Promoters say the Histroy Channel's "Ice Road Truckers" is a program "about adventure, perserverance, human ingenuity and most importantly, danger. ... The short operating window, extreme arctic conditions and billions of dollars at stake combine ..."

Keep on truckin’Promoters say the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers” is a program “about adventure, perseverance, human ingenuity and most importantly, danger. . . . The short operating window, extreme arctic conditions and billions of dollars at stake combine for a high risk, high reward ice road season.”

Doesn’t that sound just like life in the ice cream and frozen novelty sectors? Although not particularly dangerous (unless you eat too quickly and get brain freeze), these categories also are highly seasonal. And - just like the idea of a loaded truck moving across ice - observers could argue that soaring fuel, energy and dairy ingredient costs create underlying tension for dairy processors.

There also are billions of dollars at stake. Market researcher Packaged Facts, New York, recently projected that the U.S. market for ice cream and related frozen desserts will grow by $4 billion and reach $27.6 billion by 2012.

Packaged Facts noted that although ice cream accounted for 59.2 percent (or $13.8 billion) of all U.S. frozen dessert sales in 2007, ice cream’s place at the dessert table dropped 0.3 percentage points from 2006. Packaged Facts Editor Cathy Minkler suggested that sales shift likely went to frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt’s 4.1 percent compound annual growth rate from 2003 to 2007 is the highest of all frozen desserts categories. In 2007 alone, frozen yogurt sales grew 12 percent from the 2006 level. With consumers seeking better-for-you indulgence in a frozen form, frozen yogurt manufacturers have engaged in more innovation and new flavors, helping to revive the packaged frozen yogurt business.

In its recent “Ice Cream Outlook 2008,” sister publicationDairy Foodslooked specifically at frozen yogurt and noted that Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Co., has driven much of the category activity with unit volume sales up by 6.2 percent during a 52-week period ended December 30, 2007. Elsewhere, editors forDairy Field Reports (DFR), recently picked Edy’s Slow Churned Yogurt Blends (a Dreyers brand) as one of the magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” award winners.

“Already jump-started by a growing interest in probiotics, the frozen yogurt category is getting a boost on a national level by this line from ice cream heavyweight Dreyers,” wroteDFREditor Jim Dudlicek. “Made with the company’s revolutionary ‘slow-churning’ process to create a reduced-fat product that tastes like the real thing, Dreyer’s Yogurt Blends trumpet their live active culture content.”

Speaking of activity,Dairy Foodscalled out several brands for the most unit sales growth in the frozen novelty category during the same 52-week period ended last December. In a clear nod to health and wellness, the growth leaders were Weight Watchers, with a 20-percent boost in unit sales; and Nestlé’s Skinny Cow, which was up 15 percent in unit take-away. Others active and growing in the novelties market are Dove and Haagen-Dazs (another Dreyer’s brand). – B.G.