SALISBURY, N.C. -- Food Lion here is collaborating with the Carolina Beverage Corp., makers of Cheerwine soft drinks, also based here, to offer consumers Cheerwine Swirl Ice Cream. The new flavor is sold exclusively at Food Lion stores under the chain's private label.
The product combines vanilla ice cream with a cherry cola swirl for a new take on the traditional float. According to Shawn Stephens, store manager at a Food Lion unit here, his store has been selling an average of 70 cases a week, outperforming even buy-one-get-one-free offers from other brands.
For the product's debut weekend -- in late March -- the store hosted a promotional blitz with appearances from executives at Carolina Beverage, samplings and Cheerwine merchandise.
"We sold 150 cases that weekend," Stephens said. "That's 700 half-gallon units in three days."
Cheerwine Swirl also accounted for 10% of total frozen and dairy sales that weekend, he said, adding that he is still stocking it on an endcap. A half gallon sells for $3.99.
Late last month, Cheerwine Swirl became available at all Food Lion stores that carry Cheerwine cola, which is about 700 of the chain's 1,200 stores, according to Jeff Lowrance, a spokesman for the chain. Sales have been "very brisk" throughout the region, he said, noting that the two companies had been talking about a joint project for years.
"Both Cheerwine and Food Lion are based in the same North Carolina town," he said. "Both have very strong name recognition in the Southeast."
While the chain has no immediate plans for further collaborations, Lowrance said he would not rule out similar ventures sometime in the future.
"We're always looking for innovative ways to expand our private-label line," he said, adding that the local angle appears to be an effective marketing strategy for the chain's private label.
Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association, New York, called the project a "clever application," as co-branding opportunities along these lines are limited, he said.
"You have to find a category where the brand wants to expand, and the retailer doesn't already have a product."