Savoury ice cream in China – where East meets West

Temperatures are rising rapidly in China and that is traditionally the signal for the ice cream industry to increase production. However, ice cream is one of the products the consumption of which has increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2020, when virtually all Chinese were confined to their homes with only very limited opportunities to go out. Convenient foods like instant noodles and snack food like nuts and seeds reported year-on-year increases up to more than 100%. The increase in ice cream consumption was less spectacular, but still 20% – 30%.

However, the most interesting development in the Chinese ice cream scene is not just the increase in consumption, but the growing interest in savoury flavours. Until recently, ice cream was typically a sweet to very sweet treat. Now, the most peculiar flavoured ice creams are appearing all over the country. Can you imagine enjoying scoop after delicious scoop of ice cream laced with: seaweed, shredded meat, onion rings, etc.? Curious? Go to China this summer to try them out, one by one. This development is so sudden and overwhelming, that I am not adding this news to my earlier post on ice cream, but dedicating a special post to it. This will not be a show window of who makes what. As usual, I will give you a good look into what is happening in this market.

Chives and shred meat

I have introduced shred meat or meat floss in an earlier post on Chinese meat products. I already noted there that it can be used as an ingredient in various foods. Here it is combined with chopped spring onions. If you can keep the taste of fresh spring onions, this combination might actually work very well with a suitable ice cream flavour.

Herbal tea

As noted in my post on Chinese drinks, I introduced herbal tea (often referred to as ice tea in Chinese) as a type of beverage derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has become extremely popular in China during recent years, so why not make it into a popsicle? The design of the packaging reflects the ‘traditional’ nature of this product.

Hot and spicy

After my introduction, you undoubtedly expect a chili flavoured variety, so here it is. The packaging promises a lot of fire. I like chili chocolate (the mild type), so I expect to like this too.

Stinky toufu

Toufu, bean curd, is known very well in the Western world, as a versatile food ingredient and an alternative to meat. Stinky toufu doesn’t sound very nice, but refers to a kind of black fermented toufu that is fried and sold as a snack at street stalls in various parts of China. A traditional hot snack in winter is now also available as a cold snack in summer.

A cold hot pot

The last, but most spectacular, type that I want to introduce in this post is hot pot ice cream. Chinese love to eat hot pot, at home and in restaurants. You can throw almost any food in the boiling water, retrieve it when done, dip it in a sauce, and savour it. This ice cream comes in a pot, with a wafer a the lid, and laced with chopped vegetables and seaweed, topped with a layer of shred meat.

There are more types and undoubtedly even more will appear. I may add the ones that I find most striking later.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

Let’s meat in China – the indigenous classification of meat products

China has produced 85.170 mln mt of meat in 2018

As food and culture are so intertwined, proper market research in the food industry should take account of the ways the local culture affects the segment of the food industry that is being surveyed. A good example is the post on Leisure Food earlier in this blog. In this post, I want to introduce the Chinese categorisation of meat products as used in the official publications about the domestic meat industry. I will list the main categories and for each category provide a concise description.

Meat in general

Before turning to the typology, let’s have a look at the Chinese meat market in general.  Traditionally, China’s meat of choice is pork, however recently there has been growth in more diverse meats, for example, veal.

China is now the world’s largest producer, consumer, and importer of meat. In 2019, the country consumed around 28% of the global meat supply, which accounts for 73% of the Asia-Pacific meat market value. In the same year, the monthly import of meat products in China reached USD 1 billion, with Brazil being the leading meat supplier whereas imports from the EU countries including Netherlands, Spain, and Germany growing the fastest.

Fresh meat sales in China make up nearly 80% of the market value. Among all the types of meat, pork sales dominate the market, followed by poultry, beef. It is expected, however, that the Chinese beef and veal meat market will witness a rising demand, with the current per capita consumption rates increased by at least 25% in the next decade, whereas pork market growth will slow. The African Swine Fever epidemic in 2019 dealt an additional blow to domestic pork production.

Sausages

Chinese sausages are basically the same as anywhere else. Not need to give a separate definition here. The overwhelming majority of Chinese sausages are made from pork and their Chineseness is mainly expressed by the use of seasoning and herbs.

Two popular types need to be mentioned separately:

Cantonese sausages

Cantonese sausages or la sausages are fermented sausages. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation gives the sausages a specific taste and functions as a natural preservative. Cantonese sausages are also relative hard, not unlike salami.

CantoneseSausage

A number of research institutes and universities all over China are engaged in R&D to improve the production process of traditional Chinese fermented sausages. Aspects involved include: preventing the oxidation of fat, protecting the colour, enhancing the flavour using enzymes and specially desinged aromas, and decreasing the sodium level.

To learn about a novel type of sausage, date sausages, see my post on dates in this blog.

Ham sausages

This is an umbrella term for a large variety of relatively small sausages that can be consumed as a snack. Chinese love to bring them on a trip, be it a one day tour to a local scenic spot, or a train trip of a couple of days. Although they count as a meat product, many ham sausages have a high starch content to make them soft enough for easy consumption on the road. For the same reason, they are usually relatively small and individually packed.

HamSausage

Ham

Ham in China is again more or less the same as ham elsewhere, made from the same part of the pig. One of my earlier posts is about one of China’s most famous types of ham: Jinhua Ham.

Cured meat

Cured meat products are typically more closely related to the local culture. People in different regions like different combinations of spices. In the case of China, soy sauce is a product often used in curing meat. Star aniseed is also a prominently present in many flavoured meat products from China.

Sauce pickled meat

This category has much in common with the previous one, the main difference being that the products in this category are boiled with spices, while cured meats are pickled and dried.

Cured meats are usually eaten a such, while sauce pickled products are dipped in a sauce when consumed.

Smoked and roasted meat

These products are what the name says: smoked or roasted meat, again usually first pickled.

Dried meat

A very old way to preserve meat is to air or sun dry it. A special product in this category is:

Shred meat/meat floss (rousong)

Marinated pork or beef is roasted over a slow fire until dry and then shredded. Shred beef is used to flavour white rice, rice porridge and my other relatively bland staple foods. An example of such a food is shred meat flavoured bread introduced in my blog on public nutrition in China.

Rousong

Meat floss comes in three varieties:

  • Dried meat floss: the standard product;
  • Short dried meat floss: the standard product, but with vegetable oil added and fried to small pellets of short fibres;
  • Dried meat powder: the standard product, but with vegetable oil and bean powder added and shaped into small pellets.

Prepared meat products

This is an umbrella term for meat prepared in various ways into semi-finished products. The consumer can transform them into ready to eat products with a minimum of effort.

Canned meat

Canned meat comes in two categories: hard cans (e.g. luncheon meat), what we are used to refer to as canned meat and soft cans, prepared meat packed in aluminum foil. The former has to be removed from the can for further preparation, while the latter can be prepared by boiling the pack in water.

SoftCan

Hamburger

The Western hamburger is undergoing interesting transformations in China to adapt better to the Chinese palate. It is easy to guess that McDonalds was the first channel through which the beef patty was introduced to China. Burger King followed later. Although very few Chinese dislike beef, when Chinese talk about ‘meat’ in general, without mentioning a particular animal, they are always referring to pork. Burger King is responding to by adding a pork-based hamburger to its product range in China. Their ad even uses the same pun that I included in the title of this post.

To still add some foreignness to the promotion, the text in the lower left corner says that the flavour is based on ‘German roast pork knuckle’. A genuine American European Chinese potpourri of flavours!

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.