Ice cream's sweet story of success

Updated: 2015-08-03 08:20

By Wang Zhuoqiong(China Daily)

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Ice cream's sweet story of success

A woman buys a Turkey-flavored ice cream at a street stall in downtown Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lily Xia usually takes her three-year-old daughter Yoko to Vai Milano at the Indigo Shopping Center in Beijing at the weekend for an ice cream. It is a treat her daughter loves, and the taste is pure Italian.

"The textures of handmade ice cream is softer and it tastes fresher than other labels, and less sweet," Xia, who works in the e-commerce industry and has studied in Singapore as well as traveling extensively in Europe, said.

While ice cream is popular in China, many customers find certain varieties too sweet. This has opened up the market to traditional Italian ice cream makers such as Vai Milano, one of the major boutique brands based in Milan.

Specializing in sundaes, milkshakes, pastries, coffee and, of course, ice cream, the brand here is run by Vai China and headed by chief executive officer Yang Jin. All the products are made from natural ingredients, without artificial colors or preservatives, according to the company.

"We opened the first store in Solana shopping center in the Chaoyang district of Beijing in 2012," Yang said.

The Vai Milano chain now consists of five stores, which are in high-end malls in Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai, where the parlor will open soon. "We knew when we came here, the market might not be ready for such a product," Yang said.

"Consumers at that time were blind to brands, but that has now changed, as people recognize us and are more aware of quality European products."

Today, customers are looking for healthier ice cream options when they buy quality products. Vai Milano has been quick to tap into this market by importing all these ingredients from Italy and preparing them here.

"By doing this, we feel the ice-cream stays fresher and tastes better," Yang said.

The upmarket brand has also introduced sugar-free ice cream as well as the Sobetto, a fruit and ice combination for young women looking for a healthier dessert. "This has been popular with female customers," Yang added.

The growth of Vai China, which has yet to release detailed financial figures, and its Vai Milano parlors highlights the booming ice cream market in China.

Sales here are expected to increase to 83.3 billion yuan ($13.4 billion) this year and 125.4 billion yuan by 2020, according to a report from Mintel Group Ltd, the global market research company in the United Kingdom.

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