we’re looking to do some fortifying with prebiotics and probiotics, adding fiber to it, so that we can make that claim with frozen yogurt.”
Likewise, Wells is “looking at ways we can continue to innovate and differentiate in frozen yogurt,” Baumgartner says. While he declines to give specifics, he hints: “You’ll see some new things there from us going forward.” Meanwhile, Yogen Fruz, which is already available in 30 countries around the world, is finally entering the U.S. market with a line of fat-free and low-fat frozen yogurts, all of which contain probiotics.
While he agrees that frozen yogurt is poised for a comeback, Gary Hirshberg, president and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., says he doesn’t necessarily think that making the connection to the health benefits of refrigerated yogurt will be the reason people flock to the category again. 
“People don’t necessarily look to the frozen category for health,” he says. “In light of that fact, I think frozen yogurt will probably sell more on the fact that it’s a good-tasting alternative to ice cream.”
Other ice cream alternatives are also in the spotlight these days — most notably gelato, Italian ice cream made from milk and sugar with other flavorings. Because it contains roughly 35 percent less air than traditional ice cream, gelato is described as a dense and extremely flavorful product. While gelato is perceived as a rich, decadent dessert, it’s actually significantly lower in fat than regular ice cream, containing just 4 to 8 percent butterfat.
When they were first introduced at retail a number of years ago, packaged gelato essentially fell flat, and the industry basically deduced that consumers simply preferred their gelato to be served up fresh at a “gelatoria” (an ice cream parlor for gelato). Looking back, Baumgartner feels the problem was that companies tried to package their gelato in the same way they do much of their ice cream — in large, multi-serve containers.
Seeking to “bring the gelatoria experience to the consumer at home,” Wells recently launched Blue Bunny Gelato, a line of single-serve gelato packaged in clear 8-ounce. containers. Varieties include Italian Chocolate Chip, Chocolate, Espresso, Hazelnut and Pistachio. According to Baumgartner, the transparent packaging is important because it allows consumers to see the indulgent top dressings, which are a key part of the gelato experience.
Lancaster County, Pa.-based Turkey Hill Dairy also recently introduced an Italian-inspired product dubbed Duetto. A hybrid of sorts, Duetto combines soft-serve vanilla ice cream and tangy Venice ice “swirled in sweet harmony.” Varieties include Cherry, Lemon, Raspberry and Mango.
“By using a little creativity and a lot of research, we’ve found a way to maintain the soft consistency of gelato, while still being able to store it at lower temperatures,” says Quintin Frey, Turkey Hill president. “The end result is a product unlike anything we’ve ever produced.”
Ben & Jerry’s, meanwhile, has focused its attention on sorbet, a smooth, soft dairy-free frozen dessert of French origin, usually made from pureed fruit or fruit juice and sugar. While similar to sherbet, sorbet does not contain milk. While the company has been producing sorbet since 1996, Ben & Jerry’s renewed its dedication to the category last year with two new varieties, Berried Treasure and Jamaican Me Crazy, joining one of the company’s original sorbet flavors, Strawberry Kiwi.
“Sorbets offer a more refreshing fruity indulgence,” says Dena Wimette, associate brand manager. “And with Ben & Jerry’s, it’s all-natural and has chunks of fruit, which makes it a little different than some of the other sorbets on the market.”
But not necessarily all that different from other sherbets on the market. Pierre’s recently introduced Hola Fruita, a line of all-natural, antioxidant-rich super-premium sherbet containing pieces of real fruit. Naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free, Hola Fruita boasts just 130 to 150 calories per half-cup serving. Varieties include Margarita, Peach, Pina Colada, Raspberry, Strawberry, Pomegranate and Pomegranate-Blueberry.
Kemps produces a wide assortment of sherbets, including several co-branded candy-flavored varieties: Life Savers 5 Flavor, Life Savers Rainbow Sherbet, Life Savers Tropical Fruit, Life Savers Wild Berries, Crème Savers Chocolate & Caramel, Crème Savers Orange & Crème, Crème Savers Raspberry & Crème and Crème Savers Strawberry & Crème.
In Warwick, R.I., Gaga’s Inc. recently added two new varieties to its SherBetter line. Orange and Chocolate have taken their place alongside Lemon and Raspberry varieties. Containing more butterfat than sherbet, but less than ice cream, all-natural SherBetter is co-packed by Buffalo, N.Y.-based Perry’s Ice Cream.
While sherbet isn’t exactly making headlines these days, such innovations may be just what the category needs to put it on the path to the same kind of resurgence that frozen yogurt seems to finally be enjoying.
“It’s just considered a given that sherbet will be there,” Baker says. “It never really moves one way or the other, but if somebody were to do something with flair and try to expand on it, I think people would start to look their way.”
TOP 10 INDIVIDUAL ICE CREAM BRANDS*
 $ Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Dollar
Share
Unit Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Total Category$4,135.9-1.1%100.0%1,271.3-1.9%
Private Label845.10.220.4295.71.3
Breyer’s631.4-4.015.3191.4-5.5
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand439.1-5.610.6128.0-8.5
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Slow Churned343.517.88.392.615.7
Häagen-Dazs293.83.77.185.0-0.2
Blue Bell249.4-2.96.073.0-4.4
Ben & Jerry’s222.711.55.472.711.9
Turkey Hill128.918.43.146.420.4
Wells’ Blue Bunny127.26.63.135.03.0
Friendly’s Always Rich and Creamy55.1-7.61.316.1-8.8
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending June 17, 2007.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.

