While Mars Wrigley’s brands such as Snickers, M&M’s, Twix and Milky Way are best known in confectionery, the company is taking aggressive steps to expand its presence in ice cream – an “untapped opportunity” for the company more 100 years, according to a senior executive.
“WWe have the opportunity to grow because we have some of the best brands on the candy side which we believe are very applicable in the ice cream business,” said Shaf Lalani, Managing Director of Mars Ice Cream.
The company first entered the ice cream business in 1986 when Mars purchased Dove Bar. It introduced its Snickers into the frozen category four years later – the first Mars brand to make the move. Today, its Mars Ice Cream division is integral to its future, even though it’s a much smaller business compared to the parent company’s multi-billion dollar confectionery operations, Lalani noted.
Mars Wrigley has a “bold ambition” to triple the size of its ice cream business to $1.1 billion in sales worldwide by 2024, according to the company. He said the US market, where he gets the lion’s share of sales in the frozen category, “is critical to our success.”
Mars Wrigley is on a roll. Last year alone, sales in the US frozen novelty sector, worth $6.5 billion, jumped 5.8%, according to Nielsen. Mars Ice Cream doubled that percentage of dollar sales growth.
Mars Wrigley said it had the best brand in a host of frozen novelty categories, including convenience stores with Snickers Ice Cream Bar, sandwiches with M&Ms and non-dairy in Kind Frozen. Meanwhile, sales at its Twix ice cream bar have grown 20% annually for the past two years, according to the company.
Mars Wrigley, which is privately held, declined to provide more specific figures on ice cream sales or its growth rate in the category.
Line said CPG’s diverse ice cream portfolio allows it to reach consumers based on their needs.
Dove, for example, is in the premium segment, while M&M’s and Twix are more mainstream. Those avoiding dairy can turn to Kind bars, pints and smoothies. At this time, the company does not expect to bring other candy brands from its portfolio into ice cream, or adopt a defining brand attribute, like Kind in non-dairy, to something like Dove. .
“That’s not to say we wouldn’t be looking at other options, but we have no plans to change our products today,” Lalani said.
Mars Wrigley’s ice cream brands benefit from the widespread popularity of its staple candies which have been in the market for decades, he said.
“Consumers have grown up with these and in many cases it’s new to them when they find out we make ice cream,” he said.
While sales and brand awareness of Mars Wrigley’s ice cream have been growing for years, Lalani said many people still don’t know about them. To bridge this gap, the company has invested more in innovation and new online digital campaigns for brands such as Snickers. He recently splashed the cash to market his M&M’s ice cream sandwiches for the first time in 13 years.
More than 30 years after entering the ice cream category, Mars Wrigley still manufactures its frozen treats in a 145,000 square foot facility in Burr Ridge, Illinois, and will be for the foreseeable future. Earlier this year, it announced it would invest $50 million in the plant to meet future demand.
He also announced partnerships with Walmart, Kroger, instagram and door dash, among other things, on e-commerce efforts to get their frozen products into the hands of more online shoppers. The company’s digital ice cream sales soared 70% last year, Line Noted.
Ice cream “is an untapped opportunity,” he said, noting that people who try their frozen treats often become repeat customers. “We have a track ahead of us to keep growing and getting into more households and getting people to try us out.”