As one of the nation’s favourite treats, ice cream is a category that continues to grow, with consumers enjoying new and interesting formats and more choice than ever before.

The Covid pandemic has led to a boom in demand for ice cream; over the last year, despite a disappointingly British summer, the category has continued to grow, with consumers sticking with the increased consumption habits they formed during lockdown.

Underlining the ongoing popularity and long-term growth the category is enjoying, total category sales in 2021 were up an incredible +20% versus 2019 (pre-pandemic), an increase of over £220 million.

“One trend we’re seeing develop within ice cream is the growth of snacking, as mealtimes and dessert occasions become less formal,” comments Henry Craven, Customer Marketing Controller at Froneri. “The growth of snacking occasions has been accelerated by Covid conditions, so although ice cream tubs remain important to the category, handheld products are generally more suited to snacking, so we’ve seen handheld products like Chocolate Sticks and Lollies continue to gain in popularity as a result. The growth of snacking has also led to various new formats appearing in the category such as Mochi balls and bite-size offerings to target this growing trend.”

The more indulgent products within the category such as Chocolate Sticks and Superpremium Tubs remain the most popular choice for consumers, who are increasingly seeking products in the category that contain high quality, premium ingredients.

The Nuii portfolio taps into this trend, delivering indulgence, textures and flavour, with ingredients carefully picked from around the world.

Nuii is seeing growth of +9% YOY, performing ahead of the total Sticks sector (growing +2%). This year Froneri is adding an additional new flavour to the range, together with a comprehensive media campaign running throughout the summer to put the Nuii brand in front of even more consumers looking for a premium ice-cream stick and the ultimate taste of adventure.

Ice Lollies continue to perform strongly as a sector too, having moved from being a summer staple to an all-year-round favourite and the fastest growing of all handheld sectors over the last 5 years, driven by their great value, low-calorie permissibility and increasing appeal to adults, who are now the largest consumers of lollies.

“We’ve seen the Rowntree’s brand leading this growth, a signpost for family refreshment within the category and a trusted choice for parents,” adds Craven. “The much-loved Rowntree’s Fruit Pastille lolly is now the second best-selling product in the total category.”

Ice cream cones also continue to perform well, with sales growing +11% in the last year, with incremental growth in the Cones sector coming from more indulgent, added-value ranges.

This year, Froneri is excited to take cones to the next level with the launch of a brand new range from Extrême, the Cookie Cone – the world’s first ever ice cream with a cone made entirely from cookie. With three smooth flavours available, the Cookie Cone combines two much loved treats, cookies and ice cream, into one ultimate cone of indulgence.

“But whether it’s a Chocolate Stick, a Cone or an Ice Lolly, ice cream is a treat category and enjoyment is the main driver of consumption – consumers tell us it has to taste good,” says Craven. “As we emerge from the shadow of Covid, we’re seeing attitudes towards health evolving. Interest is growing in positive health rather than functional health, which is leading to more interest in vegan and plant-based products rather than low calorie/low fat ranges.”

Vegan products, while only a very small percentage of total category sales, are beginning to establish their role in the category and crucially, delivering on the quality.

“It’s common to see ice cream sales increase sharply with periods of warm weather in the summer, so it’s important for retailers to maintain space and a comprehensive range all year round to capitalise on ice cream’s broad appeal and versatility,” advises Craven. “Visibility is key to driving sales, so a well-placed and bright freezer supported with POS will attract shoppers, whether they’re looking for a refreshing treat on a warm day, something indulgent for a night in, or a quick and easy dessert to enjoy with the whole family.”

Valeri Zhekov, Account Manager, Seara Foods, comments: “The frozen food retail market saw a massive growth in 2020 as the consumers’ pattern shifted dramatically because of the pandemic.”

Kantar data valued the retail market at £7.21bn with a year-on-year growth of 13.8%, compared to total grocery, which grew at 11.3%, and fresh and chilled at 9.3%.

From the beginning of the pandemic, frozen sector grew the faster than total grocery on every 4 week period.

Frozen added a total of £872m in value sales, the highest rate of growth, apart from alcohol in 2020.

