Thanks to the Big Night In, ice cream can be a year-round sales driver – if you know how to stock it, says Charlotte Buxton.
While sunshine does wonders for ice cream sales, there is still money to be made in this category whatever the weather. The Big Night In trend is boosting opportunities to tap into the impulse market, alongside purchases of take-home tubs and multipacks. Wholesalers should therefore be stocking ice cream all year round.
The ice cream market is worth more than £964m, according to Unilever. A vital menu item in foodservice and a generator of footfall and impulse purchases for retailers, ice cream is a crucial part of a wholesaler’s offer.
Getting the balance right
With so many brands, flavours and formats available, it can be hard to decide what ice cream products to stock. Suppliers suggest that wholesalers play it safe by offering popular, simple ice cream flavours and that they boost their stock with more innovative choices appropriate to each season.
Christina Veal, a director at luxury ice cream brand New Forest Ice Cream, says: “Selecting flavours that are seasonably suitable is vital. Likewise, having high-quality, key flavours that everyone enjoys and an all-important neutral, such as our Clotted Cream or Vanilla Pod, is essential. We recommend having a good mixture of original flavours and classic ones that are always popular, for a well-balanced and successful offering that will appeal to all.”
Wholesalers should also ensure that they cater for health-conscious consumers. Anna Boletta, co-founder of healthier ice cream supplier Minioti, says that the backlash against refined sugar and the exceptional growth of the free-from market need to be considered when choosing which brands to stock.
To identify which ice cream products will sell best, wholesalers can work with suppliers to trial new brands and flavours before placing larger orders. Sally Newall, founder of Simply Ice Cream, which produces preservative- and additive-free ice cream, says: “We make up mixed-flavour pallets to enable all outlets to stock a wider variety of flavours without having to carry too much stock.” She advises wholesalers to stock a range of flavours and sizes, as this cuts wastage if a customer wants to do a small trial.
Beyond the ice cream itself, the accessories to go with it provide additional opportunities to generate income. New Forest Ice Cream’s Veal says: “Flakes, sauces and toppings all spruce up the ice cream and add extra appeal for kids in particular. Likewise, providing various sized cones and tubs is wise and sure to tempt people to have a larger portion.”
The big night in
Whether it is a film night, a big sporting occasion or just too chilly to go out, more people are spending nights in. With ice cream now the third largest category for in-home treats, the rising number of people hosting events at home has resulted in consumers buying ice cream throughout the year, not just in the warmer months.
Research carried out by Mars Ice Cream found that the most prolific home entertainers are the 18-24 age group, with one in three planning to host a meal every week for friends or family.
Nearly two in three people (58%) reportedly say that they would consider offering an ice cream bar or ice cream on a stick as a dessert choice – rising to 73% for those aged 18-34.
For this reason, ice cream multipacks are a must-stock for wholesalers that want to help retailers capitalise on the sharing occasion.
Wrapped handheld ice creams
Noel Clarke, vice president of brand building for refreshments & OOH sales for UK and Ireland at Unilever UK, says that 70% of ice cream purchasers buy other items in-store. This demonstrates the huge importance of the category to broader sales.
For c-stores in particular, wrapped handheld (WHH) ice creams are a vital part of their offer, especially in the summer. WHH ice creams remain the most popular choice and now account for 55% of total value ice cream sales, according to Mars Ice Cream. A third of sales comes from the four-pack format, worth £169m, and single WHHs account for 22%, valued at £115m.
Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Ice Cream, says: “Mars Ice Cream offers consumers their best-loved confectionery brands in an ice cream format. Our brands will be supported by more than £20m in advertising this year, and we would urge cash & carries to capitalise on this investment by stocking the full ice cream range.”
From March, Unilever will be launching a £7m media campaign, ‘Talking Ice Cream’, to promote its brand new snacking range, which has an RRP of 80p in a bid to tap into the under-£1, on-the-go snacking opportunity. The range includes Solero Strawberry Smoothie, Feast Sandwich and Wall’s Duo out-of-home singles.