Here’s the scoop: Tims gets into ice cream

Ben, Jerry, please say a frosty hello to Tim. QSR chain Tim Hortons is pushing further into the CPG space with a new line of ice creams based on some of its most popular baked goods and beverage items. Surprisingly, there’s no Boston (Ice) Cream flavour.

Tims announced Thursday that it has partnered with Ontario based ice cream maker Shaw’s to launch Tim Hortons Ice Cream. It will be sold in 500ml tubs, and feature five flavours: Salted Caramel Iced Capp, Double Chocolate Donut, Birthday Cake Timbits, Apple Fritter, and Fruit Explosion.

It will compete in the premium category, where prices for pints typically range from $5.99 to $7.99. Pints are the fastest growing subset of Canada’s approximately $1.5 billion ice cream sector, said Tims’ vice-president of CPG, Sourabh Malik.

Tim Hortons has established a reasonably strong foothold in grocery retail in recent years, following up the 2019 launch of Tim Hortons Soup by partnering with Post Foods to launch a line of Timbits-inspired breakfast cereal the following year. It also has an extensive array of hot beverage offerings, including coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as well as a line of granola bars.

In-home food consumption has risen markedly during the pandemic and combined with current inflationary pressures, that trend is unlikely to slow anytime soon, said Malik. “Customers will continue to go to our restaurants, but at the same time we want to own the pantry space,” he said.

But as with soup and cereal, the move into ice cream sees Tim Hortons venturing into a crowded category, where it will compete against well-established premium brands like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerrys, as well as beloved smaller brands and an array of private-label products.

So how can the company be confident it won’t get frozen out? “Any category that we decide we want to be a serious player in, we play to win,” said Malik, who claims that Tim Hortons is now second in market share in the soup category. “Whether we’re number one, two or three, I would leave that to the consumers. But how we have designed and positioned our strategy is to win.”

The connection Canadians have with the Tims brand, combined with distinctive flavours based on popular Tims menu items, will ensure that it can be competitive, he said. “We combined that emotional connection [to the Tims brand] with flavours that our customers cannot get anywhere else, and that becomes our positioning strategy,” he said.

“We know that we have a ton of equity with our restaurant menu items. If we can connect those items with highly penetrated consumer categories, the chances of success are high.”

The ice creams are rolling out to retail partners including Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys over the next two weeks, although Malik said that marketing support won’t begin until sometime after the Victoria Day long weekend. He declined to provide further details, but said it would be “highly Instagrammable.”

The target consumer for the brand, he said, is younger families. “The flavours we have engage very well with both adults and kids,” he said. “We’re expecting families to buy multiple flavours. It’s very similar to cereal consumption, where families are buying kids cereal, adult cereal and functional cereals and everything else.”

Chris Powell