TOP 10 FROZEN NOVELTY BRANDS*
 $ Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Dollar
Share
Unit Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Total Category$2,333.91.5%100.0%786.7-0.7%
Private Label327.5-0.814.0137.3-0.8
Weight Watchers143.927.26.233.328.8
Nestlé Drumstick136.5-0.45.938.9-3.7
Klondike126.8-7.45.442.4-11.1
Popsicle114.03.84.940.1-3.8
The Skinny Cow91.818.83.920.912.3
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Dibs86.614.83.726.313.9
Dreyer’s/Edy’s Whole Fruit82.7-25.33.524.9-29.7
Häagen-Dazs59.89.32.620.414.2
Klondike Slim-A-Bear54.87.22.416.72.1
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending June 17, 2007.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.

TOP 10 FROZEN YOGURT/TOFU INDIVIDUAL BRANDS*
 $ Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Dollar
Share
Unit Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Total Category$173.64.0%100.0%51.01.9%
Private Label35.14.620.212.63.5
Dreyer’s/Edy’s34.76.620.08.95.6
Ben & Jerry’s17.1-7.89.85.2-9.4
Turkey Hill13.8-5.67.94.5-6.1
Häagen-Dazs12.811.37.43.76.8
Organic Soy Delicious7.722.94.41.821.9
Kemps Live Healthy6.462.13.71.555.2
Ben & Jerry’s 2Twisted5.89.23.31.87.9
Blue Bell3.99.42.20.99.2
Tofutti3.8-13.82.21.2-17.2
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending June 17, 2007.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.

TOP 10 INDIVIDUAL ICE POP NOVELTIES BRANDS*
 $ Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Dollar
Share
Unit Sales
(In Millions)
% Change
vs. Year Ago
Total Category$71.09.4%100.0%43.36.2%
Fla Vor Ice12.537.917.67.468.9
Select11.710.816.54.110.2
Pop Ice7.9-17.111.12.7-20.3
Private Label7.724.510.82.825.0
Bolis5.70.48.08.9-2.1
Otter Pops5.4-0.27.62.0-9.0
Frootee Ice2.9209.14.11.2219.9
Kool Aid Kool Pops2.4-12.33.41.7-11.1
Fla Vor Ice Spiderman2.0-62.12.91.4-66.3
Wyler’s2.04.62.81.223.3
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending June 17, 2007.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.