Friday, June 27, 2014

Summertime is Ice Cream Time…How to Connect to Consumers with Flavors and Packaging

In mature ice cream marketplaces, competition for consumer loyalty is fierce. For example, in the U.S., nine out of 10 households already purchase frozen desserts, according to Packaged Facts’ Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts in the U.S.: Opportunities in Retail and Foodservice, 8th Edition. This presents manufacturers and foodservice operators the challenge of winning share within the existing consumer base rather than bringing additional consumers to the market. Further, whether a company is a global marketer or a local startup, side-by-side inside a retail freezer case they are on an equal footing for the shopper’s attention. What’s a marketer to do?

New brands and flavors, especially ones that connect with consumers on an emotional level by localizing, telling a story or using specialty ingredients, coupled with eye-catching graphics is definitely a growing trend.

“Growth in dollar sales generally is due to increased prices or from the introduction of new products that stimulate sales. Opportunities for growth are hard-won in this stable market,” David Sprinkle, director of market research at Packaged Facts told me earlier this week at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting + Food Expo. (The reason this blog is late to publish today is because I was delayed 48 hours in getting home. Read about my adventure at the end of this blog. It will make your week sound like a vacation.)

Sprinkle also said, “This is not to say that surprising new products are not welcomed, celebrated and, most importantly, rewarded with sales. The challenge is to find a way to impress frozen dessert consumers who have seen it all. A marketer must figure out what will make one’s brand stand out from the crowd, impressing frozen dessert consumers who have a multitude of choices.”
The new Packaged Facts report examines changes that have taken place over the past two years in the competitive environment while also providing a basic review of market dynamics. It examines market size and drivers, new product introductions, the competitive efforts of key players in both the retail and foodservice sectors, advertising and promotional activities, the use of social media and consumer trends.

It also identifies opportunities. “There would appear to be a lot of potential in products from the Hispanic tradition. The number of neverias, Mexican-style ice cream parlors, is increasing and they are finding a crossover following among non-Hispanic consumers,” said Sprinkle. “In addition, sales of Hispanic brands of frozen novelties through major retail outlets appear to be on the rise. If the foodies are discovering these products now, in the next year or so a broader consumer base could be right around the corner.”

For more information on this report, link HERE.

Years ago I authored this report for Packaged Facts. Today, I share my market research analysis with you via the Daily Dose of Dairy blog. Here are some great examples of companies connecting with consumers through product formulation and packaging. Marketers must remember that the packaging graphics are the first impression the consumer has of the product. It is imperative to make that impression a positive one.

Here’s a company doing just that! Al Gelato Inc., one of the original gelatorias in Chicagoland and long known for making gelato truffles, which are balls of gelato that are coated and rolled in a topping, has entered the packaged pint business. Just look at how these pints talk to the consumer. Though you cannot see product like you can in the many clear plastic gelato packages in the market, the bold graphics clearly illustrate what’s inside. Further, the “handmade” declaration and the reference to Chicago, personalize the product. Varieties are: Hazelnut, Italian Vanilla, Mint Chip, Pacific Mango, Raspberry with Raspberry Truffles and Sea Salt Pistachio.

Front Porch Carolina Churned Ice Cream has added two flavors to its Southern-inspired ice cream lineup: Charleston Sea Salt Caramel and Caroline’s Coffee & Caramel. These two new flavors, along with the rest of the Front Porch family, are available in pints in select grocers’ freezers and scooped at the classic ice cream parlor located next to the original creamery in downtown Mooresville, N.C. Front Porch is handcrafted using local milk from a nearby dairy and loaded with premium goodies. The piece of caramel on the carton looks so real you want to reach out and pop it in your mouth!

“These new additions fit perfectly with our other unique flavors and add to our story of Southern tradition in a way that people love,” says Michael Werran, production manager. The flavors debuted at the 2014 U.S. Open. As the Official Ice Cream of Pinehurst (golf resort), these and other Front Porch flavors will be available at the Pinehurst Resort for the remainder of the year. 

Boston’s local ice cream churner “Batch” was named a Finalist for Outstanding Dessert in the Specialty Food Association’s 2014 sofi Award competition. The flavor receiving the accolades was Brown Sugar Bourbon & Pecan Ice Cream.
A sofi is the top honor in the $88 billion U.S. specialty food industry. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation and represents the best of the best from members of the Specialty Food Association. The Brown Sugar Bourbon & Pecan Ice Cream was one of 109 Finalists selected by a national panel of specialty food professionals from 2,724 entries across 32 awards categories. Winners will be announced at a red-carpet ceremony June 30, at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. I’ll be cheering for you!

