Well, it has finally happened. China has overtaken the US in ice cream.
According to research by Mintel, from 2008 to 2014, the total market value of ice-cream sales in China nearly doubled. In 2015, volume sales of ice-cream in China reached 5.9 billion liters, compared to 5.8 billion liters sold in the US.
Alex Backett, Global Food Analyst at Mintel, explained that the growth of ice-cream sales in China is due to the immensity of a population with rising incomes, coupled with the newly-developed retail infrastructure and “cool cargo” storage and supply facilities.
Despite the sales of ice-cream soaring in China, US consumers still tuck in more ice cream each year than consumers in any other country—18.4 liters per person per year, compared with only 4 liters for China—Mintel reports.
Many countries claim the invention of ice cream. Some Americans have said that ice cream was brought to the country from France by Thomas Jefferson, others that it was slapped together by Martha Washington and Dolley Madison.
Some historians suggest that the earliest and closest version of ice cream today is credited to China during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). It was said to be a dish served to rulers. As the story goes, founder of the Tang dynasty, Emperor T’ang of Shang, kept a team of 94 men to lug ice and snow to the palace to make a frozen dish that consisted of koumiss (heated, fermented milk), flour, and camphor – an aromatic substance harvested from evergreen trees added to enhance the texture and flavor of the dish.
The credibility of these claims is suspect to say the least. However, looking ahead, analyst Backett suggests that as the world economy’s center of gravity shifts to Asia, ice cream giants are realizing the need to extend their investment in the region.