how France became number one in Europe

First producer ahead of Italy, second world exporter, France benefits in particular from a varied ecosystem and sustained demand for the innovation of the players.

Sunny days and ice cream cravings are back. In this area, France is clearly doing well being the main European producer in value with a market of 1,200 million euros in 2020 ahead of Italy, according to a study by Xerfi.

On the consumption side, sales are growing an average of 3% per year over the last six years, going from 1,000 million euros in 2016 to 1,220 million euros in 2021. The only exception to this growth, the year 2020-2021 with a decrease of 3.3% “after an exceptional year 2020 with 1,260 million euros in revenue However, 2021 is in fact the second best year for the ice cream category.

“For 10 years, the ice cream parlor has been driving the market for consumer products, and especially frozen products (+7% between 2019 and 2021), with an average annual growth of 2.9% in its turnover. Season after season, we continue our innovation process to attract more and more consumers, throughout the year,” says Sylvie Galliaerde, President of the Association of Ice Cream Companies.

A varied offer

Overall, 84% of French households say they eat ice cream. At the head of sales, ice cream bars (28% of sales, +12% in one year) ahead of cones and ice cream in tubs. How can this constant growth of the market be explained?

“France owes its range to several characteristics that support demand, such as the appearance of ice cream parlors thanks to a favorable climate and a strong tourist attraction. Or the abundance of quality raw materials,” explains Matteo Neri, director of studies and expert in agro -Food sector for Xerfi.

The same trend as the association of ice cream parlors that highlights “the combination of our assets: premiumization, permanent and seasonal collections, innovations, value-added products, local know-how, quality raw materials…”

Local know-how is, in effect, a reality. There are 10 factories in France that represent 72% of the sector’s income, not to mention the multitude of artisans.

“The ice cream and sorbet manufacturing sector has registered a continuous increase in the number of establishments in recent years (+31% between 2012 and 2020). The appearance of small industrialists partly explains this increase and the sector stands out from the rest for a very high proportion of artisanal structures (around 90% of the companies)”, Xerfi abounds.

Encourage consumption throughout the year

However, the research firm highlights that the first four companies on its panel represented 80% of the sector’s turnover in 2020. These are the subsidiaries of the leading groups (Froneri, Mars, etc.) that have important centers production in France.

Product innovations are clearly an accelerator. According to NielsenIQ, new products generate +11.7% turnover on average. “We are developing strong innovations around ultra-delicacy in bar, bar and cone formats: inclusion of sauces, play on textures, pieces… This symbol of comfort foodAssociated with the current graphic codes of our packaging, it aims to attract new consumers and register ice cream at new times of consumption, throughout the year”, explains the sector.

In addition, according to a survey carried out last February, 52% of French people consume ice cream throughout the year.

Powerful Exports

Another important lever for the sector is exports. “French ice cream is very popular abroad and France captures 13% of global ice cream exports in 2020. Among them are the star products of the heavyweights in the sector (Froneri, Häagen Dazs or Mars Wrigley Confectionery) France thus occupies the 2nd position in the ranking of world ice cream exporters, just behind Germany In this context and despite a gradual decline in the last three years, France’s trade balance in the sector remains largely surplus (219 million euros in 2020)”, observes Matteo Neri of Xerfi.

For the coming seasons, the sector intends to capitalize on its strengths, play the gourmet card but also surf the wave of ethics.

Objective, reinforce the offer in vegan recipes, natural ice cream, reduced sugar, recyclable packaging, highlight the origin of raw materials, production made in France… 70% of the French would be willing to pay more for ice cream made with local and/or natural products.

Olivier Chicheportiche BFM Business Journalist

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