Ice cream firms ride Britain's summer heatwave

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ice cream Ice cream maker Supermarket Ice cream alliance

Ice cream sales have shot through the roof in Britain over the last
week thanks to an almighty heatwave, leaving producers working flat
out to meet consumers' insatiable demand.

Ice cream makers were jumping for joy as temperatures across much of the UK soared to 37°C last week, higher than on parts of the Mediterranean coast.

"It's a bit of a godsend for the trade because we had a very difficult start to the year,"​ Mark Gossage, chief executive of the Ice Cream Alliance (ICA), told​.

The industry has not yet counted its mounting pile of pound coins, but "generally speaking sales on a hot, sunny day will be five or six times higher than an average day"​, according to one very cheerful Gossage.

Supermarkets have been quicker to value Britain's ice cream boom.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury's, Britain's third largest supermarket, said sales last week were up 60 per cent on the same time in 2005. It sold 3.4m tubs of ice cream, making last week easily one of its best ever for ice cream sales.

Figures from Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, told a similar story. The firm said it had provisionally sold 1.5m litres of ice cream last week, alongside soaring sales for other 'sunshine foods', as people "use their gardens as their dining rooms"​.

The heatwave has also helped smaller ice cream firms as well as big ones.

Michele Lea, of Cheshire Farm Ice Cream, said sales there were up around 20-25 per cent. "We've been very busy. We supply hotels, restaurants and small retailers in the area and all our orders have increased. It's certainly going to help us,"​ she said.

The worry now is whether ice cream makers can continue to meet consumers' insatiable appetite.

"There is a little bit of pressure on the supply chain,"​ said ICA's Mark Gossage, adding some manufacturers were working significantly longer hours. "I went to a farm last week that normally makes one batch per day, but they're up to two just to make up the orders."

Still, there will be few ice cream makers cursing the good fortune this year's summer has brought them.

Poor weather through much of April and May, coupled with a prolonged winter season, got ice cream sales off to a jittery start in Britain. And, the market has struggled over the longer term from consumers increasingly worried about the fat content of their diets.

Nestlé, the world's largest ice cream maker, saw sales dip in 2005 after disappointing performances across Europe offset more promising growth in the US.

Several firms have looked to develop reduced calorie versions of their products to get consumers back on side.

Unilever, number two in global ice cream, recently caused controversy in Britain by applying for clearance to use a genetically modified protein that could take the place of fat in ice cream. The firm, which owns the Wall's and Magnum brands, already uses the protein in Breyer's ice cream products in the US.

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