Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holdings, Inc.

Author:Jonathan Kolstad

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5929 College Avenue

Oakland, California 94618


Telephone: (510) 652-8187

Fax: (510) 450-4592

Web site: www.dreyersinc.com


To herald the launch of not just a new product line but also an entirely new manufacturing process, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holdings, Inc., initiated in May 2004 what was to become the largest and most aggressive marketing campaign in the company's history. Founded in 1928 as a partnership between William Dreyer and Joseph Edy, Dreyer's (which was known as Edy's east of the Rockies in the United States to avoid confusion with rival Breyers) rose to become the largest ice-cream maker in the United States by 2005. After five years of research and development Dreyer's had come up with a proprietary new way to blend its ice cream that resulted in a richer-tasting but lower-fat version of its traditional product. The San Francisco-based agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created an ad campaign that was intended to attract consumers to this new product by building on the established brand name Dreyer's Grand Light yet giving ice-cream buyers a new reason to reach for a product that many felt was inferior to the "real" thing.

The comprehensive campaign, named "Unbelievable," featured four prime-time television spots, backed by print, billboard, and radio advertising. Dreyer's spent $20 million on the campaign. The theme of the TV spots was imitative of classic spy-thriller films, with various people expressing absolute incredulity that the new ice cream could possibly be lower in fat and calories than the original and accusing a fictitious Dreyer's executive of fraud and deceit.

The campaign was both a critical and financial success, winning a Gold EFFIE Award for the ad agency and boosting 2004 sales of Dreyer's Grand Light by 68 percent and overall sales of the company's products by 49 percent over the previous year. "Unbelievable" ran from May through November 2004.


Ice cream had reached a household penetration level of 90 percent by 2004. This meant that almost everyone in America bought ice cream; those who were apt to buy it already had it in their freezers, and those who did not would be difficult to persuade to put it there. As a result, the ice-cream manufacturing industry relied heavily on slight tweaks of established products (such as new shapes, sizes, or flavors) to boost sales. As was often case with mature products, there had been little innovation in the industry for decades. Whether on a stick, on a cone, dipped in chocolate, cut into bite-sized pieces, spread between two cookies, or blended with nuts and caramel, the product remained what it had always been: a frozen concoction made from sugar and cream. In 2004 the per capita consumption of ice cream in the United States was 44 pints per year, the highest in the world. Trying to convince consumers to buy even more of the product was

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also dicey, because few people thought that ice cream was a healthy food choice to begin with.

The ice-cream industry was not immune to trends, and because of their product's market saturation the manufacturers were quick to capitalize on shifts in consumer attitudes in the hope of increasing sales. In the mid-1980s, when low-fat diets reached a national fever pitch, the ice-cream industry was stymied. People were being told to eat a low-fat diet. Ice cream, as the very name implied, relied on milk fat to produce its rich, creamy taste. Sales of ice cream dropped as Americans turned to lower-fat alternatives. After a few years of both product and market research, in 1987 Dreyer's introduced its Grand Light line of lower-fat ice creams. Sales were initially strong but quickly stagnated as customers found the taste not rich or smooth enough, according to the company's internal research. It seemed that people would rather cut calories and fat in other parts of their diet and eat traditionally fattening ice cream if they ate it at all.

Diets fads came and went, and by the late 1990s the new trend of low-carbohydrate diets was leading the pack. While elimination of...

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