Chilled products have become one of the main categories of the desserts market, with new chilled desserts representing one fifth of all dessert introductions between 2000 and 2002. Amanda Lintott takes a look at some of the new products available and the latest trends within the chilled desserts sector.

The chilled desserts sector covers many types of desserts including mousses, rice puddings, cheesecakes, trifles and fruit compotes. In general, key developments include more indulgent and premium products; the continued use of licensed confectionery brands and character merchandising (as a way of attracting children); and more “diet” varieties to cater for the weight conscious consumer. Within the chilled desserts category, the most dynamic, in terms of NPD has been pot desserts.

Excluding ice cream (both impulse and take-home), chilled desserts lead the way in the wider desserts market. Between 2000 and 2002 Mintel’s GNPD (Global New Products Database) finds around a fifth of all dessert introductions were chilled desserts. The overriding reason for the success of this sector is that chilled desserts are often seen as better quality than frozen and ambient products, and with the exception of impulse ice cream, they are also more convenient than many frozen desserts.

Geographically, Europe is the largest market for chilled desserts, in particular pot desserts. Overall, between 2000 and 2002, some 63% of new product introductions were reported in Europe, followed by the Asian Pacific region with 18% of introductions. The North American region declined significantly in 2002 with a mere 69 introductions, which is mainly due to distribution limitations for chilled foods in the US.

The two extremes: healthy versus indulgent

Despite growing concern about obesity and a huge demand for healthier (low fat/low calorie) foods, Mintel’s GNPD continues to see ever more indulgent and thus premium dessert launches. These contrasting developments highlight how the market is polarised between two extremes – healthy low-fat foods versus “unhealthy” high-fat, indulgent foods. Retailers, particularly in the UK, have played a large part in adding impetus to the indulgent desserts market, using premium sub-brands such as Tesco Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference. Examples of recent indulgent launches include:

  • Mamie Nova Crèmes Gourmandes in France comprising a range of indulgent cream desserts in Chocolate and Colombian Coffee varieties. Packaged in 2 x 85g pots, they were launched during the summer of 2002.

  • Marks & Spencer Something Special… range including Cappuccino Crème Brulée, a coffee cream dessert made with Channel Island cream, South American coffee and coffee liqueur with Demerara sugar. Also launched in summer of 2002, the pack contains a 95g jar and 4g stick pack of brown sugar.

  • Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Pot au Chocolat rich chocolate dessert made using the finest Belgian chocolate and Jersey cream.

  • Tesco Finest Toffee Sundae in the UK made with a combination of vanilla flavour mousse and toffee mousse, moist toffee cake and caramel sauce, with butterscotch pieces and decorated with fresh cream, chocolate curls and caramel drops.

On the healthy front, the main focus for chilled desserts has been the removal of fat and calories, rather than fortification or enhancement, which has fared well within the yoghurt market. As such, there are numerous “diet” low calorie/fat versions of products such as mousses and triflesc. As with the indulgent sector, both manufacturers and retailers alike have been keen to develop separate “diet” ranges to differentiate from the original non-diet brand. For example, Eat Smart from Safeway, Tentation Légère from Yoplait and Müller Light or Müller Milch Reis Leicht from Müller).Examples of some recent low-fat and low-calorie launches include:

  • Low-fat Shape brand Sticky Toffee variety addition to the Custard& Sponge range of pot desserts in the UK from St Ivel.

  • Apricot Delight variety addition to the existing six flavours, Yoplait branded Le Rice range of 97% fat-free rice, milk and fruit pot desserts in Australia from National Foods. Launched in the autumn of 2002, it is packaged in 2 x 180g plastic pots.

  • Also launched in the autumn of 2002 is a coffee flavoured addition to the Petit Pot de Crème range of reduced fat cream desserts under the Bridélice brand (within the Les Desserts Légers range) in France from Bridel (Lactalis).

  • Low-fat and low-calorie Bread & Butter Puddings in the UK (desserts made with bread soaked in milk, eggs and sugar with a generous helping of sultanas) from Marks & Spencer, within its Count on Us healthy eating label.

Fruity developments

There is potential to develop fortified chilled desserts and follow in the footsteps of the yoghurt market. However, it is important to note that yoghurt and chilled desserts have very different positionings. Yoghurt for example has natural health connotations, and as such, it has been logical to see it develop as a carrier of vitamins, minerals and other healthy ingredients. Chilled desserts, on the other hand, have “treat” connotations, so consumers would not instinctively look towards chilled desserts as a way of supplementing their diet with healthy ingredients. However, fortification health claims are sometimes found within the fruit-based chilled dessert segment, for example compotes and purées, whereby the natural vitamin content of the fruit used is highlighted. Recently, fruit desserts have also been positively marketed as a way for consumers to eat their recommended daily requirement of fruit (for example, the Way to Five range from Sainsbury). The positive health positioning of fruit smoothies has also moved into the dessert segment with the launch of smoothie desserts in the US. Examples of recent fortified and fruity healthy dessert launches include:

  • Way to Five Tropical Sponge Pudding (with apricot, mango & papaya); and Tropical Fruit Jelly (orange jelly loaded with chunks of juicy pineapple, papaya and guava) in the UK from retailer Sainsbury’s.

