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Solid French ice cream sales growth should continue sweetly through '90s.

Solid French Ice Cream Sales Growth Should Continue Sweetly Through '90s

Producers turn out first-rate fare that pleases the eye as well as taste buds. Consumer prices are high, though, which could hurt domestic industry after post-1992 competition heats up.

Ice cream sales are booming in France. Denis Stoclet forecast in Points de Vente that between the years 1990 and 2000 the annual growth rate in ice cream consumption will be 6.4%. This is less than the recent growth rate of 10% a year, cited in Surgelation, but Stoclet expects expansion of food sales in general to be only 1.82% a year. Ice cream is, in fact, the fifth most promising food sector.

The largest segment of the French market today consists of bulk pack products. The most common size is one liter, and the usual packaging is an oblong plastic tub with rounded corners. Sounds humdrum, but the producers are making it anything but. Most change at least a portion of their flavors periodically; and even the private label lines offered by distributor chains contain surprises. Thus Euromarche sells William pear ice cream, and blackcurrant sherbet; and the offering at Systeme U includes passion fruit sherbet containing chunks of peaches. Quick Frozen Foods International sampled the latter and found it was smooth and not too sweet, tasting strongly of passion fruit. The chunks of peaches contrasted pleasantly in taste and texture.

A mixture of textures and flavors is becoming increasingly frequent in French bulk ice cream and sherbets, as well as in more elaborate offerings. The tubs now often include morsels or ribbons of substances like chocolate or praline, or are composed of swirls or layers of two or more types of ice cream/sherbet. Exotic sherbets are also a trend. Motta's Carte d'Or, a perennial best seller, now includes the following flavors with solid pieces: apple, peach, passion fruit, and pink grapefruit. Each sells for approximately 21 francs a liter.

Systeme U's offerings are packaged in black one-liter tubs on the top of which are shown scoops of ice cream against a mountainous terrain. The chain is obviously trying to make the products look gourmet, although the price is (for France) a very reasonable 12 francs.

Some ice cream producers are frankly aiming their bulk products at an upscale market and are also pricing to suit. Pilpa sells Frisson Gourmand, for instance, at 23.40 francs per liter in a gold, albeit plastic, box with a gold paper seal under the lid. Flavors include vanilla ice cream with strawberry sherbet, and chocolate with peanut ice cream (half and half). Pole Sud offers Glaces d'Artisan (ice cream of the craftsperson), including Irish coffee ice cream and dark chocolate sherbet for 24.90 francs per liter. The paper tub's cover is black and gold. Robert & Cie sells Sorbet de Marc de Champagne (sherbet of Marc Champagne), made from residue of the grapes left after the juice has been pressed. On the lid of the one-liter box is a watercolor of the Chapelle de Dormans in Champagne, surrounded by vineyards.

As part of a general tendency in France towards healthier foods, a few producers of ice cream and sherbets emphasize that they use natural ingredients. Les Gourmandises de Charlotte, for example, offers two Granitas "without added coloring or preservatives": Pear Brandy and Green Calvados Apples. They come in half liter tubs that Picard sells for 35 francs. Jean Valloire sells Label Rouge fruit sherbets, including white peach and apricot. QFFI tasted the apricot, made only of apricot juice and pulp (67%), sugar and lemon juice. The apricot flavor was agreeably pronounced and the sweetening, to our palates, was just right. The price, however, was a hefty 24.50 francs per half liter.

A substantial part of the selling price of Jean Valloire sherbet, and to a lesser extent of the Granitas of Les Gourmandises de Charlotte, must go to pay for the packaging. Each is surrounded by a thick shell of what appears to be styrofoam. For the Granitas the styrofoam is banded by white paper decorated only by narrow, crossed stripes. Jean Valloire's styrofoam, on the other hand, is inside a shiny, elegantly printed cardboard carton with a black background streaked with gold. Inside the styrofoam is a clear plastic container. The triple packaging of Jean Valloir, unfortunately, illustrates the apparent disregard for the environment widespread among French companies. It does, however, achieve its purpose. The carton says that the packaging will keep the sherbet frozen for an hour at the ambient temperature. It does. A package purchased by QFFI survived a lengthy bus trip.

