Product trial: Scoop the rewards

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Related tags: Desserts, English cuisine

ICE-CREAM is a classic pub pudding - often served as a dessert on its own, and also routinely offered as an accompaniment to other favourites such a...

ICE-CREAM is a classic pub pudding - often served as a dessert on its own, and also routinely offered as an accompaniment to other favourites such a fruit crumble or pie. It's the pub trade's best-selling dessert according to the annual Publican Food Report.

Even for the pub trade, ice-cream sales are difficult to track, making it harder for brand owners to make the case for premium products.

Unilever, owner of the Carte D'Or brand, has been working with The Publican to carry out trials in pubs to assess the impact on sales of its brand.

The Elm Tree, Farnham, Surrey

The Elm Tree is a community pub looking to expand its food offer. The Carte D'Or True Taste range of premium dairy ice-cream was introduced at the same time as a Sunday roast menu, aimed at boosting the all-important weekend trade.

"The most popular dessert choice was strawberry ice-cream which outsold the rum and raisin, mint and chocolate by two to one," says manager Kelly Crawford. "The glassware supplied enabled us to 'wow' the customers with presentation." Average spend per food customer went up by £3.

The first Sunday of the trial saw five people have lunch, including dessert. In week two there were seven covers with four ordering dessert, and by the third Sunday, 12 adults and one child had lunch, with six ordering desserts, including one sticky toffee pudding with ice-cream.

"Everyone noticed the menu for its professional look, and all commented on the use of quality ice-cream, whether they had one or not. Lots of people commented on the presentation of the product, especially the branded plate," says Kelly.

One downside noted by Kelly was that the dark chocolate ice-cream was hard to scoop straight from the freezer, an important consideration in a pub where sales can be unpredictable. "We had to leave it about 20 minutes to be soft enough, which is no good if you're only a small business not doing many covers," she says.

The Bull Inn, Redbourn, Hertfordshire

Another six-week trial ran at the Bull Inn. The pub featured the Carte D'Or True Taste range on its dessert menus, as well as using branded glassware and branded point-of-sale to promote the offer.

Before the trial, the most popular dessert was Blackberry and Apple Crumble with custard, and the Bull served about 15 desserts per week, at £3.50 each. The increased profile of desserts in the pub, along with the high-profile branding, saw dessert sales double to 30 a week selling at and increased price of £4.50 each.

That represents a 28 per cent profit increase per dessert and an extra income of around £330 per month on desserts alone.

Licensee Jane Pearson says: "The reaction from customers has been brilliant - they are all really enjoying the wider range and variety of desserts, especially the ice-cream."

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