American Ice Cream on Its Way to China

American Ice Cream on Its Way to China

Every day we try to surprise and please our guests. There are a lot of coffee houses in Moscow that have interesting design, beautiful dishes and drinks. It is becoming increasingly difficult to create something new in the coffee industry, due to the fact that not only coffee culture is developing rapidly, but also consumer culture and demand for new experiences is growing day by day. In the coffee industry at the moment, we try our best to surprise a guest. Even with a simple cup of coffee. New experiments with grain fermentation reveal every coffee in a new way, bringing out something unexpected and undiscovered before.
Did you know that one-third of world ice cream is consumed in China? In 2014, China beat the US became the world’s largest ice cream consumer with 11.4 billion dollars spent on it. Since then, the market has steadily grown for over 10% annually, according to researching and consulting service institutions, Guanyan Data Centre.
The booming of the Chinese ice cream market has attracted many successful high-end ice cream brands to start their journey in China, including Creamistry, the famous liquid nitrogen ice cream franchises from South California. Established in 2013, Creamistry now has over 200 shops all over the world. And at the end of last year, it has officially opened its first shop in Shanghai after two years of preparation.

Holly Lu, the brand director of Creamistry China told us, “We hope to have our own place in the ice cream market here in China. Our interactive way of making ice cream through liquid nitrogen can be attractive to new customers here. Eventually, we want to build the image of a chain brand in China.”
However, to get a piece of cake from the local market is not that easy. Even though China has the world’s largest ice cream market, ice cream has the lowest penetration rate among Chinese consumers compared to other desserts. Only 3% of the population are loyal ice-cream lovers, according to the world-leading market intelligence agency Mintel. Ice cream has not yet become a part of Chinese people’s life. This brings difficulties to the oversea ice cream brands who plan to enter Chinese market: if they want to approach local consumers and to persuade them to buy ice cream more easily, they have to put extra effort to localize their brand and educate their customers.
Yet to do a successful localization, a brand needs to stick to its core, but also adjust according to the market as Lu believes. For Creamistry, the high-quality milk base is the core they won’t give up.
Lu told us “We insist on importing the milk from California as it is one of the highest-quality milk sources in the world: from the high-quality pasture and the high standard of transportation, to the protein in the product itself – they are the basis of our adherence.”

Nevertheless, this high-quality milk also has a weakness. Ice cream made from it has a relatively mellow and thick flavor which most Chinese people are not used to. To make the ice cream more welcomed by the Chinese consumers, the brand has to re-develop their ice cream base to make it less sweet and thick. As we all know, the ice cream base is all about the balance among sugars, fats and other ingredients. Therefore, a small change will make a difference in the ice cream texture. It took Creamistry development team more than a year to create a perfect high-quality milk base for the Chinese consumers.
Apart from adjusting the product itself, Creamistry has also made changes to all kinds of strategies from their delivery system to promotion methods. “From packaging and promotion to the overall brand image, we need to combine and adjust all different kinds of tools to approach and make more people accept us.” Lu emphasized.
For example, packaging and delivery is a totally new area for Creamistry. As in the US, most people won’t order ice cream delivery, instead, they will go to a shop to quickly pick an ice cream. While in China, thanks to the rapid development of food delivery services, people are used to ordering food online and have it at their table in about 30 minutes. To satisfy the market need, Creamistry started its first-ever ice cream delivery service and their online shop. “We have to experiment on a lot of new things, such as the design of insulation bag as well as the amount of dry ice to ensure the ice cream will not melt in customer’s hands once they open their order. All this is something we rarely faced in our business in the US, but we pay attention to the market needs to make our improvements.”

As for the promotion, Creamistry has also made some major changes. In fact, Creamistry is one of the most popular ice cream brands on Instagram with over 87 thousand followers and 56,000 and more hashtags. Instagram is probably the main promotion channel for Creamistry overseas. Nevertheless, Instagram, unfortunately, is not available in China and this has cut the brand’s advantage. To better reach the Chinese customer Creamistry has quickly adjusted their promotion strategy in China through short videos that are put on Tik-Tok and Bilibili, one of the most popular social media promotion platforms.
There’s no doubt that Creamistry has put much effort to make the products more acceptable and approachable to the local consumers. However, that is not enough for a foreign brand to successfully enter Chinese market. Localization is about the balance. It is also critical to make the locals approach the products by themselves. That is why opening up people’s imagination and expanding people’s understanding of ice cream is very much needed for foreign brands to make Chinese people consume more of the ice dessert. When it comes to high-end ice cream, for most Chinese people, what will first come into their mind is Häagen-Dazs. Being one of the first ice cream brands to enter China in 1996, Häagen-Dazs has introduced ice cream to Chinese people as a luxury lifestyle item just like afternoon tea. That impression of ice cream has deeply rooted in many people’s minds over the past 20 years, so few high-end ice cream competitors have even tried to enter the competition.

“For some Chinese consumers, ice cream is more like afternoon tea where you have to sit down and enjoy the environment. Such an old concept can limit the context of ice cream consumption,” Holly Lu explains. What Creamistry wants to do is to make ice cream more accessible and convenient. To solve this problem, the brand has specifically developed new products based on their ice cream strategy for the Chinese market – they developed their tea offering. Compared to ice cream, tea is a much bigger market in China. The government stats show that tea market reached 400 billion RMB in 2019. Tea, mostly bubble tea and milk tea, is widely accepted by many Chinese people. Lu said: “Ice cream can be combined with tea drinks in many ways to make it more accessible and recognized by the public.”
Apart from developing new products, Creamistry has also applied itself to the market of ice cream cake in order to open up the context of ice cream consumption. According to Creamistry’s research, ice cream cake is still a relatively niche market with few product lines in China. Therefore, the brand has launched its splicing cake business, which is a quite new product in their American franchises, for people to enjoy ice cream during business tea break or during parties. Creamistry wants people to have a more comprehensive concept of ice cream consumption.

In the future, Creamistry plans to take a step further in experimenting more with all kinds of innovative ideas for localization. For example, they will try to develop China limited flavors with local ingredients or flavors inspired by Chinese festivals. Moreover, they’re looking forward to collaborating with different Chinese brands to bring out new and fun ice creams and experiences. But for now, Creamistry’s goal is to try their best to bring the most authentic South California ice indulgence to the Chinese customer. Through localization, they hope the local people can get a chance to enjoy this new concept of ice cream.