China’s Favorite Snack: Ice Cream


New Mintel research reveals that half (49%) of urban Chinese consumers say they eat ice cream at home as a snack, compared to four in 10 (39%) who said the same in 2015. Meanwhile, 39% of urban Chinese consumers report eating ice cream as a dessert this year, compared to just over one in four (28%) who said the same two years ago.

Overall, the ice cream market in China has seen a decline in retail volume, with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of -1.6% between 2014 and 2016. However, the total retail market value is on the rise due to consumers trading up for new formats and flavors.

Better-for-you options are among the more popular premium features; 59% of urban Chinese consumers are willing to buy ice cream products that feature a ‘100% natural/no additive’ claim, especially among soft-serve ice cream users (68%). What’s more, consumers aged 30-39 say they are willing to pay more for ‘100% natural/no additive’ products (65% compared to 59% of consumers overall).

Cheryl Ni, Food and Drink analyst at Mintel said: “Urban Chinese consumers are paying more attention to their health, while still looking for opportunities for indulgence, which should not be compromised. Given the fact that more consumers today are eating ice cream as a snack or a dessert at home compared to previous years, family-size tubs or multipack offerings will have further opportunities. Also, there is scope for ice cream to be positioned as ‘mood food’, allowing consumers—especially the younger generations—the ability to soothe life’s stresses away as they indulge in a treat while paying a premium price for it.”

Meanwhile, declining consumption appears in both retail and non-retail channels. Mintel research indicates that the percentage of ice cream non-users has risen from 4% in 2012 to 11% in 2017. In all, purchases at retail channels (net) (76%) is lower than non-retail channels (net) (93%), with the number of urban Chinese consumers who bought ice cream from supermarkets/hypermarkets declining from 85% in 2012 to 52% in 2017. Similar declines can be seen at grocery retailers, which dropped from 42% to 12% in the same time period.

“Shopping for ice cream products from online retailers is usually more expensive given the cost of cold chain delivery. However, we are seeing a growing number of imported ice cream brands available in online stores, providing more premium choices for consumers with a higher spending power.” Cheryl continues.