It is no secret that China is a food-lover’s paradise. From street food to high-end restaurants, there is something for everyone. And among the many popular foods in China, ice cream is definitely one of them. In fact, demand for high-end ice cream has been growing rapidly in China in recent years. So if you’re thinking of expanding your food brand into this market, now is the time to do it! Here are a few data on the Chinese ice cream market and tips on how to get started there.
The Chinese ice cream market
The current economic development in China attracts foreign companies to invest in the frozen food sector, especially in ice cream. New consumer tastes, as well as new preferences, are changing the way the Chinese are consuming ice cream.
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China’s Ice cream market: $10.7 billion by 2025
By 2021, China had a +20% increase year-on-year making the Chinese ice cream market the number one of its kind in the world. Every ice cream brand should think about this incredibly dynamic market and should read this article before launching their brand in China.
The global ice cream market is expected to reach $849 billion by the end of 2025. Thanks to a growing middle class with an increasing income and the taste for western goods, high-end ice cream consumption has never been higher in China.
Ice cream consumption is also on the rise in China
Even if the ice cream production volume reached 3.06 million tons and the total sales value yielded over CNY40.8 billion, China has not yet surpassed Western countries in terms of consumption per capita. Indeed, US residents are the largest ice cream consumers with an average of 18.4 liters per capita in a year, whereas Chinese consumers eat less than four times that amount on average annual intake. However, one-third of all ice cream bought globally is consumed in China.
The country is investing in this new market to improve retail infrastructures, the capability of the frozen food industry, and the diversity of distribution channels.
Last year, China’s average income increased by 7%. Therefore, Chinese consumers are spending more money than ever before on leisure goods. The pace of development coupled with the higher lifestyle of Chinese consumers, especially the younger generation, is having an important impact on the ice cream market in China.
Moreover, last year, the total frozen food industry maintained a 25% increase in market size and reached CNY470 billion.
Top Chinese ice cream brands:
- Little pudding
Many Chinese brands are investing in the high-end ice cream market, but foreign companies are also innovating to compete with local companies.
Nestlé and Haagen-Dazs are the most popular foreign companies known for their premium quality ice cream, while domestic producers are superior concerning channel distribution and prices. Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for a high-end ice cream which is an opportunity for foreign brands.
Adapt your Ice-cream according to Chinese trends & Tastes
Ice cream consumption is different between the West and China. In the past few years, consumer behaviors have changed, and many challenges and opportunities are present for all ice cream producers who want to invest in China.
Two interesting trends have been revealed in China by the growth of the ice cream industry. The first one is that Chinese consumers are looking for more refreshing and cold foods to beat the summer heat.
The second trend, and the more intriguing of the two, is that there is an increasing demand for alternative flavors. Indeed, the traditional milk, chocolate, and vanilla flavors are not satisfying Chinese consumers anymore, they are expecting different and more unique flavors.
These new trends are consequently forcing companies to adapt and diversify the flavors of their products according to consumer expectations.
Icecream brand localization in China
For example, Wufeng (五丰), a Chinese ice cream producer, created a spicy-chocolate flavored ice cream called Mengxiaola (萌小辣). The Chinese ice cream store Bonus (陆记蟹行) based in Shanghai also launched an egg yolk ice cream.
“Global”, another Chinese ice cream chain, created a squid ink favor which scored 8.3 on a scale from 1 to 10 on the recommendation app Dianping (大众点评), and the store also proposes many other flavors from across the world. Chinese consumers are very fond of testing new invented ice cream flavors.
In China, Customer Experience is important
Another way for producers to adapt to the Chinese market is to pay attention to customer experience. Chinese consumers are now putting more focus on experience and ice cream has become more than just food, it has become a product of modern life.
Consequently, in order to win more shares of the market, companies, such as Nestlé, Yili, and Meiji, are investing over 1 billion RMB to develop new products.
Case Study: Magnum Icecream in China
Over the last several years, Magnum opened several “pop-up” ice cream stores to attract customers and stimulate them to seize the opportunity to have unique ice cream experiences during an exclusive one-month period. This kind of new strategy caters to the tastes of Chinese customers.
For Chinese customers, aesthetics is important, and innovative ice cream is a way to sustain people’s interests. A recent trend in the ice cream market is the shining ice cream which is made by putting ice cream on top of sparkling water in a jar.
Many Chinese are queuing for a long time to have the chance to take a photo of this eye-catching ice cream and then post it on social media.
Promote your Ice cream brand on Chinese Social Media
Having a presence on Chinese social media creates additional marketing opportunities for ice cream brands. It is a crucial step toward gaining exposure to a larger market. Especially in a market that is centered around aesthetics and unique trends, having an engaged social media following can create additional opportunities for growth.
As a Premium Ice cream brand and with limited budgets, your best bet is to focus on digital marketing to get the word out there. At the same time, also think of some innovative ideas for offline marketing.
An example of success within the Chinese social media sphere is a trend of mini-sets of ice cream made by Cornetto in collaboration with the cartoon brand, Line Friends.
These mini-sets of ice cream received a huge success and many customers posted about them on social media such as Weibo.
IceBerry (Russian Icecream) on Chinese Social Media:
IceBerry, an established Russian ice cream brand, through the help of our agency, has been incredibly effective in implementing a digital marketing strategy in China.
The strategy consisted of professional account management on the main Chinese social media sites such as WeChat and Weibo. This includes hiring KOLs and other influencers to promote the brand through these platforms.
This resulted in an increase of thousands of more followers on each of the individual platforms and an increase in conversion percentage. IceBerry also created original content and focused on specific key terms which helped them grow and maintain their SEO rankings on Chinese search engine platforms such as Baidu.
Offer something different, be creative with your ice-cream
The last way to differentiate high-end ice cream products on the market is to invest in healthier food materials. Indeed, more and more Chinese suffer from diabetes and need to adapt their diet. Consequently, an increasing number of them are calling for healthy and low-fat food.
Classic ice creams contain high sugar, fat, and additives but producers need to return to natural ingredients in order to satisfy customers’ healthy requirements.
Another popular choice in China is frozen yogurt which contains probiotics helping to conserve some of the nutritional value of ice cream and, therefore, helping for digestion.
According to Chinese consumers, the aesthetic appeal of ice cream is more important than the flavor or the price. Therefore, overseas brands have many opportunities in the world’s largest ice cream market by adapting their products to Chinese trends.
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