Friday, November 18, 2011

Checking in on the Ice Cream Industry

Happy Friday all. We are going to do something a little different today. I plan on commenting about something, but before I do, I decided to do a quick fact check. The funny thing is, instead of just one fact, I found a big old pile of them courtesy of Dairy Food magazine. Without further ado, let's check in with our big ice cream friends.

First, the Bad News

Let's start with some said news. Apparently Yarnell's Ice cream (of Arkansas) filed for Chapter 7 this summer and ceased operations on June 30th. While managing to sell some $46 million of ice cream in 2010, it has been a tough year for everyone. As of closing, they had $8 million in assets but almost $16 million in liabilities. I feel bad not just for the 200 or so products they put out, but for the over 200 people that lost their jobs (Note: some of the delivery drivers were picked up by Nestle). Yarnell's will not be coming back as the company trustee moved to sell off all company assets last month. 79 years of ice cream glory down the drain. If you've got a fond memory of them, or even just a favorite flavor, please let us know.

You would think that ice cream, the world's best frozen comfort food, would be doing ok in these tough times, but I guess that is not the case. As you know, my local Friendly's ice cream has also gone into Chapter 11, though thankfully they are still in business after closing a chunk of their restaurants. Ok, let's move on to better news.

So, who really are the top players?

Ok, so I stumbled upon the numbers for Oct 2009 through Sept 2010. It was in the Jan 2011 Dairy Foods issue with the numbers come courtesy of the SymphonyIRI Group.

So, all in all we are looking at $4 billion in US grocery sales (excluding Walmart for some reason). Now technically they cheat a bit and lump all the "Private Labels" together and they take up 25% of the market. With $3 billion left, how do the big guys stack up? Well, for some strange reason they report Dreyers / Edys into three groups, which seems odd, so let's put them all back together so that they come in at #1 with 14.7% of the market. #2 is Breyers at 11%. As Blue Bell likes to tout, they are only in 18 states, yet clock in with 7.5% of the market. #4 is the 14oz purveyors of Haagen-Dazs at 6.3%, chased by our tree huggin' buds Ben & Jerry at 5.5%. That leaves Blue Bunny at 3.4% and Turkey Hill at 3%. (I actually found some 2001 data as well and the rankings were pretty much the same, but then followed by Healthy Choice, Kemps, Mayfield, and Friendlys.).

If you wanted to be really tidy, you could lump Unilever's Breyers + B&J together, and then Nestle's Dreyers + H-D together, but then you still have #1 Unilever, #2 Nestle, and then #3 Blue Bell, etc, etc.

I guess the good news is that I'm covering all the major players except Blue Bell, which is kind of sad. Anybody want to guest review a few of their flavors?

One More Thing

Ok, now if you don't mind, i need to speak to all the industry people out there (but you feel free to write to your favorite company and tell them to get there act together, because there are a lot of offenders).

Dear industry peoples,
   It is almost 2012. I've been surfing the real internet since 1994, back when pretty much every page was black text on a gray background. Most people were kickin' it 14.4kbps style, so we all understood that pages needed to be simple. However, in a world of DSL, FIOS, and cable broadband, would you mind giving us a decent website. Let me give you a few examples.

You know Blue Bell, this site would have rocked (i.e. been acceptable) in 1998.
How exactly is this suppose to make me hungry?
Technically I can click on the year round flavors to get more info & a photo
but there is squat about non-current rotational flavors

Awesome! this would have been acceptable in 2000.
Those 1.3" wide carton images are just so tantalizing incredibly boring
(there is a spot to grab big images, but I shouldn't have to work for it!)

This site screams of readiness for 2012, good job Hudsonville!
Every time I go here I get flustered I can't try any of these colorful flavors.
This is how you rock today's internet people, get with it.

Breyers also has a nice new website while B&J's is always changing, though finding a flavor can be a little slow. Edy's / Dreyer's is archaic and H-D is decent but is showing it's age. I know things get harder as you have more flavors, but the internet is a visual medium and I don't want to burn 37 clicks to see the good stuff.

The internet matters. Websites matter. Social media matters. I know Turkey Hill and Perry's have blogs. Several companies use facebook... but please don't over do it on twitter. Try to keep your signal to noise ratio respectable on twitter. Shout outs are nice, but not once an hour (try to stick with contests, quips, pics, things that will make us smile). Oh, and if you don't have a web submission form or email address readily available (cough)bluebell(cough), please get one asap.

So, let's get ready for 2012! Heck, I'll help you out with free advice, all you have to do is ask!



Julien said...

As much as I love Blue Bell, and no matter how many childhood memories are tied thereto, their website makes me weep. It starts out semi-strong, but it fails once you try to go all Inception on it. If you want to go deeper, maybe find out a little about their new flavors, you get no love.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post. That Hudsonville site made me hungry (and also made me wish it was sold locally.)

Emily said...

I live in Searcy, Arkansas which is the headquarters for Yarnell's, and it has truly been a sad time for us, and I personally know many people who lost their jobs. Thanks for the support. :)

Unknown said...

I stumbled upon this post today and was very excited to see something about Yarnell's. You may be happy to know that an out-of-state corporation purchased the factory, name, associated trademarks, and recipes. They recently began selling the ice cream again and it is as good as I remember.
My family used to sell ice cream cones at the 4th of July in Pangburn, Arkansas (15 or so miles north of Searcy), I have many fond memories of sitting atop the massive coolers, only hopping off to "sample" some of the delicious Yarnell's ice cream inside (strawberry was my favorite, that or Ozark black walnut). Would that there was an inexpensive way of shipping ice cream from Arkansas to Mass, I would really enjoy reading what you have to say about "the Down-Home Goodness."