New products and a taste for nostalgia make frozen treats cooler than ever
Canadians are no longer waiting until summer to indulge in frozen treats. They have evolved into an all-season buy for consumers and Canadian c-stores are reaping the benefits.
According to C-store IQ: National Shopper Study, frozen drinks/beverages are in the top 10 c-store purchases with 19% of consumers buying one within the last month, while 16% of shoppers bought ice cream.
Innovative products, with fresh marketing spins attached, have helped reposition frozen treats an any-time snacks—some touting health attributes like high protein, low carb, dairy-free and reduced calories to add to their appeal. While diet trends—paleo, keto and plant-based—are influencing product development, the classic tried-and-true versions still reign supreme, according to Larry Watmough, business development manager, Core-Mark Canada. The company works with Chapman’s Ice Cream and helped introduce the brand into convenience stores in 2015.
“I think there will always be trendy diets—so many have come and gone,” he says. While the market is continuing to see new entries, like fruit-based variations, they make up a small portion of the market. Consumers will try new products, but often come back to what they know, Watmough notes.
The top seller for Chapman’s remains its traditional vanilla ice cream sandwich (120 mL). The company will build on that success with a new Yukon chocolate fudge sandwich and a new chocolate ball-topped cone. “I expect they’ll do well,” he says. “Ice cream is one of the highest impulse items in the store and has one of the highest profit margins.” To capitalize on that, Chapman’s ensures their treats get noticed, securing coveted spaces near cash registers and in-store branded freezers.
Calgary-based Mini Melts has won fans with its tiny spheres of flash-frozen ice cream and sorbet to customers available from its robotic vending machines or grab ’n go pre-packaged cups. “It’s completely different from the regular frozen treat products sold at convenience stores,” says Dave Mah, sales manager. “Mini Melts are sold across Canada and are extremely popular with all age demographics. They’re such a good fit for c-stores because of the profit and revenue they generate.”
Mini Melts offers retailers point-of-sale materials and the use of a dedicated freezer that keeps the product at the –30C storage temperature it requires. Enticing flavours are also part of the picture, like cotton candy, fruit punch and cookie dough ice cream. With Big, its newest variation (bite-sized sorbet made with real fruit juices and natural ingredients), there’s grape and soda, cola and energy drink, pineapple and orange options.
Meanwhile, Nestlé is poised to shake up the frozen treat sector with new entries with familiar names. From Haagen-Dazs Exträaz range expect new Strawberry Cheesecake Stick Bars and Salted Caramel Brownie Stick Bars. Canada’s favourite chocolate bar, Kit Kat, will turn into a premium single-serve treat—a combination of chocolate, wafers and ice cream. The popular Drumstick brand will add a new first-to-market innovation—non-dairy vegan Vanilla Chocolate Swirl cones with caramel, dark chocolate and nuts.
“Consumers continue to look for a variety of options to address their lifestyle and dietary choices,” says Lisa Beausoleil, marketing lead ice cream, Nestlé. “As with many food products, we are seeing consumers wanting more nutritious and plant-based options. They are looking for vegan, non-dairy and gluten-free options that taste great.”
It’s clear Canadians love affair with frozen treats is going strong, thanks to classic confections, new novelties and an emotional connection to them. As Beausoleil explains, “These treats connect customers to fond memories of their childhood and time spent with friends and family.”