  • Launched in the summer of 2002, Fruchtbombe fruit dessert in Germany from Schwartauer Werke with apple and strawberries, a fruit content of 89%, and free from fat, colourings and preservatives (one pot is claimed to cover the daily requirement of vitamin C).

  • New additions to the Andros fruit compotes in France including Pomme Fraise (apple and strawberry), said to contain 25% less sugar than regular compotes, and free from colours, flavours and preservatives.

  • Jell-O Smoothie Snacks in the US from Kraft Foods, where fruit meets milk to create a low fat spoonable treat, available in Strawberry, Banana, Peach, Mango and Mixed Berries flavours in six-packs.

  • Ilolay Kids branded range of vitamin A and D fortified desserts in Spain from Sucesores de Alfredo Williner, in chocolate, vanilla and vanilla with caramel varieties.

Something for the kids

All things sweet appear to be a hit with children’s taste buds, so it is no surprise that the penetration of chilled pot desserts is highest among households with children. To target children, the market is rife with character merchandised lines and product promotions. Popular dessert types and flavours for children include chocolate mousse, fruit jelly, and fruit purée desserts. Package design is also key in this segment, with bright colours, cartoon characters and even fun product shapes. Recent interesting children’s chilled desserts include:

  • Yoplait Safari jelly pot dessert in Norway, packaged in plastic pots with attached spoons for serving, in strawberry & pear, and strawberry varieties featuring safari animal designs on the pack (tiger or elephant).

  • Nestlé’s Monsters Inc I Screams milky dessert in the UK, with a strawberry flavour centre, and shaped to resemble the monster’s eye.

  • Nickelodeon Blue’s Clues (cartoon) vanilla custard dessert for children, launched in New Zealand by Mainland Products.

The brand effect

The use of established and popular brands from outside the sector has done much to invigorate the chilled dessert market in Europe. Confectionery branding, particularly from the chocolate segment, has been very successful, and has been used to target adults and children alike. Key players include confectionery leaders Cadbury, Mars, Nestlé, and Kraft Jacobs Suchard, who have used a number of confectionery brands in desserts (for example, Cadbury Milk Chocolate, Buttons, Freddo, Milky Way, Galaxy, Aero, Smarties, After Eight, Rolo, Milkybar, Milka).

There is also activity from within the sugar confectionery segment (though to a lesser degree), with brands such as Starburst (Mars), Rowntree (Nestlé), and Creme Savers in the US (Kraft Foods). The success story with confectionery brands highlights the potential for other non-dessert brands to enter the market, particularly if they are global players with large category portfolios. Recent non-dessert branding has come from beverages (for example, Milo from Nestlé), biscuits (Oreo from Kraft Foods), and speciality chocolate makers (Thorntons in the UK). Interesting product examples highlighting these brand extensions include:

  • Jell-O Creme Savers swirled pudding snacks in the US from Kraft Foods in creamy flavours such as Orange & Creme, Strawberries & Creme and Chocolate & Caramel Crème.

  • Jell-O Oreo Halloween pudding snacks again from Kraft Foods in the US, with a flavour of Oreo brand cookies and creamy smooth pudding.

  • Starburst Juicy Mousse pot dessert in a tropical fruit flavour with stripes of real fruit, launched in the UK by Eden Vale.

  • Rowntree’s Strawberry Jelly in the UK from Nestlé, based on the Rowntree’s sugar confectionery brand, and claimed to be gelatine-free and made with real fruit juice.

  • Thorntons Pure Indulgence family size Toffee Cheesecake made by Hazelwood Foods.

  • Milo brand chocolate pudding in Thailand from Nestlé, targeted at children.

Early days for organics

Despite a general boom in all things organic, the market for organic chilled desserts remains in the early stages of development. For now, organic chilled desserts are predominantly introduced by smaller, “niche” players. Some examples of organic dessert introductions include:

  • Organic chocolate & pear pot dessert in Italy from Fattoria Scaldasole, packaged in glass pots.

  • Yeo Valley organic fruit compote in the UK with orange, pink grapefruit and lemon.

  • Moulin des Moines branded organic desserts in France from Moulin Meckert Diemer, including chocolate, praline and vanilla flans.