French frozen food

France: Europe’s Largest Producer of Ice Cream

As Europe’s largest ice-cream producer – ahead of Italy, and second-largest exporter worldwide, after Germany – France counts nearly 400 industrial ice-cream manufacturers, and the small and medium-sized companies are holding their own quite well against the giants like Nestlé (Extrême, La Laitière), Unilever (Miko, Magnum), and Häagen-Dazs. Let’s take a closer look at a market that’s more dynamic than ever, and that’s in constant evolution.

After a record-breaking post-lockdown year, 2022 set new records, with 14% growth by value, for revenue of €1.397 billion. According to the French Ice Cream Making Businesses’ Association Annual Report, ice-cream bars are consumers’ number one choice, with a 27% market share, followed by cones (17.8%), which are experiencing excellent growth (+28.4%) and tubs (13.1%).

In an inflationary environment, the frozen treat that evokes childhood is a little luxury that 60% of French people indulge in because it’s easy on their budget (according to an OpinionWay survey for the French Ice Cream Making Businesses’ Association). In fact, 82% of those surveyed agreed that “ice cream is a pleasure purchase that is both comforting and affordable.”

Trends on an ever-evolving market

The market is focused on innovation, with 5.2% of revenue from new products. Consumers want products that are both unusual and personalizable. So manufacturers have developed brightly colored items with a wide range of toppings (fresh fruit, cookies, chocolate chips and more), sauces (caramel, chocolate, berries and more) and personalizable flavors. Presentation and packaging are meticulous and creative to appeal to a target audience that is drawn to aesthetically attractive “Instagrammable” items.

New technologies are being used to create innovative products like ice-cream with a foamy texture or creamy sorbet. Manufacturers are always trying to surprise consumers with products that stand out, riding trends like back-to-nature, sugar-free, lactose-free and vegan or plant-based ice cream. Naturalness is a powerful trend in the industry, because consumers are looking for products without additives or preservatives, made with simple, all-natural ingredients. That’s why high-quality ingredients, like fresh fruit, organic milk, and local products, are being used more and more.

In general, ice-cream manufacturers in France are committed to meeting current environmental needs, particularly by reducing the impact of their packaging. A study is currently being carried out by ADEME to better understand consumer expectations in CSR terms. It’s worth noting that 66% of French people say they are willing to pay more for ice cream that’s made in France or with local products (OpinionWay Survey for French Ice Cream Making Businesses’ Association).