In 2021, frozen food sales have dipped in the UK as consumers have returned to pre-pandemic shopping habits, according to the latest 52-week Kantar data from the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF). With the reopening of the hospitality sector and shoppers reverting to smaller retail basket size and more frequent trips to the supermarket, grocery sales were down 2.7% with frozen sales having declined by 3.6% (over 12 weeks period).

The age-old stereotypes about frozen food are finally fading among young and health-conscious shoppers.

“We have also seen a steady growth in the frozen vegan and plant-based diet-friendly sector in the UK, clearly showing the shift in consumers’ perception,” adds Zhekov.

More frozen meal occasions are being fulfilled, with the “easy family meal” and “together time” positions both exhibiting significant growth of over 20 percent growth year-on-year which is a trend to remain. Frozen meat free and plant-based alternatives continue to be open to innovations and it’s a category that will continue enjoying growth and development for years to come, offering meals to consumers that fit into their spontaneous lifestyles.

“We are working very closely with our R&D department in order to continue offering a wide range of products that bring practicality, trust and innovation to the market, always with flavour and quality that will amaze the consumer,” says Zhekov. “We have enjoyed a steady growth of the delivered NPD projects in the past few years and expect that 2022 would be even more demanding in line with the continuous shifts of customers’ perceptions and demand for more exciting and convenient frozen meals.”

Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK Director, Norwegian Seafood Council, comments: “Throughout the pandemic, trolley size and the number of items bought increased per visit (Kantar), even though frequency of store visits decreased, which drove penetration across categories including frozen seafood. This was because of the high quality of Norwegian caught cod and haddock, and the convenient nature of frozen (and the desire to have enough food at home in case of any shortages), and since then we have been able to drive loyalty and repeat purchase.”

Understanding the origin of the food we eat and how it is produced, is key to ensuring a sustainable future for all. Managed properly, seafood is integral to this and our seas are rich with protein, which produces far less carbon emissions than food from the land. A United Nations report from 2019 concluded that managed sustainably, our oceans could provide over six times more food than it does today: a powerful message for a growing global population.

Norway leads in its sustainable fishing practices. From pioneering stock management to diverse fishing fleets, everything the Norwegians do has sustainability at its heart. Adhering to strict regulations, responsible stewardship underpins seafood from Norway’s fishing process, along with constant assessment of quotas to maintain healthy fish stocks and ensure they are never over-fished.

“However, we understand that as a whole, the industry still has lots to learn and there are improvements to be made,” adds Asmyhr. “The process of sustainability is ongoing. This is why it’s important that we keep the conversation open and continue to promote sustainable products and practices, ensuring that there’s a place for seafood at the table, sustaining many more generations to come.”

Another trend is premiumisation. With variety being vital for shoppers, we’re seeing more innovation in the frozen seafood category, including more luxurious ready-to-go ‘gastro’ ranges available alongside traditional breaded options. This upgrade of the category is a good indication that shoppers are starting to accept that frozen seafood is on a par with fresh when it comes to quality.

The change in attitudes could be attributed to increased campaigning by specialist frozen seafood brands, as well as the work the Norwegian Seafood Council does globally to promote the consumption of both fresh and frozen seafood.

There has been a recent shift in consumers feeling comfortable with cooking frozen fish, appreciating the flexibility that frozen seafood can bring in terms of always having something ready in the freezer for a quick family meal.

“We’re expecting a lot more innovation in this area, particularly as frozen seafood becomes accepted as comparable to fresh,” says Asmyhr. “Paired with the increased demand for sustainable seafood, where consumers expect more transparency on pack.”

Cod and haddock are by far the largest seafoods in UK retail, both as chilled and frozen. Brits have a particularly special taste for cod and haddock with the UK forming the largest market in the world for these species.

Frozen seafood performed well last year, experiencing a 16% increase in terms of value and 10.4% in volume (Nielsen). As with the overall frozen category, there was an uplift as customers stocked up their freezers to prepare for lockdowns. This also drove penetration for the whole category, which has now reached 87% of the population (Nielsen).

The main buyers of seafood are older consumers and families seeking greater convenience for meal planning during the week – particularly during periods of working from home. By keeping freezers stocked, frozen seafood is always on hand to provide a versatile source of protein for a variety of different healthy meal options.

