Unilever and Nestlé were for many years fierce rivals for the #1 spot in global ice cream, passing that crown back and forth several times during the 1990s and early 2000s. However, more recently, Unilever has seized a firm lead and has steadily widened it with selective regional acquisitions. It has by far the biggest footprint, with operations in at least 70 countries worldwide, and an estimated 39% share of the global market. Meanwhile, Nestlé has steadily withdrawn from direct competition, transferring a succession of its operations into part-owned Froneri, now the global #2 at around 30% share. The rival's main weakness is a lack of global masterbrands. By contrast, Unilever manages an impressive collection of international titans. Magnum dominates the global portfolio, the world's single best-selling ice cream product with retail sales now touching $3bn. It is supported by impulse products like Cornetto (around $1.8bn at retail), Solero and Calippo, scoop home-serve products including Ben & Jerry's (global sales of $1.4bn) and Carte d'Or, and a collection of local single-market jewels; for example, Breyer's, Klondike and Popsicle in the US or the oddly named Golden Gaytime in Australia. The group also has a few key license partners, such as Ferrero, for whom its produces Kinder-brand ice cream products in some countries. Unilever's individual products straddle the globe, but its distribution network has been assembled from the acquisition of numerous local producers. Wall's was the original UK cornerstone, and it has been joined by Breyer's/Good Humor in the US; Langnese, Ola, Algida, Miko and others in Europe; Inmarko of Russia; Kibon of Brazil; Streets of Australia and many more. Most still trade under their original different names, but unified by the international Unilever "Heartbrand" logo. Since 2015, the biggest competitive threat to Unilever's dominance has come not from Nestlé/Froneri but niche low calorie producers like Halo Top, especially in the US. Unilever has sought to counter the surging popularity of these low calorie rivals with its own range of "new age" ice creams like Culture Republick, launched in the US in 2018, as well as premium specialist manufacturers such as US sorbet producer Talenti and GROM of Italy. It has also pushed hard into non-dairy and vegan ice cream. The first vegan Ben & Jerry's products launched in 2018, followed by vegan Magnum in 2019. Hanneke Faber is president, foods & refreshment at Unilever. Matt Close is EVP, global ice cream. Combined sales of ice cream were around €7bn in 2020; the US alone accounted for just under half that total. Unilever's frozen foods business was sold in 2006, eventually becoming what is now Nomad Foods.
Capsule checked 6th September 2021
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Who are the competitors of Unilever? Nestlé was traditionally Unilever's main rival in global ice cream, but since 2015 the Swiss company has gradually spun off most of its international operations in that segment into Froneri, a separate joint venture with private equity partners. As of 2020, Nestlé now only directly controls its ice cream business in Canada, Latin America and Asia. Smaller competitors include General Mills outside North America, Mars and Baskin-Robbins and local companies such as Wells Dairy in the US, Amul in India, Lotte in Korea, and Yili Group of China. See Food Sector index for other companies
Adbrands Daily Update 29th Sep 2021: Unilever's global dominance in ice cream will get another boost from a new strategic partnership with Barilla to sell ice cream and snacks in Italy. Details have not been disclosed, but will probably extend brands such as Barilla's Gocciole biscuits into the ice cream sector. It could also lead to the launch by Barilla of Magnum or Cornetto branded snacks. Unilever already has a similar partnership with Barilla's confectionery rival Ferrero. Its local ice cream business in Italy trades under the Algida name, but shares Unilever's global "Heartbrand" branding.
Historical profile information for Unilever ice cream
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