TOPS BRINGS BACK MY FAVORITE ICE CREAM

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tops Markets Inc. here has reintroduced My Favorite ice cream at its stores under an exclusive agreement with the supplier.Made by Dunkirk Ice Cream Co., Dunkirk, N.Y., My Favorite replaces Dairy Farms Deluxe, Tops' previous controlled-brand ice cream. My Favorite comes in 21 flavors, including chocolate-chip cookie dough, bing cherry, carrot cake, Mexican sundae, chocolate layer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tops Markets Inc. here has reintroduced My Favorite ice cream at its stores under an exclusive agreement with the supplier.

Made by Dunkirk Ice Cream Co., Dunkirk, N.Y., My Favorite replaces Dairy Farms Deluxe, Tops' previous controlled-brand ice cream. My Favorite comes in 21 flavors, including chocolate-chip cookie dough, bing cherry, carrot cake, Mexican sundae, chocolate layer cake and Heavenly Hash.

According to Herb Fleming, a spokesman for the Ahold USA-owned chain, My Favorite ice cream re-entered Tops supermarkets in mid-December. He declined to discuss additional details.

"Tops is now using My Favorite as their controlled label," an observer familiar with the chain said. "Dairy Farms Deluxe used to be their controlled brand. It had 21 flavors. Now that's gone and My Favorite is in."

Tops kicked off My Favorite's return with a full-page color newspaper ad. It said, "Now at Tops Friendly Markets . . . Twenty-One-Derful Premium, All-Natural Varieties. My Favorite Ice Cream. The all-natural ice cream made with the finest country-fresh, pure sweet ice cream, all-natural flavors, and choice fruits and nuts." Aggressive in-store merchandising is under way as well, said Don Anderson, Dunkirk's vice president of sales and marketing.

"They put up ceiling danglers and window banners that not only tell the price point but have pictorials of featured flavors," he said. "They're 4-by-6 window banners that will tout [for example] My Favorite chocolate-chip cookie dough. Every store has five or six flavors in the window."

Tops also conducted in-store sampling upon My Favorite's rollout, a retail source reported. "We've had it before; we just brought it back," the source said. "It's a natural ice cream. It was an upgrade from the ice cream that we had."

Tops previously carried My Favorite ice cream but discontinued it last spring because of slow movement, the observer noted.

"It used to be in various chains; it's Dunkirk's branded item. For example, P&C [Food Markets, Syracuse, N.Y.,] carried it; Fleming [Cos.' Buffalo, N.Y., division] carried it and Tops carried it. But they worked out an agreement where Tops now has exclusive rights to it," he said. Dunkirk's Anderson said the exclusive deal and flavor additions motivated Tops to bring back My Favorite.

My Favorite formerly had 18 flavors, of which Tops carried 12, according to Anderson. "We worked with them to get the flavor line up. Part of the whole scheme was that they're going to do a weekly featured flavor," he said.

Stiff local competition pushed Tops to bolster its controlled-brand ice cream program, the observer said.

"[Tops was] disappointed with their share in the ice cream category, especially in value ice cream. They felt that part of the reason is that Wegmans was beating them with their private label, which is the Wegmans brand. That's made by Perry's, with superior quality to Dairy Farms Deluxe," he said.