With close to 5% turnover investment in R&D and a range of exotic and out-of-the-box ice cream brands, Froneri is one of the major ice cream players on the global market. In this exclusive interview with Phil Griffin, group head of sales, I asked him about trends, consumer preferences for bold flavors and the company’s growth strategy.
By Dan Orehov
Can you explain the R&D process and how long it takes Froneri to come up with a new product?
That depends on the type of product. The quickest that we can do products – it’s one of our key competitive advantages – is around 6 months for some of our private label customers. But when we do something on the scale of our new brand Nuii, for example, across multi-markets – the product is going to launch in five or six countries in Western Europe this year – you are probably looking at 18 months to two years.
Have you noticed any particular differences in terms of preferences from consumers region-wise?
The ice cream market is growing globally and that is driven by better access to products in developing countries through the distribution network, but also by premiumization in well-developed markets. For now, we believe there are local preferences. For example, we do have some global products like ice cream with Oreo, Kit Kat or Toblerone. We also have a significant part of our portfolio that is about building our local brand. We joke internally that we are a glocal business. The key difference across the global markets is probably the amount of cream included in the recipe. So historic dairy markets tend to have a very high level of cream and recipe so the US, Australia, the Nordic countries. Whereas the warmer countries tend to use a bit more oil in the product (vegetable oil) and that’s really the biggest difference globally.
If we were to discuss trends, besides indulgence, what others have you noticed?
We have R&D teams all over our markets working on innovation. You certainly cannot ignore when there is a push to clean up our recipes and make them as close to stockable ingredients as possible. The two biggest areas of growth have been in premium ice cream with bigger and better-quality inclusions and higher sourced content, so we have done a lot of work on improving our sources and our recipes, while the other area of growth has been frozen ices and lollies. That is actually driven not just because of the need for refreshment, but also, because they tend to be lower calorie products and are seen as a good snack or treat, particularly in the afternoon, that isn’t maybe as calorific as the other snacks in the other categories. With regards to health, there is the trend for dairy-free, vegan, plant-based – all of these areas we are looking at and developing products at the moment in different markets. It is very difficult to pick just one winning trend at the moment that is quite polarized, so we are developing a number of concepts.
Which would you say are the most successful products in your portfolio?
Currently we are the third largest global ice cream manufacturer and our ambition and our dream is to become the best ice cream company in the world. This ambition has allowed us to build partnerships with some fantastic brands like Nestle and Mondelez as a licensee and that gives us access to Oreo, Kit Kat, Milka, Toblerone and they were a real engine growth for us for the last few years. Then locally we also have some great brands that we can develop. That focus on getting the right ingredients for the local market has certainly worked in our favor. With regards to market share, we estimate it at around 6%.
You can read the entire article in the March-April 2019 print issue of Frozen Food Europe.