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    Ice Cream War Benefits Retailers

    Top frozen treat company and runner-up, Nestle and Unilever, compete with innovation.

    NEW YORK -- Now that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved number-one ice cream manufacturer Nestle SA's acquisition of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc., both Nestle and the number-two company, Unilever, are gearing up for a head-to-head battle that could have retailers swimming in creamy profits.

    With an aim at penetrating the away-from-home market, both companies will spin out new single-serve novelties targeted at on-the-go outlets including convenience stores, gas stations, video shops and vending machines.

    "There is always room for innovation," said Keith Broviak, buyer at Rickers Oil Co., a 28-store chain based in Anderson, Ind. "Everybody is always looking for something new. New items are driving all categories these days. Even limited time items are spiking sales."

    But what about this so-called "ice cream war" between Nestle and Unilever? Is this an issue for c-store retailers? Not according to Broviak.

    "If our distributor has the items we want, we couldn't care less what company they come from," he said. "If it's something our customers ask for, we are going to carry it. And if we think a new product is good and viable, we would ask our distributor to carry it for us."

    The comparison to Coke and Pepsi's ongoing competition -- wherein the companies claim to be adopting Coca-Cola Co.'s policy of selling products wherever people might crave them -- doesn't seem to faze the retail segment. "I don't think ice cream will ever be comparable to what Coke and Pepsi have," said Broviak. "That is just a whole other scale."

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