Batch crafts ultra-premium ice cream using the highest-quality, real ingredients, locally sourced and Fair Trade, whenever possible. “As the newest flavor in our line of ultra-premium ice creams, we are very excited that our Brown Sugar Bourbon & Pecan Ice Cream made it to the finals,” says Susie Parish, co-owner of Batch. “We use only real and recognizable ingredients and no strange additives to craft our ice cream. For this flavor, that meant selecting the finest Kentucky bourbon and finding just the right Georgia pecans to be custom roasted for us. It’s this combination of meticulously sourced ingredients and a delightful flavor combination that we hoped would impress the sofi award judges.”

Premium and personal can be found in private label. Regional supermarket extraordinaire Wegmans introduced two new superpremium ice cream flavors this season to appeal to American’s love for baseball and the great outdoors. Nutter Batter is vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cookie dough, caramel and peanut butter swirls.

S'mores is marshmallow-flavored ice cream with marshmallow swirls, graham swirls and milk chocolate flavored bits. Both packages use whimsical graphics to illustrate the goodies inside….not the private-label design many of us remember from just a decade ago.

Look for more marketers using “free from” call-outs on ice cream packaging. For example, the Breyers brand now offer 36 gluten-free frozen dessert varieties. After going through a gluten-free validation process, these Breyers varieties feature a gluten-free logo consistent with FDA’s rule on gluten-free labeling. Unilever is doing this without changing the recipes. 

The Breyers varieties sporting the logo include family favorites such as Breyers Natural Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, as well as certain Breyers Blasts! flavors, Cherry Vanilla, Butter Pecan and Fat-Free Chocolate and Strawberry. For the full list of Breyers gluten-free flavors, link HERE.

Nestle’s Häagen-Dazs brand is expanding its Gelato line as well as its Limited Edition line. “We have a very dedicated fan base that is always looking for ways to enhance the ice cream or gelato experience,” says Alex Placzek, brand director. “The response to our gelato line has been overwhelmingly positive and we are thrilled to offer fans a mix of new flavor options: some are innovative and modern while others are a tribute to Italian flavors that have been around for centuries.”

Expansions to the Häagen-Dazs Gelato line include: Caramelized Banana Chip, Pistachio, Pomegranate Swirl and Tiramisu. Tantalizing taste buds for only a short time, the Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition ice cream line expands to include: Banana Split Ice Cream (February - September), Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice Cream (February - December) and Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Bars (February - September).

Taking a different approach to catching the consumer’s attention, Hudsonville Ice Cream recently introduced three new “All Season” flavors to its lineup of ice cream. The All Season flavors are Hudsonville’s classic flavors that are available to enjoy all year long, while Limited Edition flavors change with the seasons around the Midwest and highlight the celebrations, freshest harvests and beautiful scenery of each changing season. The new All Season offerings are: SeaSide Caramel, All Natural Vanilla Bean and Vanilla Chocolate Twist.

Innovations Unlimited
Almost everyone loves ice cream, but not everyone can indulge in the richness. In response, creative marketers offer innovative options. This summer, LaLoo’s Goat’s Milk Ice Cream is using social media to encourage millions of ice cream fans across America to “Give Goat a Chance.” Compared to other top-selling cows milk ice creams, LaLoo’s Vanilla Snowflake has about half the calories, one-third the fat, is seven grams lower in sugar for folks watching their glycemic index and is easier to digest since goat milk is naturally lower in lactose and the fat particles are smaller in goat’s milk than in milk from cows.

Other LaLoo’s flavors are: Deep Chocolate (rich dark chocolate ganache made with volcanic black cocoa and raw bittersweet cacao), Rumplemint (organic garden mint--not peppermint--with a bold excess of dark chocolate tiles, slow churned for extra creaminess) and Capraccino (coffee ice cream made from real Italian espresso beans).

I really appreciate true innovation and that is what you get with Derinice Protein Rich Low Fat Ice Cream. The product was just named the Winner of the 2014 World Dairy Innovation Award for Best Dairy Dessert. Without a doubt, this product deserves such high accolades. Stay tuned to see this product featured this Tuesday as a Daily Dose of Dairy.

The Dannon Company recently expanded into the frozen aisle just in time for summer with the launch of Dannon Oikos Greek Frozen Yogurt. This new product offering, available in six flavors, marks the brand’s first move into the frozen-for-home consumption category. Available nationwide in pint containers, the six flavors are: Black Cherry, Café Latte, Chocolate, Key Lime, Strawberry and Vanilla.

Getting Creative in Foodservice
There are many truly innovative flavor concepts debuting this summer in foodservice, primarily as soft-serve. For example, in anticipation of summer vacations and the desire to experience other cultures through food, TCBY now offers globally-inspired flavors for the TCBY World of Fro-Yo, which kicked off on May 22. Created for culinary explorers and adventurous taste buds, the four featured flavors are offered in TCBY stores across the United States and take America’s hearts and palates on an international journey.

