The Slow Melt varieties (in typical red-stain flavors including cherry and strawberry-kiwi) are an answer to parents' biggest problem with the product based on an attitude and usage study last summer. "Messiness, dripping and melting are the top reasons moms ... don't purchase ice pops more often," said Julio Del Cioppo, director-marketing for Unilever Ice Cream.
An "ice-structuring protein," basically a fermentation process using baker's yeast, enables ice pops to stay on the stick longer, he said.
Unilever will run print ads promoting the pops in the July/August issue of Nick Jr. magazine and banner ads on the Nick Jr. website. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, handles.
Science, emotions, popsicles
But won't some be turned off by this "ice-structuring protein"? Unilever says it's been using ISP since 2003 in products including Double Churn ice cream and Breyer's 100-calorie cups. Consumers who inquire about ISP receive a communique that says: "ISPs are commonly found in nature, where they exist to help organisms to exist in cold climates." It adds that Unilever has "conducted a comprehensive battery of studies on its safety," and ISP is "generally recognized as safe in the United States."
In the past five years, Unilever's ice-cream unit has been the "most consistent part of a very inconsistent company," said Prudential Securities analyst John McMillin. He said it's done well largely because of unique and creative ideas such as Slow Melt.
Popsicle sales have been a bright spot, with sales up 10% to $115 million for the 52 weeks ended March 25 in food, drug and mass outlets excluding Wal-Mart, according to Information Resources Inc.