Viennetta: the first branded ice cream dessert

A look into the background of Wall’s Viennetta.

Viennetta is produced at the Wall’s factory in Gloucester. Wall’s is owned by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant. Unilever is the largest producer of ice cream in the world, and also manufactures the Magnum, Solero and Ben & Jerry’s brands.

Viennetta

Sales of Viennetta totalled £328 million worldwide in 2013, according to Euromonitor.

Viennetta is an ice cream imitation of the French millefeuille cake. Unilever saved money by adapting the product from a Belgian Cornetto recipe. The packaging was based on a German Christmas log manufactured by Langnese, another Unilever subsidiary. There are no imitations of Viennetta because the process by which it is produced is protected by patent.

Viennetta
A French millefeuille cake

Viennetta was introduced from 1982. It was originally sold only in the United Kingdom, and was a Christmas-only special. The launch was successful, and Viennetta was introduced as a year-round product from 1984. Such was its popularity that Unilever did not have to lobby supermarkets to stock the product, but instead the supermarkets lobbied them. Unilever was consequently able to achieve excellent margins on the product, which the supermarkets often sold as a loss-leader.

According to Professor Geoffrey Jones, Viennetta introduced the concept of the branded ice cream dessert. For the first time, ice cream was the main item of a dessert, and not just an accompaniment to something else on the bowl or plate.

Perhaps the product’s vaguely European-sounding name was considered sophisticated in the early 1980s. Viennetta’s star may be rising worldwide, but it has a reduced presence in its native UK. In 2014 value sales were far below what they were in 1990, not even accounting for inflation.

Liked it? Take a second to support Thomas Farrell on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *