Founded in 2012 by Justin Woolverton, Halo Top has changed ice
cream. Whereas once consumers accepted a trade-off with ice cream
– I had to make a choice between the deliciously indulgent or the
taste-compromised healthier option – Halo Top has torn up that
expectation by finding a way to deliver both. At the heart of the brand’s
product innovation is replacing sugar with the sugar substitute Stevia,
allowing it to offer a delicious ice cream with a surprisingly low calorie
count, which it dramatises on an ‘Us vs. Them’ section of its website.
Here it spells out explicitly the contrast with the two leading ice cream
brands: 70 kcal per portion for Halo Top vs. 232 kcal for Ben & Jerry’s
and 251 kcal for Häagen-Dazs.
And while it flags its low-cal, low-sugar, high-protein health credentials
in one part of the mix, Halo Top dials up its indulgence in others:
‘Stop when you hit the bottom’ and ‘Save the bowl’, the copy reads
underneath each lid, for instance. Halo Top offers the shameless
and unadulterated pleasure of ice cream without the layer of guilt.
The speed of Halo Top’s recent growth – it became the best-selling
pint of ice cream in the US in 2017 – has pushed its rivals to follow
suit. Ben & Jerry’s launched its own low-calorie range called ‘Moophoria’
in 2018, and for Häagen-Dazs, a ‘Gelato’ range in 2019. Halo Top has changed the game.
The big idea: Dramatise the key difference.
Halo Top’s key point of difference is its surprisingly low-calorie count.
Nutritional information is something that traditional ice cream brands
might steer away from displaying too prominently on the pack, for
obvious reasons. Halo Top bucked this convention and has displayed
the calorie count on the front of the pack since launch.
After three years of slow, steady growth, however, Halo Top
decided to undertake a brand refresh in 2015, including a revisit of
its communications on the pack. There was a sense that the key point
of differentiation – the calorie count – was getting lost in the mix of
other messaging. The redesign stripped away much of the information
on the front of the pack and ruthlessly focused on the calorie count.
It was moved to the centre of the pack design in bold text, in a size
even larger than the brand name.
The redesign dramatised the brand’s key difference, communicating
it powerfully and single-mindedly, and breaking through on shelf far
more than the previous, comparatively cluttered design. Leaning more
dramatically into that key difference has been credited as a key driver
of the upswing in fortunes the business has experienced in the years
since. Halo Top grew 2,500% in 2016, and Unilever came close to
acquiring the challenger for US$2bn in 2018.