Deccan Chronicle

The New Ice Age is Here

Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent

Published on: July 14, 2023 | Updated on: July 14, 2023
Growing urbanization, increased exposure to international trends and increase in family disposable incomes is helping build demand for the category.  By Arrangement

Growing urbanization, increased exposure to international trends and increase in family disposable incomes is helping build demand for the category. By Arrangement

What started as a rare luxury back in the day has now evolved to an over Rs. 18000 crore industry in India. Intended only for special occasions earlier, ice creams today are fast evolving to become the dessert of choice for a very large and growing majority of individuals.

The concept of ice creams in India dates back a couple of centuries when ‘kulfi’ came into being. A few 100 years later and around the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s is when the ice cream industry in India started to grow. In came softies, cassata ice cream and sancha ice creams.  Ice cream carts became the go to destination for this dessert and the sound of the bell from the Ice cream cart was often a signal to drop everything else and rush to it to explore heaven.

Cut to the present –Limited products available in ice cream cartshas become a thing of the past. Ice cream eating itself has transformed into a magical culinary experience that is powering the ice cream category to be amongst the fastest growing sectors in the food & beverage industry.

From the humble Ice cream carts, the industry grew through growth in distribution in the retail channel wherein Ice cream freezers replete with one or multiple brands were placed across general trade and even modern trade stores across the length and breadth of India making it easier especially for price sensitive consumers to choose their favorite. The channel served a great purpose and helped make Ice creams omnipresent.

There was one problem though. And that was customization!  Customers often wanted things different from what were available in the limited space of an ice cream freezer. Also the need to experiment was growing and the retail channel was unable to fulfill that. And then Ice creams from retail stores had to be consumed on the go. There was no dedicated space to just sit down and savor the goodness on offer.

A few decades later when we cut to the present, the industry seems to have donned another avatar altogether. At one level, the customer seems to have multiple channels to explore the category, Take the Ice cream parlours for instance. The emergence of the parlour channel wherein one can taste and sample from a variety of Ice Cream flavorsbefore deciding on one or two. Parlours have done great service to the ice cream industry by building not just visibility for the category but also aspiration and drool appeal. And ofcourse the dedicated seating space for ice cream lovers. They enable a visual and multi sensorial treat for the senses.

Then there is the emergence of the online channel. These are what I call the new age ice cream carts except that they are virtual. They are "virtually" everywhere, stock a limited assortment and can make the chosen product available to customers in a jiffy.

The Ice cream product experience itself seem to have evolved. The humble Ice cream scoop is no longer limited to the vanilla, butterscotch, tutti fruity and chocolate flavours. Premium ice cream brands offer a plethora of lip-smacking flavours, which have now become de-rigueur for all industry players.

The formats to enjoy ice creams are no longer limited to cups and cones or candy sticks. Today you could satiate your craving by enjoying an ice cream wafer or cookie sandwich when you are hungry; refresh yourself with an ice cream shake or float; enjoy meal times with the family with a brownie or a fruit sundae ; celebrate with an Ice cream cake and jam with friends over an ice cream pizza. What’s more, you could now even take ice cream into the pop-corn category and munch on it during movies and TV shows. And then there are versions with Seasonal fruits, exotic toppings, plant-based, gluten-free or keto friendly and high protein products – you name it and there is a customized version of your favorite dessert. The choices and the variety on offer both seem extensive.

This transition has been delectable and consumers are often spoilt for choice with each format catering to diverse and unique audience needs.

While there is an evident preference towards ice cream-based desserts, there is an army of key drivers that are supporting the growth of this industry.

Some key factors are

Growing urbanization, increased exposure to international trends and increase in family disposable incomes is helping build demand for the category.
Easier availability of dairy ingredients through the year coupled with increased cold storage capacity both at the industrial and residential level as well as better road infrastructure is helpingboost supplies and bridge the gap with growing demand.

All round growth in distribution channels and more recently the rise of e-commerce and online sales coupled with increasing number of Parlours and retail touch points is helping boost availability and enabling the product category to be consumed when the customer so desires.

Innovation is key:The Ice cream landscape is diversifying fast, with emergence of not just multiple flavours but also the development of alternate formats to enjoy ice creams. The combination of ice creams with bakery products like cakes, brownies, waffles and cookies is specifically seen as a winning move.

Personalization: Customers increasingly seek personalized experiences. Many Ice cream brands today offer build your own or customise your scoop options, allowing customers to customize and tailor their accompaniments like cheesecake or brownies or waffles or lava cakes and much more and add it to their preferred flavour and scoop size. This trend caters to the desire for uniqueness and individuality amongst today’s Gen Z’s and is here to stay.

The transition in the industry will only intensify as more players and newbies come into the picture. Growth rates are expected to be steady and the industry is slated to achieve many a milestone in the years to come. As consumers, we can only expect the very best for our palettes.

— Mr. Mohit Khattar, chief executive officer, Graviss Foods Pvt Ltd – Baskin Robbins

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