The World Screams for Ice Cream

By Rieva Lesonsky

We last mentioned ice cream only four months ago, but it’s the heat of summer and the cool treat is worth mentioning again—especially since Mintel just reported the demand for ice cream is going global. In fact, China just overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest ice cream market. Last year ice cream sales in China hit $11.4 billion, eclipsing U.S. sales of $11.2 billion. This year sales in China are expected to reach $12.6 billion, while they’ll hit $11.4 in America.

Still, Mintel says, we Americans eat considerably more ice cream than any nation on the planet—consuming 18.4 gallons per person a year. Other top markets for ice cream are Japan, Russia and Germany. Worldwide, ice cream sales hit $50 billion in 2014.

Alex Beckett, a global food analyst at Mintel says, “As the world economy’s center of gravity continues to shift away from the West…ice cream giants [have] all the more reason to extend their presence and new product development investment in more emerging economies, particularly Asia.”

But of course this global craving for ice cream is also a great entrepreneurial opportunity as well. If you want to go global, here’s what Mintel says you should focus on:

  • Creating “better-for-you (BFY) recipes:” There was a record high share of new ice creams launched with “low/no/reduced allergen and fat claims, as well as gluten-free products.”
  • Frozen yogurt: The latest frozen yogurt craze has hit Europe.
  • Artisanal ice cream continues to climb in popularity. In the U.S., Mintel research shows 61 percent of Americans are willing to spend more on “better-quality frozen treats.” In good news for ice cream entrepreneurs, 60 percent of Americans who eat ice cream every day believe local brands are better than national ones. In Europe, “there is strong interest in buying ice cream with locally sourced ingredients.” As Beckett says, “Handcrafted ice cream, made with a homemade-style authenticity, is well positioned to embrace the wider consumer interest in artisan-produced food and drink.”

In other words, “craft” has come to the world of ice cream.