Dreyer's tries superpremium brand

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Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, looking to crack the rich superpremium ice cream category, is testing one of the first new product styles in more than a decade.

Portofino, a new Italian-style ice cream and sorbetto to compete with Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs, is being tested in San Francisco and Phoenix with a TV, outdoor and in-store campaign.

The new product, based on Italian gelato and positioned separately from Dreyer's premium ice creams, comes in eight flavors, each sporting a whimsical Italian name, such as Portofino Vanilla Bella, Chocolate Passione and Expresso Amore.

It also comes in a non-traditional size, 24 ounces, in addition to the traditional superpremium pint and quart sizes.


Portofino boasts having "less heavy cream" than other superpremiums, allowing flavors to come through. In one TV spot, a filmy screen obscuring a photograph of chocolate is unzipped, allowing the other flavors to be "unmasked." Opera music plays in the background.

Bus shelter posters sport an elegant brown and white Italian-style mosaic. The same design appears on mats placed in front of supermarket freezers.

Dreyer's agency, Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, is handling the test campaign, which doesn't use the Dreyer's name.

"We believe the weak growth [in the ice cream category] is due to a void in innovation and excitement," said trade materials for Portofino, "so we're introducing the first new style of ice cream in over a decade."


These materials, citing Information Resources Inc. data, note a 1% drop in ice cream's share of the frozen dessert category through November 1995 vs. the previous 12-month period. Dreyer's predominantly is a player in the premium ice cream arena, where the average retail price is $7.20 a gallon, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. That's almost one-third the price of superpremiums, at $20.78 a gallon, but more than economy ice creams, at $3.87, and regular products, at $5.50.


But taking the leap from the premium category to the superpremiums has been difficult for ice cream marketers because of the brand connotations of lower-end lines, an industry executive familiar with the category said.

So Dreyer's has taken the approach of E.&J. Gallo Winery, which has begun launching upscale brands without the family name on the label, such as its Gossamer Bay varietals.

"The reason they are not using the Dreyer's name is that is too far a jump from the premium to superpremium category," the executive said.

Most of Dreyer's recent product launches were in the low-fat or low-calorie arena. The new product, however, does not make any health claim.


Dreyer's, which markets ice cream under its own name west of the Rocky Mountains and in Texas and as Edy's Grand elsewhere, ranks third among the nation's ice cream sellers. Of the $2.7 billion in ice cream sold for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 11, according to Information Resources Inc., Unilever's brands, including Breyers, and Dreyer's ran a close second and third, respectively, behind private labels.

Dreyer's, however, saw its share increase by 38% from the previous year, compared with only an 11.8% increase for Unilever. Superpremium leaders Haagen-Dazs had 5% and Ben & Jerry's about 4%.

Contributing: Judann Pollack.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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