The USA-headquartered firm Haagen-Dazs, which sells ice cream composed of natural ingredients, totalling a 16% fat content, is making inroads in France. Haagen-Dazs, which is owned by Grand Metropolitan PLC of Great Britain, is sold with considerable success in selected freezer centers and hypermarkets. A representative was offering samples in a Euromarche hypermarket in Lyon on a recent Saturday afternoon. Elsewhere, the company has opened its own boutique in the sixteenth arrondissement of Paris, and is planning others in carefully chosen locations.

Light ice creams exist in France, but they show no tendency to run away with the market. For over a year France Glaces Findus Gervais has been selling Les Legeres, apparently with far less success than Findus has had with its Cuisine Legere. According to information printed on the eight-sided, one-liter boxes, the product offers "all the pleasure for 25 calories a scoop." It sells for approximately 24.50 francs, or between $4 and $5.

The Picard chain sells a Weight Watchers product from England featuring two scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream with 83 calories a scoop. A box costs a modest 7.50 francs.

Paladine offers Gourmande Si Legere, which, when introduced last year, included six ice creams and four sherbets. For Christmas Paladine added low-calorie versions of traditional holiday dessert logs. A freezer center employee told QFFI that the light frozen renditions are appreciated by a few customers, but do not sell well overall. Strict regulations defining ice cream in France have made it difficult for domestic producers to develop light desserts.

Frozen Yogurt Scene

Frozen yogurt is still in its infancy in France, although it is beginning to attract the attention of consumers. Strangely QFFI did not happen to see in the stores in October and November frozen yogurt from the companies that launched the product in France, Danone and Pilpa. In the spring Pilpa's Yogourmand was obvious -- 4-cup packs (440 milliliters in total) of vanilla (11.90 francs) and berry (12.30 francs), among other flavors. What we did run across were two new offerings, both connected to the United States.

At a Casino supermarket, Miami-Ice was for sale. The cartons for the four varieties describe them as ice cream with yogurt, either vanilla, strawberry, or exotic fruits; or natural bifidus (unflavored). The first three are said to be 85% yogurt; the fourth to contain natural yogurt (40%) and fermented, enriched milk (45%). Made in France and distributed by SIGANE, the products, especially the fourth item, are definitely for the health and weight conscious. Calorie counts are stated as 80 for three scoops and as 73-78 per 100 milliliters, depending on flavor. To give the product an air of frivolity, however, the one-liter cartons depict in gaudy colors a woman relaxing under a beach umbrella. The price is 21.50 francs per liter. Pajerol sells a product somewhat similar to Miami-Ice: Icymix, composed 85% of yogurt and fermented milk.

The freezer center chain Picard sells Honey Hill Farms frozen yogurt. Made in the United States and imported by the French firm Frogourt, it is distributed by another French company, Qualidea. QFFI tested the Caramel-Pecan and found it to be excellent. Nuts and caramel were abundant, and the product tasted more like rich ice cream than yogurt. The yogurt is sold in 473 milliliter cardboard tubs, the details on the back of the carton are in French. However, the writing on the tops is in some instances in French and in some in English. Some of the cartons bore on the top an American flag and the words "American quality."

A Picard center manager told this reporter that the French are timid about yogurt. Once they buy it, they may come back for more; but the first purchases come slowly. Because Picard was featuring the yogurt as a special of the month, at 21.60 instead of the usual 27 francs, sales were up in October. Picard's price list described the item as "Honey Hill, frozen dessert with yogurt, California, USA." The phrase "frozen dessert with yogurt" comes from the carton, but the location "California" is nowhere on the package. Apparently Picard believed that mention of this particular location in its listing would appeal to French consumers. The calories are higher than those of Miami-Ice: 157 for 100 milliters. The flavors, in addition to caramel with pecans, are chocolate with almonds, vanilla with chocolate bits, cooky jar ("Cookie Jar," vanilla with cookies), strawberry with bits of fruit, and raspberry with bits of fruit. The cartons of Honey Hill state that the ingredients are all natural.

The ice cream sector known in France as "detente" (leisure) is reaping attention for its bars and ice creams on a stick, though the novelties aimed only at children are still much in evidence, as are cones, particularly during the summer. Miko, for instance, produces the strawberry, lemon, and mint Mikojet. Sold on a stick, the treat is molded to look like a space ship with a blue nose and broader, flame-colored base (16.90 francs for a 480 milliliter box). Packaged ice cream cones have undergone improvements that enable them to appeal to adults, Surgelation says, as the cone wafers stay crisp, and as decorations are no longer damaged by contact with packaging. QFFI sampled cones and was left unimpressed, though the wafers were crisp and the decorations intact. For consumers fond of freshly made cones and hot fudge sundaes, the packaged cones with their stylized toppings of cream, hardened sauce, and nuts look more exciting than they taste.