Here are the four flavors and the limited time they will be offered. Indonesian Taro (May 22 - June 4) --like a relaxing day at the beach, the Taro offers a mellow and refreshing tropical flavor. Japanese Black Sesame (June 5 - June 18) -- black sesame offers a sweet, toasted-nut flavor to classic vanilla.

German Lebkuchen (June 19 - July 2) -- inspired by the famous German cookie, the Lebkuchen offers bold, warm spices and flavors of gingerbread and star anise. Brazilian Guanabana (July 3 - July 16) -- as fun to eat as it is to say, the guanabana is fruit that blends all the best flavors of pineapple, banana and papaya.

Loosely inspired by the global soccer tournament, TCBY World of Fro-Yo will end the campaign with a Brazilian flavor during the global soccer finals. Stay tune! This is definitely an exciting World Cup with lots to talk about.

Carvel just launched a new line of treats with Ferrero’s Nutella hazelnut spread, which is made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa. It will be incorporated into four ice cream desserts served all summer at participating Carvel shoppes.

The company is introducing the line this Monday, June 30, and it will be available until September 30. Guests can choose from Hand-Scooped Chocolate Ice Cream layered with Nutella hazelnut spread and Carvel Crunchies and topped with Nutella; Soft-Serve Ice Cream made with Nutella hazelnut spread; Sundae Dasher with Banana (layers of soft-serve made with Nutella hazelnut spread and Carvel Crunchies topped with whipped cream and Nutella); and Sundae Dasher with Chocolate Crunchies (layers of soft-serve made with Nutella hazelnut spread and bananas topped with whipped cream and Nutella).

The final two products featured in today’s blog pays tribute to the upcoming Independence Day holiday in the United States. In honor, the Daily Dose of Dairy blog will not run next week, July 4th.
Three cheers for the Red, White & Blue, as Hudsonville Ice Cream introduces its latest Limited Edition seasonal flavor, just in time for National Ice Cream Month (July). Summer Celebration is an explosion of three flavors – swirls of creamy vanilla ice cream, raspberry sherbet and blueberry sherbet – blended in a patriotic color scheme that even Uncle Sam would be proud to savor.

“We are excited to release our newest summer Limited Edition flavor, and this one certainly pays tribute to the red, white and blue,” says Caryn Beatty, from Hudsonville Ice Cream. “Summer Celebration is the perfect treat to scoop up on those lazy summer days spent with family and friends, when it just seems like everything deserves to be celebrated.  A sweet mix of our Original Vanilla ice cream, with raspberry and blueberry sherbet, it is certain to be a hit with the whole family.”

Down south we find another ice cream leader celebrating these patriotic colors. Red, White & Blue Bell from Blue Bell is a colorful dessert featuring a strawberry ice cream loaded with strawberries, a creamy vanilla ice cream and a smooth blueberry ice cream combined with real blueberries packaged side by side in one carton.

“We started with three basic ice cream flavors, strawberry, vanilla and blueberry, packaged together,” says Paul Kruse, CEO and president. “But then we kicked it up a notch by blending refreshing strawberries and blueberries into the ice creams. That’s what really makes Red, White & Blue Bell so delicious.”

Not only is the side-by-side ice cream visually enticing, but the colorful carton is sure to grab the attention of shoppers as they make their way down the ice cream aisle. Each half-gallon and pint-sized container of Red, White & Blue Bell is adorned with eye-catching stars and stripes.

To my U.S. subscribers (about 80% of the 6,000-plus), have a safe and happy holiday!

And, if you are curious, here’s my IFT adventure. I arrived at the New Orleans airport early on Tuesday and was first on the wait list to get on a United 2:40pm flight to Chicago. I did not get on and needed to wait for my original 5:50pm flight, which after almost three hours of delays, was cancelled for mechanical reasons. The entire plane was IFTers returning home and we were told that there was nothing available on Wednesday…all three direct United flights to Chicago were overbooked. I was put on a 5:48am flight Thursday morning and given hotel vouchers for a dive airport hotel for two nights. On Wednesday night I received word that my Thursday morning flight was cancelled because of weather!!! While on the phone with United for more than an hour, eventually getting booked on another airline through Charlotte, I booked myself a 20-hour train ticket home. I eventually cancelled the train ticket and did get home thanks to the help of US Airways. Officials at IFT had already announced that the annual meeting would never be in New Orleans again because the expo is too large for the convention center. This is good, because I am not going back after my 48-hour effort to get home!

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