British brewer Scottish Courage has taken product extension to the extreme with the announcement that it is to launch an ice cream variant of its popular Newcastle Brown Ale brand.
Ice cream producers have been looking to develop new flavours in recent months, with savoury varieties such as curry or cheese, but beer is not a variety which many of them have considered, until now.
Scottish Courage has signed a six month licensing agreement with local ice cream maker Doddington Dairies, which will produce the ice cream by hand. The product will have a predominantly caramel flavour, but with a hint of Newcastle Brown thrown in for good measure.
Fears that such a product could appeal to young people will be assuaged - if not entirely eliminated - by the fact that the product will contain less than 1 per cent alcohol. The price of the product - £1.20 for a 125ml tub and £3.49 for 480ml - should also deter the casual under-age consumer.
According to market analysts Datamonitor, if the launch of Newcastle Brown Ale ice cream is successful, it could be the catalyst for a proliferation of increasingly diverse flavours in the UK ice cream market over the next 12 months.
Scottish Courage has not confirmed how much marketing backing it plans to give to the product, but the Asda supermarket group is already said to be interested in the product and could stock it in a number of stores in the north east of England (the beer's spiritual home).
Indeed, claims Datamonitor, the product's best chance of success is in the north east, where both the brewer and the dairy company have a strong identity. "However, while the product may harness the capabilities of two award-winning north eastern companies, it will be interesting to see whether consumers can see a logical extension between this iconic brew, with its strong masculine heritage, and ice cream," Datamonitor said.
Perhaps aware of this risk, both parties have restricted the initial licensing deal to only six months, with any further deal resting firmly on the success of the initial rollout.
Despite the risk, the venture may yet prove a success, if only for its boldness, claims Datamonitor. "Successful brand extensions are not merely a result of sticking closely to the parent category," the market analysts said.
"Some daring ventures - such as retailers offering financial services - can flourish. By taking this innovative step, Scottish Courage and Doddington Dairy could well capitalise on consumers' increasing willingness to sample speciality products that dare to be different."
For more details of Datamonitor's research, click here.