Producers have been working to lift traditional ice creams on a stick out of the doldrums. In 1991 Gervais carried on a publicity campaign to single out its Eskimos as the true chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick. Signs of the firm's thoroughness -- the wooden sticks that carry the ice cream had pressed into them the words "Gervais," "j'en veux," (Gervais, I want it); and purchasers of the treats received points towards gifts.

Miko came out with a stunning new collection of five stick products: vanilla, chocolate, hazel nut, coffee, and ice cream with cherries marinated in kirsch. All are available in boxes of eight pieces; chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut also in boxes of 16. The front of the black boxes pictures an entire ice cream; the side, an ice cream with a corner bitten out of it to reveal the filling. They also carry gold seals stating "superior quality," and picture a symbol appropriate to the flavor: a vanilla flower for vanilla, for example; and, on the front, a large, modernistic painting of lips.

Nobody looking through a frozen food cabinet could avoid noticing these packages, which had their practical side also. They are made of corrugated cardboard that keep the ice cream in good condition for an hour after leaving the freezer. Miko explains that the superiority of the product lies in the quality of ingredients, including an extra-chocolately coating. At a Euromarche, an eight-unit box sold for 14.70 francs and a 16-unit for 26.80 francs.

Ice cream versions of candy bars are much newer than ice creams on a stick, as they were introduced to France by France Glaces Findus only two years ago. The firm's early product Nuts (nougat ice cream, hazelnuts and caramel covered in milk chocolate) is still a hit, as is its Crunch. Miko sells the Mars family: Bounty, Snickers, Milky Way, and Mars itself, plus its own Mikobar in vanilla and in coconut. According to Surgelation (July 1991), only two firms in France are equipped to make bars on the assembly line, as the process is complex. As with other "detente" ice creams, boxes containing several units are sold in hypermarkets and supermarkets, and single pieces in outlets like neighborhood groceries and pastry shops. A box of six bars of Nuts, totaling 390 milliliters, costs approximately 27.50 francs; a box of eight much smaller Bounty bars, weighing 200 milliliters, goes for approximately 21.50 francs. Singles seem to be sold at the highest price the local market will bear. QFFI found Snickers and Nuts delicious, though not easy to hold and eat.

The market segment consisting of elaborate desserts includes both individualized packages and products to share. Producers are tending to give small and large the characteristics of pastry shop products. They combine ice cream with cake or pastry, or use decoration typical of high quality patisseries. The basic all-ice cream "cake" is the vacherin, which sell for approximately 25 to 35 francs a liter. An example of a top quality, traditional vacherin is Thiriet's introduction for Christmas 1991 of a "cake" of vanilla ice cream and strawberry sherbet with bits of fruit and meringue (38 francs). QFFI found relatively plain, private label vacherins in a hypermarket, and luxurious-looking vacherins in a small-town bakery. The latter had been hand made by the shop's owner. Vacherins accounted for 40% of the sales of specialties-to-share in 1989.

The sector of the market that is growing the fastest, however, consists of the higher priced patisserie type items. Such include Pilpa's 4 Macarons Glaces, regularly priced at 29 francs and on sale in a Frio for 22.40 francs; and its 4 Tulipes Nougat de Montelimar. The macaroons consist of vanilla ice cream with almond biscuits; the tulips contain Montelimar nougat ice cream in a wafer cup coated with cocoa.

