Snack Break | Unilever Ice Cream – Ice Cream Lovers

After a long, heated summer it’s time for a short reflection. If you say sun, your thoughts easily shift to ice cream. A sweet and chilly break for a summers day. Chuck Studios spoke with Sebastien Deneux, Marketing Manager Ice Cream at Unilever, about ice cream lover brands and the frozen delight. He defines himself as frontman of the ice cream tribe of Unilever and makes sure they’re on top of their game. He sometimes plays the part of concierge, marketing coach or troubleshooter. Marketeers, sales and R&D have to work together to provide the ultimate ice cream lover experience. All within one strategy.

How does that work?

Ice cream is fun. It’s joy, indulgence and refreshment. It’s applicable for all ages. We strive to connect to all ages with our different brands. For instance, Magnum Chocolate Indulgence is for chocolate lovers. Contrarily Ben & Jerry’s connects to Peace & Love soul. Some love innovation other stick to the classics. For scoops of ice cream we have Hertog and for heatwaves, we have a fresh alternative in Ola. Our portfolio and strategy is a jigsaw puzzle which appeals to different target audiences, ages and channels.

I’m not a big fan of adding extra brands. We’re touching almost every level because a lot of people buy different ice cream brands from Unilever. It makes you think about the positioning of these brands to keep cannibalisation at a minimum. The tribe needs to be properly aligned. They have to be positioned in a way that they’re supporting each other.

What are the contrasts between the target audiences?

There are the Ben & Jerry’s lovers, who like exciting flavour combinations; “dense” ice cream with bits. And there are the creamy ice cream lovers, who like airy, “warm” ice with a softer touch. The silver generation favours scoops of ice cream from the parlour, while the millennials preference lies with Ben & Jerry’s because they were raised with it. The funny thing about every person’s duality is they are able to make a switch in choices. There are base categories, but the movement to different sides is possible.

Which learnings have you taken from previous jobs?

The nice thing about Unilever is that I can play different parts. I started out at sales in The Netherlands, moved to foods for Knorr and Conimex, through Margarine Europa and Global ended back in The Netherlands. The portfolio you collect filled with combinations of sales, brand building, execution and brand development at the Global team, makes you appreciate the magic and logic. I adore the right pricing strategy just as much as a newly developed campaign. Learning the different categories within diverse marketing dynamics is enriching.

In your field, there are a lot of large companies, but also small niche companies. What is your view on those two?

In the last ten years, the number of artisanal ice cream parlours has tripled and even six folded in the larger cities within The Netherlands. Which results in a diverse competitive field. We have to deal with the big guys, but also with the niche players. For instance, the companies who are frontrunners in the development of low-calorie or vegan ice cream. Those are new players. They’re beginners as start-ups and have steadily grown and they’re now trying to enter the European or global markets.

I’d like for everyone to fall in love with ice cream. If the market grows, we also profit from it. I envision us as market developers. About competition; it keeps you focused. A lot of companies come and go. Sustainable growth in ice cream is hard. We’re being viewed as the categories captain.

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