Retailer own brands gained market share leadership in the French ice cream sector during 2006, dethroning long-established front-runner Unilever.

Combined retailer sales accounted for 29.3% of the market in value terms, an increase of 1.7% on 2005. Unilever was ranked second with 27.7% (down 2.2%) followed by Nestlé with 22.1% (down 1.6%).

The trend is seen as a consequence of retailers cutting back drastically on the range of ice creams they sell largely to the detriment of the leading brands.

Unilever's Cornetto suffered badly but the firm is poised to hit back as it seeks to increase its French market share to 30% over the next few years.

In April, Unilever will launch a new ice cream brand called Frusi, a combination of ice cream, yoghurt, fruit and cereals, which it hopes will change consumption habits.