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Consumer perceptions of ice cream.

Very few foods are as emotive as ice cream. Ice cream eaters are happy eaters when conditions are right, the impulse to buy an ice cream seems like an inspiration.

Essentially, ice cream is an impulse purchase. Desire can be triggered by seeing it displayed or by watching people eat it. And while it is considered acceptable for youngsters to eat outdoors, older people are reluctant, believing that it smacks of letting their hair down. And some mothers use their children as an excuse for eating outdoors. One survey respondent said "My children are eight and three, and, nine times out of ten, I join them when they have an ice cream. I wouldn't have thought women felt trampish but I do think smoking in the street looks a bit off, but not eating an ice cream". However, the sunnier and hotter the weather, the easier it is for people to shed their inhibitions.

For some consumers, notably dieters, ice cream has that 'naughty but nice' appeal. Like other enjoyable experiences, there is the feeling of guilty indulgence-having too much of a good thing. A guilt which is associated with fact. Too much ice cream can be fattening and sickening, People feel less guilty with a small or medium sized cornet and there is clear evidence to support a niche for low calorie or low sugar product.

Eating ice cream is contagious. "If I see people eating ice cream I want some, its as simple as that. I don't get that feeling with a hamburger, that only happens if you are hungry". Despite ice cream's mass market image, there are opportunities for more sophisticated sectors that would be led and developed by brands and discerning tastes. Some consumers think that simply having an ice cream is childish and tend to overcome this by asking for an unusual brand which implies the consumer is a connoisseur.

Buying an ice cream is buying pleasure time. A long queue will often kill an impulse driven by the need for immediate gratification.

Consumers want the pleasure to last. "If you are at a fair and you go on one of the rides, you want it to last about ten minutes, otherwise you feel cheated. It is a bit like that with ice cream. I once chose candy floss because it lasted longer."

Ice cream is seen to be a coolant. A soft drink may be more refreshing and will slake one's thirst but ice cream is better at cooling one down. Although an iced lolly is also a coolant, ice cream is preferred because the lolly's hard iciness can cause discomfort to consumers with sensitive teeth. Chocolate ice cream bars have long been a failure way of satisfying the consumer with a sweet tooth on a hot day.

When consumers are feeling |peckish' and hot they will forego the refreshment of a soft drink and assauge their hunger with an ice cream. Ice cream can only satisfy slight hunger and beyond that people want something solid to munch. The chocolate flake goes someway towards being a 'snack' but it is not crunchy like a biscuit. Adding crunchy items to soft ice cream can give the product an innovative edge.

Consumers want ice cream to be soft yet firm and are conscious of the problems on a hot day of eating an ice cream before it melts.

However, despite the potential problem with soft ice cream, it has some real advantages over scoop ice cream. At its simplest, it is easier to eat. Although consumers like their pleasure to last, the scooped product can often seem like hard work. On the other hand soft ice cream is easy to consume both for adults and children. The swirly shape of the soft variety is another product plus.

Soft ice cream is seen to be creamier than scooped ice cream and for many consumers, creaminess is not just a matter of taste but of texture. It is natural that if a product is called ice cream, the dominant attribute should be creaminess. This is associated with luxury.

Licking a soft ice cream gives the consumer a certain sensual pleasure. Not surprisingly, the sensuality of consuming soft ice cream is more closely associated with feminine than masculine imagery but this does not mean that feminine imagery would be a turn-off to men. It could have a positive effect if the imagery is shown to personify the product rather than the user.

The purchasing environment is important. Consumers feel more comfortable buying from a retailer who specialises in ice cream or related products such as confectionery and fast food. It is assumed that ice cream will be fresher from a specialist store which has a big enough turnover to ensure that stock is always fresh.

Because ice cream is an occasional indulgence, consumers will tolerate high prices. Value for money is NOT a consumer yardstick when it comes to ice cream. There is scope for a premium quality ice cream at a premium price, provided the premium is not more than 10 to 20 percent for a cornet.

The machine used to dispense ice cream has no product appeal and people prefer to divorce the image of ice cream from its manufacturing process. Hygiene is a matter of concern and consumers worry about the cleanliness of the machine. Even though consumers feel that soft ice cream is synthetic, the majority are not unduly worried because it is just an occasional treat and not a regular food. They are also suspicious about its ingredients. After all, it is difficult to imagine a product based on 100 percent natural ingredients undergoing a synthetic process of manufacture. This is a major image obstacle that must be overcome.

Consumers can easily become bored with the vanilla flavoured product. Chocolate is a big favorite with strawberry less so. There is considerable interest in new flavours and consumers feel it would help if flavours were described in more detail. Toppings add flavour and colour and go a long way to reduce the blandness of a soft vanilla ice cream or the lack of choice of flavours. For many consumers the chocolate flake is a key component and many claim to be aware of the difference in the quality of flakes. And the cornet can be a bit of a let down. Some are thought to look and taste insipid and, when the ice cream has melted, are likened to soggy cardboard. Perhaps consumers are making a valid point in seeking a cornet which complements the image of the ice cream it holds. After all, it has to be good, to hold happiness.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:survey results
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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