Changing tastes and distribution challenges in emerging markets are opening up an ice cream industry long dominated by global food companies such as Unilever and Nestle. Sonia Legg reports.
It's a family firm, employing 30 people in the heart of the English countryside. But Jude's ice cream is growing fast. After just 10 years they have customers across Britain. James Wright is a Director. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WRIGHT, DIRECTOR, JUDE'S ICE CREAM, SAYING: "It's local milk, local cream and where ever we can find the best ingredients we look for those ingredients." The trend for treats that are 'worth it' is helping local producers. Jude's nearby corner shop makes efforts to buy from small suppliers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WRIGHT, DIRECTOR, JUDE'S ICE CREAM, SAYING: "They want to know where the ice cream comes from and believe in the company they are buying from. At Jude's we give 10 percent of our profits to charity and really engage with the community." Unilever and Nestle control a third of the ice cream market. But others like Ciao Bella in the United States, R&R in Europe and Mengniu Diary in China are muscling in. Nestle has recognised the desire for healthier, unprocessed 'reward' food with ranges like Skinny Cow. Unilever too bought upmarket and 'less-fattening' Talenti last year. But they're still finding it hard to keep market share of an industry that Euromonitor expects to grow by 6 percent this year to $71 billion. Buying the start-up brands is one option, selling bulk businesses is another. But the small guys are often first with the new ideas (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WRIGHT, DIRECTOR, JUDE'S ICE CREAM, SAYING: "We launched salted caramel in 2010 and that was four years before most of the multi-nationals." Emerging markets could be the solution for the big boys. But here too there's a problem. Distributing frozen products in often vast countries with unreliable electricity supplies isn't as easy as driving it to the corner shop.