Patisserie-style desserts to share include Frigicreme's Kassanova and Andalou and certain of Miko's Diamandises. Frigicreme sells one-liter cakes of two types of ice cream such as caramel and cocoa, or of ice cream and sponge cake covered with a pastry-shop style chocolate coating. A Kassanova of moka and cognac ice cream costs approximately 56 francs and serves up to 10 people. A new entry in Miko's series is the one-liter Mazurka with layers of strawberry and blackcurrant sherbet and of spongecake, topped with a strawberry glaze. Mazurka costs approximately 47.20 francs and serves as many as seven people.

|Shaping' Up Sales

The Kassanovas are oblong, and the Mazurka is an eight-sided sheet. Traditionally, frozen desserts-to-share have been round or, as with Christmas logs, half cylinders. It is clear that one of the ways that producers are increasing sales is through innovation in shapes. Squares, rectangles, and half spheres are frequently seen. They look stylish and, in the case of rectangles and squares, lend themselves to being cut into serving-size pieces. Also, ice cream sculptures with totally original shapes may be appearing with greater frequency. Among those in shops at present are Allice's Basket of Fruit (2.4 liters, 139 francs) and Nouki's Marquise (1.9 liters, 82.9 francs), in which the skirt of the marquise is an elaborate ice cream.

All the above desserts-to-share are one liter or more in volume, some considerably larger. Traditionally, their size has acted as a purchase deterrent to homemakers. One would not normally buy the product unless planning to entertain at least six people, and had money to spare. In 1989 Motta broke the pattern by marketing a 600 milliliter Viennetta for approximately 17.60 francs, a much less formidable investment for consumers. The oblong, intricately layered ice cream has been an enormous success across Europe. Motta recently added the flavor Capucino. Other companies have introduced desserts in reduced sizes. Girki, for instance, sells a package of four individual size Norwegian omelettes of vanilla ice cream with raisins soaked in rum for approximately 22.80 francs. Miko recently introduced Paola Vanille, which it describes as a "Feuillete Glace" (a frozen, flaky pastry) of flat and wavy layers of vanilla ice cream interspersed with chocolate layers made with defatted cocoa. Reminiscent of Motta's Viennetta, it is 500 milliliters in volume and serves up to six people.

In France ice cream is especially popular at the end of the year, as well as during the summer. For Christmas and New Year celebrations, producers vie with each other to bring out new and traditional versions of the French Yule log, and to catch the eye of consumers looking for spectacular novelties to serve to guests. Motta introduced for the 1991 season a log combining the flavors of apricots, white chocolate, and peaches. Gervais combined blackcurrants, raspberries, and vanilla in its new log. Original sculptures at a Frio center as early as October included a 1,500 milliliter Christmas tree from Flipi (48.90 francs); an Enchanted Log, a stump with little figurines, rather than the usual lengthwise log, from Robert et Cie (47.60 francs); and, from Lorier, The Fireplace of Father Christmas, 1,600 milliliters of sculptured vanilla ice cream and strawberry sherbet or mint chocolate and cocoa chocolate (64.50).

Thiriet brought out an ice cream Christmas tree covered in chocolate and a colorful merry-go-round that revolves with pressure from the hand. Behind the Santa Claus figures that ride the merry-go-round is nougat ice cream with bits of Montelimar nougat and chocolate ice cream covered with nougat. The canopy of the merry-go-round is made of vanilla ice cream and raspberry sherbet with pieces of fruit.

The salient characteristic of French ice cream may be that it appeals to the eye as well as to the sense of taste. Packages and the ice creams themselves are equally attractive. French producers in general have a first class product but, by US standards, it is costly.

PHOTO : American-made Honey Hill Farms frozen yogurt with caramel and pecans is being offered in Picard freezer centers. A 473 ml. (pint) container went for a special price of 21.60 francs recently.

PHOTO : Label Rouge Apricot-Sorbet from Jean Valloire is rich in taste and price, at 24.50 francs per half liter.

PHOTO : 8 Cafe Le Miko is new from Miko. Sporting a modernistic art design backed with corrugated cardboard packaging, the novelty stick ice cream is billed as having an "extra chocolately coating." Retail price is 14.70 francs.

PHOTO : Haagen-Dazs ice cream is being introduced to a number of French retail markets through supermarket samplings such as this one at the Euromarche in Lyon.

PHOTO : Glaces Gervais is pushing its Eskimo bar as being the first genuine chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick.

PHOTO : Mars' popular Milky Way candy bar is available in ice cream form in France as well as many other countries. The product is manufactured at the Masterfoods S.A. factory in Steinbourg.

PHOTO : An example of the typical one liter private label ice cream tubs found in French supermarkets is this Casid'Or Creme Glacee Noisette product from Casino.

PHOTO : Miko's new Paola Vanille is described as a flaky pastry of vanilla ice cream layers interspersed with defatted cocoa.
COPYRIGHT 1992 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Article Details
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Author:Davis, Mary
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:3201
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