Ice-cream makers looking to extend seasonal appetites to all year round

Many dairy firms are drawing on the extension of the traditional ice-cream consumption season as a move to boost their profits. A painstaking task in recent years has been to change domestic mentality, as Greeks – unlike other Europeans – traditionally link ice-cream consumption exclusively with summer months. With overall annual turnover at -250 million, the domestic ice-cream market appears to have little room for growth. According to estimates by Business Research and Consultancy Firm ICAP, average annual growth in 2008 will range between 1.0 percent and 3.0 percent. Historically, some say that it was Marco Polo who brought back from China a recipe for ice cream made from water, while Nero, the emperor of Rome, used snow to make fruit juices icy, and a French chef, De Mirco, who worked for King Charles I, at a special feast served an extraordinary desert that was like an «iced cream.» But the first ice cream as we know it today (on a stick) is proven to have been made in 1903 by Harry Bust. Today, more that one hundred years later, it is estimated that the global ice-cream market posts overall revenues of more than $50 billion, led by the US. Annual per capita consumption in the US amounts to 18.7 liters, followed by Finland with 13.3 liters, Sweden (11.8 l), Denmark (8.9 l) and Germany (8.5 l). Greece lags way behind with 4.3 liters. The largest share of the global ice-cream market is divided among Unilever, Nestle, Haagen Dazs, Dreyers, Lotte, McDonalds and some smaller private label companies. The main trends in the market are toward the creation of new, exotic tastes, as well as products offering higher nutritional value. Another development in the domestic market has been the further consolidation of a number of multinationals. Study data Ice cream has been studied extensively and results have shown that its consumption can improve people’s mood. In the US, Vermont University studies concluded that ice cream has a positive impact on concentration and helps relieve tiredness. The seasonal consumption of ice cream in Greece begins in March and reaches a peak during summer months, with the numbers of foreign visitors in the country and weather conditions being among the main factors playing a role in sales. For instance, this year’s hotter weather has so far boosted ice-cream consumption, according to data. Ready-made ice cream (both personal and family sizes) account for most sales at 76 percent, with ice cream sold in bulk accounting for the remaining 24 percent. Consumers generally prefer personal size ice creams (51 percent) of which a very popular type is what is known as an ice-cream stick (39 percent). With regard to place of consumption, as much as 71 percent of ice cream is eaten at home, with the remaining percentage consumed in shops, public places and on outdoor strolls. Smaller players According to ICAP data, private label companies have been seeing their market shares rise in recent years, as ice cream has grown in popularity among consumers. Nevertheless, with a large number of companies operating in the specific market, things are still controlled to a large extent by the major players. The main difficulties faced by small and medium-sized companies are connected wtih the development of an extensive distribution network that is required in order to supply local markets across the country. Nestle Hellas Ice Cream, EVGA, Unilever (Algida) and Kri Kri share almost 80 percent of the market in terms of volume and 92 percent in terms of value. The market is led by Nestle with sales of 21.2 million liters and annual revenues of -120.8 million; its parent company is among the world’s ice cream leaders, with turnover at -4.2 billion. EVGA, established 73 years ago and the first company to produce ready-made ice cream in Greece, now posts consolidated income of -85 million. The third-biggest domestic player is Algida (Unilever), a world ice cream leader.

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