A Less-than-Novel Ice Cream Novelty May Yet Find Market Success
With summer just around the corner, my thoughts stray ahead to the enjoyment of one of my favorite desserts on hot, humid days – ice cream. Let’s get our imaginations primed for the season with this new product example from Entenmann’s.
I am not alone in my enjoyment. Americans purchased over $7B in ice cream/sherbet in grocery stores in 2022, according to IRI, and that does not include the ice cream purchased at ice cream shops, ice cream trucks, county fairs or the McFlurry. Ice cream is so popular that President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984.
While overall retail ice cream/sherbet sales were flat in 2022, frozen novelties were truly a sweet spot, with 9% growth during the same time period. During the pandemic, growth was fueled by the desire for “indulgence and decadence,” according to industry experts Dairy Foods. The continued growth is attributed to innovative new products.
One of these new product examples debuting in 2023 is Entenmann’s ice cream sandwich, a 3.4 oz. ice cream sandwich made with Entenmann’s brownies, donuts or cookies. It comes in 6 flavors, including:
- Chocolate Chip Cookie with vanilla ice cream
- Brownie Cookie with salted caramel ice cream
- Chocolatey Glazed Cookie Donut with vanilla ice cream.
Is Entenmann’s likely to find success with its first foray into the frozen food aisle?
The First Innovations in Ice Cream Novelties:
A Very Short History
Before we can talk about our new product example in ice cream novelties, we need to talk about ice cream. According to The History Kitchen, the history of ice cream is more fiction than fact. Depending on how you define it and who you want to believe, the credited inventors of ice cream include the Romans, Catherine de Medici, Marco Polo and the Tang Dynasty. Regardless of when it was invented or by whom, by 2021 over 1.3 billions gallons of ice cream were made in the US supporting the average American’s annual consumption of 4 gallons of ice cream.
In 2021, the top 10 ice cream flavors were mostly tried and true standards:
- Cookies N’ Cream
- Chocolate Chip
- Cookie Dough
- Butter Pecan
- French Vanilla
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- Caramel/Salted Caramel
While ice cream has been around for a long time, ice cream novelties are relatively, well, novel. Candy store owner, Christian Kent Nelson, is credited as the inventor of the frozen novelty when he melted chocolate onto bricks of vanilla ice cream. In 1922, he received a patent and started mass production of the Eskimo Pie (renamed to Edy’s Pie in 2022.) The ice cream and chocolate combination was a hit, and others began to experiment with different approaches.
One of these experimenters, Harry Burt, the founder of Good Humor, also made a chocolate-covered ice cream brick but added a wooden stick to act as a “handle” for the frozen treat. The classic ice cream novelty was born. Harry Burt received patents in 1923 on the equipment and process for the ice cream novelty stick, not for the ice cream novelty itself. Popsicle was next, with patents granted in 1924 for their frozen juice on a stick.
Over the next 100 years, the assortment of frozen novelties expanded, with additions like Popsicles’ Fudgsicle and Creamsicle, the Klondike bar and Good Humor’s chocolate éclair bar and strawberry shortcake bar (at one point in the 1960’s, Good Humor had 85 varieties.) These historical new product examples were just the beginning, with many new frozen novelties arriving every year since.
New Product Example:
Innovation in Meeting Customer Needs
A new product should meet important customer needs or a combination of them. In the table below, I list the customer needs that are apparent from the marketing of ice cream sandwiches and other frozen novelties. As the table reveals, strong competitors have the customers’ needs well covered.
