Ice cream has got off to a good start in Britain this year by taking advantage of record temperatures in April, said to Mark Gossage, chief executive of the Ice Cream Alliance (ICA). And, early signs suggest summer 2007 will again be hotter than the average for the last 30 years, according to a recent summary from the UK Met Office. It also said global temperatures were likely to be the warmest this year since records began in 1850. That could be good news for ice cream, which is an extremely dependent on blue skies for high sales. Sales on a hot, sunny day can be five or six times higher, although temperatures above 30C often leads to consumers switching from ice cream to ice lollies. A record heat wave early last summer gave ice cream firms across the UK a welcome boost, said Gossage, but he warned against banking on the notoriously unreliable British weather. He said sales were up less than five per cent in 2006, despite the heat, due to a colder period early on and a fairly disappointing August. On a more positive note, he added recent figures showed smaller producers were increasingly holding their own in the UK against supermarket private label products and big brands. "Premium ice cream continues to out-grow the rest of the market, largely at the expense of supermarket soft scoop varieties." He added that big firms such as Ben & Jerry's or Green & Blacks were driving premium growth, but that "since people have got a taste for something a little bit better, they are looking around for more alternatives". During last summer's heat wave, one small firm - Cheshire Farm Ice Cream - said sales were up around 20-25 per cent. Gossage said premium products would be important for market growth than crazy new flavours. "Pretty much every flavour has been invented, and pretty much everybody still prefers the standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla." The Midlands-based Ice Cream Alliance will run a series of ice cream festivals around the country in June and July in order to publicise the sector and teach more consumers how ice cream is made.