China overtakes US as biggest ice cream market

China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest ice cream market for the first time, new research from Mintel has found.

The total market value for ice cream sales in China has almost doubled between 2008 and 2014 climbing by 90% to reach $11.4 billion, it says.

However, the US market has grown at a much slower rate, only increasing by 15% over the same period to hit $11.2 billion, Mintel says.

Volume sales of ice cream in China, Mintel says reached 5.9 billion litres in 2014, compared to 5.8 billion litres in the US.

Mintel says that volume sales in China in 2015 are to increase even further reaching 6.3 billion litres compared to 5.8 billion litres in the US.

Value sales, it says are also predicted to see increases to $12.6 billion in China and $11.4 billion in the US in 2015.

While China is leading the way in terms of sales, US consumers eat considerably more ice cream than consumers anywhere else, it found.

US ice cream consumers eat 18.4L/person each year compared to just 4L/person in China, it says.

The top five global ice cream markets by volume:
  1. China (5.9 billion litres).
  2. US (5.8 billion litres).
  3. Japan (784m litres).
  4. Russia (668m litres).
  5. Germany (545m litres).

Meanwhile, volume consumption in the UK amounted to 345m litres in 2014, and UK consumers eat 5L of ice cream per person a year, Mintel says.

Australians consume 10L/person of ice cream, it found.

Overall, global sales of ice cream reached $50 billion for the first time in 2014, according to Mintel, increasing by 9% on 2011 when sales were valued at $46 billion.

Alex Beckett, Global Food Analyst at Mintel, said that rising incomes and an increasingly developed retail infrastructure and cold chain network are driving growth in the ice cream market in China.

“However, the vast array of locally produced, low-price brands present a challenge for global ice cream giants looking to develop there.

“China is now the powerhouse of the global ice cream market in terms of overall size, although for per capita consumption, it’s the Americans who tuck into the most ice cream each year.

“The pace of development, coupled with the immensity of the population, is having an increasing impact on the Chinese ice cream market,” he said.