China has overtaken the US as the world’s largest ice cream market – with sales nearly doubling between 2008 and 2014 – according to new research from Mintel.
The value of the country’s ice cream market rose by 90% to $11.4bn during the six-year period, while the US sector climbed 15% to reach $11.2bn. Volume sales reached 5.9bn litres in China, compared to 5.8bn litres in the US. But the disparity between the two superpowers’ populations means that the US remained the largest per capita consumer of ice cream, outperforming any other market. These figures are anticipated to grow in the coming year to 6.3bn litres in China and 5.8bn litres in the US.
Overall, global sales of ice cream reached $50 billion for the first time in 2014, increasing by 9% on 2011 when sales were valued at $46 billion.
Mintel global food analyst Alex Beckett said: “Rising incomes and an increasingly developed retail infrastructure and cold chain network are driving growth in the ice cream market in China. However, the vast array of locally produced, low-price brands present a challenge for global ice cream giants looking to develop there. China is now the powerhouse of the global ice cream market in terms of overall size, although for per capita consumption, it’s the Americans who tuck into the most ice cream each year. The pace of development, coupled with the immensity of the population, is having an increasing impact on the Chinese ice cream market.
“But while rising global volumes of ice cream mainly reflect the category’s expansion in emerging regions, ice cream has encountered challenging conditions in more developed markets like Europe and North America. Growth has been dampened by consumer diet concerns, competition from other categories, such as yogurt, and the perennial challenge of unseasonable weather. As the world economy’s centre of gravity continues to shift away from the West, these challenges give ice cream giants all the more reason to extend their presence – and new product development investment – in more emerging economies, particularly in Asia.”
The frozen yogurt boom has well and truly reached Europe, Mintel added.
The research also confirmed that the frozen yogurt revolution has reached Europe, contributing to the global rise in low-fat ice cream innovations. According to Mintel, Europe accounted for 41% of frozen yogurt development in 2013, rising by more than 50% in 2014.
Beckett continued: “Having enjoyed huge success in the US, Greek frozen yogurt’s high protein content is resonating among European consumers, although people are also waking up to its often high sugar content too.
“Handcrafted ice cream, made with a homemade style authenticity, is well positioned to embrace the wider consumer interest in artisan-produced food and drink. Craft has become something of a buzzword in recent years, with everything from alcohol to pasta sauces, pizza and lemonade emphasising their craftsmanship or origin stories on packaging to differentiate the brand from the competition.”
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