Ice cream producers cone-fident ahead of summer

Ice cream manufacturers are looking forward to the new season with vigor - investing in state-of-the-art equipment and new products. But there are challenges too, including the rising price of raw materials, which reached a high level last year, and a shortage of workers, Latvian Radio reports May 24.

Dāvis Dudelis, the manager of ice cream manufacturer "Avenei", welcomed Latvian Radio on a hot day in the production facility, where employees are busy at one table preparing blackcurrant paste for ice cream coating, while right next door, special machines are already making cold treats. Dudelis said that this year the new season has started late. Are people eating more ice cream?

"I think they are eating more, it's just shifting in the types, whether it's healthy or less healthy. If the product is interesting, then people will continue to eat, enjoy and have fun. As long as there are summers, ice creams will be popular," said Dudelis.

"Avenei" produces plant-based ice creams and is a relatively small producer.

"We like to experiment, try new things, but people will always like some classic flavours. Do people want healthier ice cream? I would say 50/50. On the one hand, people are starting to choose healthier ice creams [..] but at the same time people are learning to look at treats with a healthy attitude," said the entrepreneur.

Avenei does not export its ice cream yet, but plans are big. Dudelis explained that "some doors have closed, but we are ready to go out the window and try foreign markets."

One of the current trends is that customers are increasingly opting for plant-based or vegan ice creams, according to both Dudelis and ice cream industry leader Food Union. The company's ice cream brand manager Ģirts Liniņš pointed out that vegan ice creams are a growing part of the market:

"We are thinking about lactose-free ice cream, we are still working on it. [..] They are niche products at the moment, but they are growing and we need to be proactive and offer them to consumers."

Kitija Liepa, brand manager at Rūjienas Ice Cream, also pointed out that despite market saturation, producers are offering bold flavors and demand for ice cream is growing. However, there is no shortage of challenges - both rising raw material prices and labor shortages. This is particularly the case in the regions, Liepa said:

"We produce in Rūjiena, it's not Rīga and [lack of labor] is one of the biggest challenges. We are already solving [the problem] by bringing in additional workers, actively looking for them, putting resources and time into it, offering shift work, different schedules."

Competition in the ice cream market is intense, especially among large producers, while small, so-called niche producers believe that there is enough space for everyone.


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