China and U.S. share common ground — when it comes to ice cream

CCTV News

(by Lisa Chiu) (by Lisa Chiu)

Americans and Chinese aren’t all that different, at least when it comes to top picks in ice cream flavors. According to market research firm Mintel, the top flavor launches in the United States in 2014 were in order of prominence: Chocolate, Vanilla, Caramel, and Fudge.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

Americans and Chinese aren't all that different, at least when it comes to top picks in ice cream flavors. According to market research firm Mintel, the top flavor launches in the United States in 2014 were in order of prominence: Chocolate, Vanilla, Caramel, and Fudge. Meanwhile in China, it's: Vanilla, Milk (plain frozen cream and milk), Chocolate, and Strawberry. But despite these commonalities at the top, differences in flavor preferences do emerge. Mintel found that Chinese prefer fruiter and nuttier flavors, while Americans prefer richer flavors and mixing savory and sweet. We hit the streets to find out what ice cream flavors people liked most.

Meanwhile in China, it’s: Vanilla, Milk (plain frozen cream and milk), Chocolate, and Strawberry. But despite these commonalities at the top, differences in flavor preferences do emerge. Mintel found that Chinese prefer fruiter and nuttier flavors, while Americans prefer richer flavors and mixing savory and sweet.

Here are the other top flavors in the United States in order of popularity: Strawberry, Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, Cookie, Dark chocolate, and Raspberry, while the remaining top flavors for Chinese consumers are: Red bean/Azuki, Mango, Durian, Blueberry, Banana.

Top ice cream flavors in the USA:
us labels

Top ice cream flavors in the China:
China labels

Ice cream makers are eyeing Chinese tastes more than ever since China surpassed the American market for ice cream consumption for the first time in 2014, Mintel found.

From 2008-2014, the market value for ice cream sales in China doubled to $11.4 billion, while it grew at a much slower rate in the United States, about 15 percent to $11.2 billion in the same time period. Of the total ice cream sales around the world, 22.8 percent came from China, while 22.4 percent came from the United States.

Despite an increase of ice cream consumption in China, on a per capita basis, Americans still eat more ice cream than any other country — about 39 pints a year or 18.4 liters. China eats about 8.5 pints per person annually or about 4 liters. Other top ice cream eating countries include Japan, Russia and Germany.

The growth in the Chinese ice cream market is no surprise to Michael Strange, the president of Bassetts Ice Cream Company in Philadelphia, who estimates that about 20 percent of his business is in China, his largest foreign market.

On average, the company ships one to two 40-foot containers to China each month, and sells 16,000 2.5-gallon drums of ice cream per month in the United States.

Photo by Ding Yuin Shan on Flickr.

Photo by Ding Yuin Shan on Flickr.

“In the United States, a third of all the ice cream we sell is vanilla. For China, vanilla is probably the third or fourth best seller,” Strange said. “We’ve found that fruit and nut flavors are extremely popular with our China customer.”

Photo by Raquel Gonzalez on Flickr.

By Raquel Gonzalez on Flickr.

Strange has worked to tailor certain flavors for the Chinese market where matcha green tea and black sesame do very well.

“I was a little worried about that flavor [black sesame], that it wouldn’t be all that great, but I really liked it,” Strange said. “There’s a perception that black sesame and green tea have some health benefit, the next time we make black sesame agaub we’ll definitely run some for the United States.”

The growing Chinese ice cream market can be attributed to rising incomes, increasingly developed retail infrastructure and cold chain networks, said Alex Beckett, Global Food Analyst at Mintel.

“China is now the powerhouse of the global ice cream market in terms of overall size… The pace of development, coupled with the immensity of the population, is having an increasing impact on the Chinese ice cream market,” Beckett said.

“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.”

Video by Lisa Chiu and Xiaolu Sun.