|Apparent Customer Needs||Ice Cream Sandwich Competitors|
|Low price||Favorite Day (Target) Vanilla Flavored Great Value (Walmart) Store brand|
|Organic||365 Whole Foods Alden’s Organics Annie’s Organics|
|Ice Cream Heavy||Fat Boy Premium Fatwich|
|Dairy Free||So Delicious Coconut Milk sandwiches Tofutti Cuties frozen sandwiches Alden’s Organic frozen sandwich|
|Lower Calorie/Sugar Free||Skinny Cow Weight Watchers|
|Classic||Turkey Hill Blue Bunny Hood Klondike Nestle|
|Taste/texture of the “bread” (cookie instead of chocolate wafer ice cream sandwich)||M&M’s Van Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich Klondike with Mrs. Field’s Cookies Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich|
|Mini||Blue Bunny Store brands|
|Flavor Diversity||Ever expanding and changing flavors however, vanilla and chocolate are still the big ones|
|Add-ins||Nuts and cookies are the most popular|
|Apparent Customer Needs||Other Frozen Novelties (Bars, Cones, etc.)|
|Indulgent||Dove Magnum Haagen-Dazs|
|Candy add-ins||Ice Cream Bars with: Reese’s Snickers Twix Kit Kat|
|Lower Calorie/Sugar Free||Enlighted|
|World Cuisines||Haagan-Dazs Dulce de Leche Churro Ice Cream bars My/Mochi mochi ice cream|
|Gelato||Talenti mini gelato bars|
|Healthy, Natural||Yasso (Greek yogurt) Halo Top (fruit) Outshine (fruit)|
|Low price||Popsicles Bomb pop Store brands|
And, then there are the multitude of flavors for each of these. While chocolate and vanilla are top, all novelties come in many flavors. Of course, not all flavors offered are winners. At one time, Good Humor offered Oregon prune and California fig. Now that was some real out-of-the-box thinking.
New Product Example:
How New is New?
New product examples run the gamut from “new to the world, how did someone think of this” to “another product available in salted caramel.”
While companies tout their products as new (or at the least, improved) frequently, a framework that helps to categorize levels of newness is helpful in understanding whether new products create their own demand or simply take advantage of demand that is already there. A few new product examples will help to understand these distinctions.
The Entenmann’s ice cream sandwich falls squarely into the “Product upgrades and extensions” category. The number of ice cream sandwiches already available is substantial, ranging from the traditional chocolate wafers with vanilla ice cream to organic, premium cookies with exotic ice cream flavors.
New Product Example:
Competing with Other New Frozen Novelties
Not only are there a cadre of strong competitive products in ice sandwiches and frozen novelties, but new ones come out every year.
In 2022, new product examples in frozen novelties included:
- 5 new flavor combinations for their Klondike cones
- Magnum duets – a premium ice cream bar dipped in TWO kinds of chocolate
- Magnum Non Dairy Hazelnut Crunch bars
- Magnum Non Dairy mini variety pack of bars
- 2 new flavors of Byrne Dairy’s Bigwich (ice cream heavy sandwich)
So far in 2023, new frozen novelties announced in addition to the Entenmann’s ice cream sandwich include:
- Expansion of the Magnum duet ice cream bars with a Caramel Duet
- Magnum Double Gold Caramel ice cream bar
- Mini gelato bars from Talenti in 2 flavors
- Mini sorbetto bars from Talenti in 2 flavors
- Cheesecake Factory at Home ice cream bars in 2 flavors
So how does the Entenmann’s ice cream sandwich compare with other new frozen novelties? While new for Entenmann’s, the product is similar to several on the market. Also, it does not meet any unique customer needs (unless a better cookie is needed, which the Entenmann brand could be seen as filling).
New Product Example:
Success through Brand Recognition and Distribution
In general, the key to a new product example’s success is to meet consumer needs better than competitors. Does the Entenmann’s ice cream sandwich meet a consumer need better than its competitors? No, but market success is about more than the product itself . By teaming with the US’ largest grocery retailer, Walmart, and leveraging Entenmann’s own brand recognition, I think this can be a successful me-too product.
At Insight to Action, we have been showcasing several new product examples. Be sure to take a look at the Stanley Quencher H2.0, as it reaches a surprising new market and Loop Earplugs that address two market trends. Chat with our experts during one of our Open Office Hours.