Unilever tries to scoop Halo Top's popularity with new probiotic ice cream
- Unilever just released a premium light ice cream brand that aims to support culture by featuring probiotics on the inside and local artists on the outside. According to a press release, the Unilever Foundation is also donating 10% of the brand's profits to support the arts in local communities.
- The probiotic ice cream line — called Culture Republick — has 16 to 18 grams of protein per pint with no artificial sweeteners. Each one has between 400 and 500 calories. The pints are now available at select retailers and priced between $3.99 and $4.99.
- Culture Republick offers seven unique flavors: Milk & Honey, Turmeric Chai and Cinnamon, Cold Brew & Chocolate Chi, Pistachio & Caramel, Lemon & Graham, Chocolate & Cherry and Matcha & Fudge. Each pint container is designed by a different artist in various places across the country.
Ever since Halo Top disrupted the market, the better-for-you ice cream segment has started to get crowded. Unilever found Halo Top’s success to be such an upset that they have already reformulated two of their classic brands – Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers. But that wasn't enough. The release of Culture Republick marks its latest attempt to catch up to the number-one-selling pint of ice cream in the United States.
When Halo Top stepped into the market, it was answering consumer demand for "free-from" treats by creating a good tasting, healthier ice cream with ingredient transparency. As a result, the company sold more than 17 million pints in 2016, a 2,500% sales increase in a year. The explosive growth has hurt the competition, including Unilever.
By the fall of 2017, Unilever had seen a 6.7% drop in net sales in its Refreshment segment, and had lost 1.5 share points to Halo Top, according to Food Business News. Although Unilever quickly reformulated some of its popular ice cream brands, Culture Republick is the CPG manufacturer’s direct response to the exploding better-for-you ice cream market. The brand is hoping to hit on all the trends that consumers are looking for today. It offers some healthier advantages and is supporting the arts in local communities with every purchase — tapping into the popularity of better-for-you products and the idea that consumers want companies to be good corporate citizens.
But the space is already jam-packed with competition, so Unilever wanted to stand out even more. The company chose to not focus on what Culture Republick doesn't have, but what it does: probiotics.
As consumers become increasingly interested in gut health, manufacturers are pumping probiotics into everything from beer, candy, cereal and cookies, to more conventional sources like yogurt. BCC Research projects the probiotics market will grow from $32 billion in 2014 to $50 billion globally by 2020. Millennials are particularly interested in the sector, which is also helping drive growth and could help Culture Republick.
Much like Halo Top catered to a strong demand for a niche product, Unilever's value-add strategy will likely lure customers to at least try it. Keeping them coming back will require the right combination of price, clean ingredients, flavors and taste.
However, Culture Republick already has some advantages over Halo Top. According to Mintel's ice cream study, about 11% of Americans actively avoid "healthy" frozen treats because they are "meant to be treats." At the same time, research from Mintel shows the ice cream and frozen dairy dessert market has grown 7% between 2014 and 2016. This indicates that when Americans are looking to indulge, they want the real deal. Culture Republick seems to give them just that, but also adds in a dash of probiotics for good measure.
As part of the Unilever parent company, the brand has access to a massive distribution network and well-funded marketing. Halo Top might have proved that all you need is a camera and a hashtag for explosive marketing, but a trusted parent company could help. Still, Culture Republick will need to drive excitement and loyalty fast if it wants to topple the growing Halo Top empire.