Alex Beckett
Global Food & Drink Analyst, Alex is responsible for tracking consumer and innovation trends in a wide range of categories including ice cream and bottled water.

While Canada’s sizeable ageing population is partly responsible for declining sales of ice cream, the fast-growing population of Chinese Canadians is higher than average consumers of ice cream and present unique opportunities for ice cream manufacturers in the region.

Chinese Canadians are big users of ice cream – especially gelato

Chinese Canadians are a potentially lucrative target group for ice cream manufacturers. Responding to the needs of Chinese Canadians is important, considering the number of Chinese immigrants grew 64% between 2001 and 2011 to reach 545,535, making Chinese the second largest foreign-born group in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. As a consumer base, Chinese Canadians are set to increase in number following government plans to substantially increase immigration levels in order to help cope with the aging population and labour shortages. According to news reports, Canada is seeking to double the number of visa offices in China to attract more high-skilled workers. A larger number of Chinese Canadian consumers could mean good news for ice cream sales.

77% of Chinese Canadians have eaten gelato, compared with just 47% of all Canadians

Our research shows that Chinese Canadians tend to be frequent consumers of ice cream. Whereas nine in 10 Canadians overall have eaten hand-held ice creams (ie cones, sandwiches or ice cream on a stick), this increases to 97% of Chinese Canadians. They are also the biggest eaters of other ice cream formats, including large tubs, which nearly a third eat weekly compared to less than a quarter overall. Suggesting an appreciation for more indulgent ice creams, more than three-quarters of Chinese Canadians have eaten gelato, compared with less than half of all Canadians. This high usage reflects Chinese Canadians’ positive perception of gelato’s thick, indulgent texture, as near one third associate gelato as being satisfying and two in five consider it to be good tasting.

Chinese Canadians seek ethnic flavours

As far as Canada’s ice cream market is concerned, Chinese Canadian consumers are one group which offers exciting usage potential going forward, but are nonetheless wildly contrasting with other demographics in the innovation they want to see come to market. In fact, Chinese Canadian ice cream consumers are notably more likely than average to want to try ethnically inspired ice cream flavours (eg green tea, mango), with half interested compared to three in 10 overall.

They also show similar above-average enthusiasm in trying internationally inspired ice cream formats (eg Japanese mochi ice cream, Indian kulfi). This reflects their familiarity for exotic flavours, which may provide them with a taste of home. Considering the Canadian government is proactively seeking to welcome more Chinese immigrants to its country, more exotic, traditional Chinese flavours like green tea-, red bean- and durian-flavoured ice creams may eventually arrive in the ice cream freezers of Canada’s supermarkets.

Alex Beckett is a Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. Prior to that he spent nearly three years writing UK-based consumer reports on a wide variety of food and drink categories. Prior to joining Mintel, Alex was Food and Drink Editor of highly-regarded food industry magazine, The Grocer.