Ice cream/sherbet sales had not shown signs of cooling off as of late fall 2011. Although unit sales for the category were down slightly (4.29%), dollar sales increased 3.54% to almost $4.5 billion in the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, 2011. The average price increased 26 cents during the period. The category includes three segments: frozen yogurt, ice cream and sherbet/sorbet/ices. Private-label brands led all three segments in dollar sales and units.

According to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group, the frozen yogurt/tofu segment had the largest change in dollar sales in the period, up 6.47% to $212 million. While the top spot went to private label with $47.3 million in sales (a 22.3% increase), No. 7 Wells Blue Bunny, owned by Le Mars, Iowa-based Wells Dairy, had the largest increase – 50.3% to $8.8 million. Others posting sales increases were No. 6 Turkey Hill(a unit of Kroger), Conestoga, Pa., with a 41% rise to $9.9 million. Kemps, St. Paul, Minn., in the No. 5 spot saw sales increase 40.3%.

Not everyone in the segment was up; Nestle USA's Dreyer's Edys, the No. 2 brand, saw sales slip 8.6%.


Tough sledding in ice cream

Ice cream sales totaled nearly $4.1 billion in the period, a rise of 3.4%, with average prices increasing 27 cents. But unit sales in the category dropped 4.6%. Among the best performers in the category was Turkey Hill. Its 16.3% increase in the segment brought sales up to $136.7 million and landed it in the No. 10 spot. No. 3 Blue Bell, produced by Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, also saw a double-digit sales increase of 13% to $336 million. No. 1 private-label brands were up 5.6%.

Among the brands with better-than-average price increases were Blue Bunny (49 cents), Breyers(42 cents) and Ben & Jerry's(34 cents).

Although in the No. 2 spot, sales weren’t as sweet for Breyers, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., (like Ben & Jerry's, a unit of multinational food giant Unilever). With a 5.1% decrease, sales were down to $409 million. No. 4 Dreyer's Edys experienced a decrease in sales of 3.7%.


Sherbet, sorbet sales solidify        

Sherbet/sorbets/ices is a smaller market than ice cream and frozen yogurt. Sales in this category increased 2.4% to $185.1 million, while unit sales dropped 2.7%. Prices increased an average of 14 cents.

While private-label brands again topped the category (dollar sales were up 2.5% to $76.9 million, with units off 3.8%), Ciao Bella (No. 5) saw the largest increase. Dollar sales of the Florham Park, N.J. based brand jumped 58%. Others seeing double-digit increases in dollar sales were No. 4 Blue Bell, up 23.3%; No. 10 Dallas-based Talenti (21.4%); and No. 8  Prairie Farms, Carlinville, Ill., (10.5%).  n