ASIA September 2020
Growing interest by Global, Asian Consumers over Plant-based Ice Cream
There is a growing interest by global consumers on ‘plant-based’ innovations, not limited only to meat and milk alternatives, but also including those related to ice cream.
Latest research from Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD) showed that vegan ice cream accounts for an increasing proportion of global ice cream launches, making up 7% of all launches in the past 12 months (2019/20), more than doubled the 3% recorded 5 years ago (2015/16).
Within the sector, the focus on the textural qualities of plant-based ice cream is increasing. Vegan ice creams with a chunky texture such as nuts, cookie pieces, toffee pieces and cookie dough chunks have surged from 2% to 13% of launches over the last 4 years (2016/2017 to 2019/2020). Modern sophisticated consumers like those from the UK (73%) like ice cream with different textures for example, crunchy or hard.
Traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and coconut remain the most popular in terms of plant-based flavor innovation accounting for 26%, 11% and 9% of innovations over the last 12 months.
In the UK, roughly 12% of adults agree that the pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing.
According to Kate Vlietstra, Mintel Global Food & Drink Analyst, “The recent buzz around veganism has made its mark on the ice cream category. Interest in vegan ice cream isn't restricted to those following a vegan diet. Learning from their dairy counterparts, plant-based ice creams are moving beyond the basic flavours to offer indulgent options. Texture is playing a prominent part in vegan new product development (NPD) with chunkier varieties on offer. Brands are demonstrating that vegan offerings can be premium with an array of luxury flavour combinations and packaging.”
Kate also commented that plant-based ice cream will eventually evolve to incorporate new ingredients from the world of plant milk such as quinoa and other seeds. Oats are expected to feature in more dairy-free ice creams, following on from the popularity of oats in plant-based drinks.

Japan – global leader in ice cream NPD
One interesting development near to Asia is the fact that Japan has now overtaken the US to become the global leader in ice cream innovation. From matcha to mayonnaise and seaweed to soybean, there seems to be no limit to Japanese ice cream innovation.
Over the past 5 years, Japan’s ice cream innovation has gone from strength to strength. In 2015/2016 Japan accounted for 7% of launches globally, but since then its innovation has been coming thick and fast and Japan is now (2019/2020) responsible for 10% of all product launches, overtaking the US to become the world leader in ice cream innovation. Meanwhile, the US now accounts for 9% of new products launched, taking 2nd place. Germany, on the other hand, contributes to 6% of global ice cream innovation followed by the UK (4%). (see Chart 1.0)
Kate added, “Quirky flavours and exciting formats are putting Japanese ice cream at the forefront of food innovation, while providing ample inspiration for ice cream launches outside of Japan. The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine paves the way for ice cream brands to utilise traditional Japanese flavours such as hojicha and yuzu. Quirky combinations, unique flavours and unusual ice cream cones are all well-positioned to appeal to consumers globally. In addition, ice cream brands tapping into Japanese flavours are likely to fare well, particularly during the hot summer months.”
High/added protein claims in ice cream
Protein has gained importance with consumers over the past 5 years as NPD launches with high/added protein claims have doubled from 2% to 4% of total food and drink launches.
Meanwhile high/added protein ice cream claims have also increased from under 1% of ice creams to over 2% in the last 4 years. Although this is relatively small, there is a growing interest by consumers to eat ice cream with added protein.
Kate said, “Plant protein from legumes, grain and seeds can offer a high-protein alternative to dairy protein. With sustainability ever the topic of discussion, the ice cream category will need to demonstrate its ethical credentials to continue to win favour with consumers, and plant proteins can appeal due to their lower carbon footprint than dairy proteins.”

Asia – next best growth opportunity for Vegan ice cream
According to Kate, 5 years ago there were no ice cream launches in ASEAN featuring vegan claims. However, the claim has gained traction, rising to 2% of ice cream launches in the ASEAN region in the last 12 months to August 2020.
Kate explained, "In pre-COVID-19 period, fewer than 1 in 10 consumers in ASEAN claimed to avoid animal-derived ingredients, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly made an impact on dietary choices. Approximately 1 in 5 ASEAN consumers are now resolving to eat fewer dairy/meat products once the pandemic subsides. With interest in plant-based foods on the rise, we are likely to see vegan innovation in the ice cream space continue to increase over the coming years."
In Asia, China is the biggest consumer of ice cream and enjoys relatively steady market growth. However, India and Indonesia are the 2 fastest growing markets for ice cream in Asia, according to latest statistics from Mintel (see Chart 2.0)



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