Available across 40 countries, ice cream bar Magnum makes a debut in the country with Chennai

For a super secret launch, it was pretty well-publicised. Not without an inordinate amount of cloak-and-dagger drama though. Four phone calls in quick succession. “Pssst. Come for our chocolate workshop.” No. “Pssst. It’s a Belgian chocolate workshop.” No. “Ok. Don’t tell anyone, but there’s a secret launch of a very famous product. So you’ll come?” No. “Fine. Don’t tell anyone. It’s Magnum. Magnum!” I politely wait till the PR girl gets over her paroxysms of delight, before confirming ‘attendance’.

Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever’s popular ice cream bar is currently sold in 40 countries. One of the world’s leading ice cream brands, selling one billion units annually in about 40 countries, Magnum reinvents a kiddie-treat into an adult indulgence. While ice cream bars are generally associated with funfairs, drippy sweetness and sticky fingers, this bar offers fairly sophisticated flavours — vanilla wrapped in a neat, sturdy shell of Belgian chocolate.

For young adults

It’s a smart attempt to capture a relatively niche, but burgeoning market: young adults. (Their see their average customer as a “26-year-old female working professional”. Then hurriedly add, “But men love it too.”). Hence, globally, Magnum’s marketing and advertising abounds in provocative poses and tag lines, tinged with a hint of sex. Its Chennai debut and the first in India, stated that the product is targeting at ‘young adults who are active pleasure seekers’. Whatever that means!

At the official launch, brand ambassador actor Trisha appeared in a thick cloud of smoke gingerly holding up a bar, which she then carefully tore open and promptly handed over to an assistant.

She was an hour late for the conference, so one can only assume she spent that time figuring out how to announce her association with the brand, famous for featuring the likes of Eva Longoria, Eva Mendes and Liz Hurley.

The tweet in question? “Happy 2 announce Ill b d brand ambassador fr my most fav ice cream brand. Soon 2 b launched in India..Will kip u posted.til ten Ssshhhhhhh.” On second thoughts that couldn’t have possibly taken an hour to compose. Or could it?

The ‘Belgian chocolate workshop’, held earlier in the week, turned out to be an inexplicable sundae contest. After explaining the finer technical details, such as “Magnum makes you go ‘mmmmmmm’,” the chef running the show got the crowd to make their own ice creams. This involved picking random items such as basil, pepper, cake chunks and kiwi bits off a buffet-style counter, and then mashing them into a tall glass along with broken bits of a Magnum bar. Not successful as far as workshops go… Nevertheless, it did involve a tasting that demonstrated the bar’s strengths. (And considering it costs more than double an average chocolate bar, these had better be convincing). It’s not jaw-clenchingly sweet, for starters. Also the chocolate shell is skilfully tempered so it breaks with a satisfyingly audible ‘crack’ when you bite in.

Geetu Varma, director, Foods and Refreshments, Hindustan Unilever, says their advantages are superior ingredients and technique. She adds that they chose to launch in Chennai because they’re targeting the top metros first. “The perception of Chennai as a conservative market has been belied by the success of some luxury brands here,” she states, adding that it is, however, a very competitive market. More so because India is seen as a low per capita market when it comes to ice cream. “The estimate is 310 ml a person. In the US it’s about 20 litres a person a year,” she says.

Magnum bars for India are currently being manufactured in Thailand. Hindustan Unilever is using its Kwality Walls distribution system to ensure the bar is easily accessible. It is after all, the company’s number one impulse buy. Magnum will be available in three flavours: Classic, Almond and Chocolate Truffle at Rs. 75 each.