The frozen novelties marketed by the Pillsbury unit posted a sales decline of 10.7% to $59.4 million for the 52 weeks ended May 24, according to Information Resources Inc. figures, with unit sales posting a similar decline.
Part of Haagen-Dazs' showing in supermarkets probably is due to its exit from ice cream sandwiches within the last six months, and softness in frozen yogurt-based novelties, showing a category-wide plunge. An analysis of novelty trends shows frozen yogurt bars now accounting for less than 1% of novelty sales, and sales of this segment plunging 33% for the 52 weeks ended June 14, based on IRI numbers.
Ice cream sandwiches, 14.4% of the category, saw sales fall 1.5% during that time.
AD BUDGET FOCUSES ON ICE CREAM
Haagen-Dazs hasn't been spending heavily on its novelty business. Its overall measured advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, was about $8 million, mainly focused on hard-pack ice cream (Haagen-Dazs' hard-pack ice cream sales were up 10.5% for the 52 weeks ended June 21).
Haagen-Dazs executives note that IRI measures supermarkets only, and insists those figures are deceiving.
"Almost 80% of our stick-bar business is in convenience stores," which are not measured by IRI, said a spokeswoman. She said Haagen-Dazs considers its brand as standing apart from mainline novelties.
When measured within the superpremium subset, the spokeswoman said, Haagen-Dazs novelties are posting growth. In fact, she said ACNielsen Corp. figures for the 52 weeks ended June 6 show the brand's volume up 17%.
The marketer is running a novelty-focused outdoor and transit effort this year in seven markets-New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles-aimed expressly at convenience-store shoppers. From Partners & Shevack, New York, the ads show a close-up of a Haagen-Dazs novelty with the theme, "Portable perfection."
"It's too early to read how it's working," the spokeswoman said, noting that novelties' best selling season is far from over.
If a crucial amount of its volume is through convenience stores, Haagen-Dazs needs to pump up the channel. A marketing executive with a major ice cream producer said novelty sales "are going south," and "eat-at-home products are on the rise."
He noted that while convenience-store sales are not to be scoffed at, supermarket multipacks "are where the volume is," adding that-the indulgent food wave aside-there appears to be a surge in mid-price, multipack frozen novelties.
Ice cream marketer observers also note Haagen-Dazs is feeling the squeeze as the $1.6 billion novelty category faces the reality of minimal growth, as are most players.
"I think novelties are moving closer to what the name suggests," said one dairy executive. "We've hit every bell and whistle. To grow the category, we need more sustained advertising."