With health a key concern as a result of the pandemic, fish has risen up the ranks as a healthy source of protein; no doubt this is why older consumers and families are giving the category greater attention.

Birds Eye Green Cuisine is launching a new campaign this Veganuary, in an effort to encourage shoppers to ‘do what they can’ when it comes to increasing their consumption of plant-based products. Making a pun on the popular month of meat-free eating, ‘Do-what-you-canuary’ will seek to empower shoppers to do their bit in reducing the amount of meat they eat, without feeling the pressure of going 100% meat-free for the whole month.

Veganuary plays an important role in attracting new shoppers into the meat-free category, having seen a +20% increase in penetration last January, totalling £23m (Nielsen). It’s a crucial month for retailers’ meat-free sales, and last year it accounted for 9% of total annual meat-free sales. It also provided a 22% boost to category sales compared to other months (Nielsen), making it an important period for brands to activate in. The launch of a new multi-channel campaign from Birds Eye follows upon the impressive performance of its Green Cuisine brand, which has experienced three consecutive years of double-digit growth and is now worth £19.2m (Nielsen).

Victoria Westwood, Senior Brand Manager at Birds Eye, said: “We’re on a mission to show how plants can be at the heart of every meal, and encourage people to increase their consumption of plant-based food for both the benefit of themselves as well as the planet. Yet, while Veganuary is crucial in attracting new shoppers to the category, we recognise that many are caught between wanting to make a difference but without having to commit to completely shifting away from meat-based products.

“Do-what-you-canuary targets flexitarian shoppers who want to reduce their meat consumption, but on their own terms and without the associations that come with being labelled as a vegan or meat-eater. We want to reassure shoppers to do what they can when it comes to enjoying meat-free food, and to do so free from the labels, pressures and pretention of plant-based eating. With the number of options available as part of our Green Cuisine range, we’re perfectly positioned to make it even easier for shoppers to add more plant-based foods to their diet, throughout January and the rest of 2022.”

Birds Eye Green Cuisine’s appeal with shoppers can be partially attributed to its extensive range of meat-free versions of some of the nation’s most-loved teatime foods. Recent launches of various Chicken-free products and Fish-free Fingers have driven category growth further, with 51% of Green Cuisine sales coming from these recent NPD launches (Nielsen), as shoppers enter the category through purchasing plant-based products that are reflective of their favourite meat-based dinner time foods.

Birds Eye Green Cuisine’s multi-channel Do-what-you-canuary campaign has rolled across TV, VOD and OOH in conjunction with in-store activations at major supermarkets.

New Forest Ice Cream has introduced a new flavour of ice cream to its vegan selection. Vegan Raspberry Ripple (120ml) features a scarlet red raspberry ripple that runs through a dairy free vanilla ice cream to give a smooth consistency, and a fruity flavour.

New Forest’s Lemon Sorbet has now also been certified as vegan to give a refreshing palate cleanser. Both varieties are free from dairy, gluten and egg, making them suitable for all customers whether they follow a vegan diet or not.

These single portion tubs come complete with a handy wooden spoon in the lid, making for a mess free, compact, grab and go experience. With demand for vegan products rising, New Forest now have 5 dairy free flavours in its range, each carefully crafted using the finest ingredients.

Christina Veal, Director of New Forest Ice Cream explains: “All our vegan recipes have been carefully developed so the flavour, texture and ingredients are spot on! We already know how popular these flavours are in our dairy range and we are confident that they really shine through with these new recipes too! They really are delicious and even the biggest traditional ice cream fans will love these vegan-friendly options.”

New Forest Ice Cream has also introduced two new flavours to its already popular vegan range. Vegan Vanilla Fudge dairy free ice cream (500ml), compromises rich, sweet melt in the mouth fudge ripple, mixed with a traditional, soft and smooth vanilla. In addition, New Forest’s Lemon and Lime sorbet has recently been certified as vegan, providing customers with the perfect palate cleanser. Featuring a lemon water base with a lime ripple to give a refreshing taste, it is perfect on its own or as an accompaniment to rich desserts.

 

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