Consumers in tier one cities (defined as household incomes exceeding US$2,400 monthly) prefer healthy versions of ice cream, but do not want to compromise on enjoyment. As such, manufacturers can optimise ice cream recipes to achieve a balance of both to cater to consumers’ tastes.
Half (49 percent) of urban Chinese consumers eat ice cream at home as a snack, compared to 39 percent who said the same in 2015. Meanwhile, 39 percent report eating ice cream as a dessert this year, compared to 28 percent who said the same two years ago.
Overall, the ice cream market in China has seen a decline in retail volume, with a compound annual growth rate of minus 1.6 percent between 2014 and 2016. However, the total retail market value is on the rise due to consumers trading up for new formats and flavours.
Healthier options are among the more popular features; 59 percent of urban Chinese consumers are willing to buy ice cream products that feature a ‘100 percent natural/no additive’ claim, especially among soft-serve ice cream consumers (68 percent).
“Urban Chinese consumers are paying more attention to their health, while still looking for opportunities for indulgence, which should not be compromised,” said Cheryl Ni, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “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.”
The market has experienced significant growth in online channels, including online brand stores, increasing from three percent to 16 percent between 2012 and 2017. The study indicated that the growth is driven by those with higher disposable incomes who are more likely to be fans of online channels (23 percent).
Young urban Chinese consumers aged 20-24 are particularly interested in value-added features, such as ‘edible containers that taste good’ (42 percent), ‘customised flavours/shapes’ (35 percent) and ‘innovative packaging’ (33 percent). Products with clean label claims and added nutrition will encourage consumers trading up in this category.