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Frozen delights: Haagen-Dazs scoops out new low-fat ice cream.

Haagen-Dazs scoops out new low-fat ice cream.

Superpremium, low-fat ice cream: Oxymoron - or just what the doctor ordered? I have a tendency to lean toward the former. But then, who am I to argue with the legions of consumers who have made lower-fat ice creams the third-largest segment in sub-zero frozen desserts, with $578 million in grocery store sales? In fact, Mark Jansen, marketing manager for Haagen-Dazs, says, "Low-fat does very well in this segment, and consumers were so excited [about the idea of a low-fat Haagen-Dazs product]. We're really providing something that's missing."

And so, after two years of development, Haagen-Dazs is in the midst of rolling out what it calls "the first national superpremium brand of low-fat ice cream." Development of the Haagen-Dazs Low-Fat Ice Cream took so long because of what Jansen calls "some pretty high product development standards, including a desire not to use artificial flavors or stabilizers-just real basic ingredients." The Haagen-Dazs brand has tremendous equity as a rich, indulgent product with an ingredients list that is easily understood by consumers, and the new low-fat product had to be able to meet those same standards.

Low-fat ice cream by definition has three grams of fat or less per serving, and so does the new Haagen-Dazs product-but the interesting part is that the developers were able to create it without using additional stabilizers and with very little overrun. (Low overrun in ice cream parlance means there is very little air in the product, so there is more product by weight. Some other low-fat ice creams have up to 50 percent air added.)

The ingredient listings are very simple for the four flavors - natural vanilla, cocoa, strawberries, coffee, skim milk, real cream, sugar and corn syrup are among the ingredients. The low-fat product is also fortified with vitamin A palmitate, so that it meets the same nutritional levels as full-fat ice creams. A patented process that uses lactose-reduced skim milk with a high milk protein content is the key to making the Haagen-Dazs Low Fat Ice Cream match the thickness and density of full-fat products, says Jansen.

"The products have done tremendously well [in consumer testing]," says Jansen. In fact, "the strawberry scored at parity with our original Haagen-Dazs strawberry." All of the flavors either met or exceeded consumer expectations. Rather than hurt sales of the flagship product, Jansen sees the low-fat ice cream enlarging the franchise. Instead of going outside of the brand, which he contends consumers are doing now for low-fat products, they will expand their usage, buying Haagen-Dazs more often. "We're expecting strong early results," he says.

Although I'm willing to give credit where credit is due - in its low-fat ice cream, Haagen-Dazs has reduced the calories per serving significantly, from 270 to 170 per hal-cup, and the fat from 18 grams to three or less - I still contend that consumers know full well when they choose Haagen-Dazs that they're getting indulgence, flavor and fat, and that's what they want. I know I do.

Catch a rising Starbucks

Before I get out of the freezer, I have to mention a couple more new products being launched-Starbucks Low Fat Latte Ice Cream and Starbucks Caffe Almond Roast Ice Cream Bars. They're the latest offerings from the hugely successful Starbucks Ice Cream joint venture with Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream. Whoever was responsible for that deal has to be smiling.

For the 52-week period ending Dec. 1, 1996, sales in the ice cream category totaled $2.9 billion, up 9.6 percent, according to data from Information Resources Inc. During that same period, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream increased its sales 20.5 percent. And much of this sales increase is due to the launch of Starbucks Ice Cream. After only three months on the shelf, Starbucks has become the No. 1 brand of coffee ice cream. Dreyer's says the introduction of Starbucks Ice Cream expanded the premium and superpremium coffee ice cream segment by 54 percent last summer.

Buoyed by its success with the Starbucks venture, Dreyer's is testing the waters with a superpremium brand of its own called Portofino. The Italian-style ice cream is being test marketed in Phoenix and San Francisco with good results. "It's doing extremely well," says Diane Mcintyre, spokesperson for Dreyer's, but there are no plans to expand distribution.
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Author:Kevin, Kitty
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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