By Eoghan Phelan, Joint Managing Director at V360°.

Two significant trends in the ice-cream category, globally, are the growth in the premium sector of the category, and very much linked to this, the growth in more health-focused ice-cream, with sugar-free, dairy-free, low-calorie and high-protein variants growing; something which has been driven by the overarching trend of consumers “sinning well”, across many categories. What these two trends demonstrate are that consumers are actively living healthier day-to-day lives, and when they do treat themselves, as this may be less frequent and in lower quantities than in the past, they are seeking a more premium indulgent experience to really enjoy it.

Halo Top, the American ice-cream brand which has recently launched in Ireland, is now the number 1 selling pint of ice-cream in US grocery stores, overtaking iconic brand leaders in the category, with an increase in sales of 2,500 percent in 2016. Positioned as low-calorie, high protein and low-sugar, and with a number of dairy-free options, they have successfully tapped into consumers’ shifting attitudes. Similarly, we have seen the recent launch of Breyers Delights from Unilever, providing health-conscious consumers and shoppers with a healthier ice-cream option, without compromising on taste, while Nobo have been a fantastic Irish success story, pioneering the shift towards healthier ice-cream and dairy free options.

From an in-store marketing perspective, this a category which has a lot of untapped potential. In a category such as this, where impulse purchases are hugely important, visibility is crucial in order to try and positively disrupt the shopper journey. This is also a category where the consumption occasion is an enjoyable one, both in the actual taste of the product itself and often because of its link to fun family occasions. The unfortunate irony, however, is that in a category where these factors are so important, the frozen aisle, by its very nature, makes achieving strong visibility and creating a link with an enjoyable consumption occasion more difficult to achieve than in other categories. Products are often hidden behind doors, or out of the shopper’s eye-line, so even the strongest packaging can only do so much. The blandness of refrigeration units also does little to create an enjoyable atmosphere which could trigger a link to the consumption occasion. Added to this, the fact that the frozen aisle often comes towards the end of a shopper’s journey around the store, where they are less inclined to be in exploratory mode, and that people tend to dwell less in this aisle due to its’ temperature, and you are presented with a number of shopper engagement challenges.

There are significant opportunities to create a more enjoyable in-store experience in this category, while simultaneously guiding shoppers and aiding navigation, as newer sub-categories continue to evolve.