New report suggests ice cream could become New Zealand's next big export success

A new report suggests ice cream could become New Zealand's next big export success. 

Many of the things Kiwi ice cream producers are doing well, like making healthy, sustainable and non-dairy products, is exactly what international consumers are craving.

Is it really summer if you're not racing to finish your ice cream before the sun gets the better of it? 

Hannah Wood is the founder of Little 'Lato - a boutique gelato brand - and business is booming. 

"It's awesome, what a journey," Wood told Newshub. "If I looked back four years ago, I never would have imagined it being what it is now." 

Wood started making dairy-free ice cream so her lactose-intolerant friends could enjoy her creations and now they are some of her top-selling flavours. 

"We want it to be as indulgent and as good as the real thing," she said. "It should be the taste that comes first, oh and then, by the way, it's dairy-free, it's gluten-free.'" 

The business stands to profit from growth opportunities outlined in a new government report. 

It's found international consumers want sustainable, premium, non-dairy frozen treats and they're even calling out for flavours like sea salt, peanut butter and hemp. 

"That is the main thing when it comes to a certain ultra-premium end of the market," Economic and Regional Development minister Stuart Nash said. "It's having that trusted brand that people will pay a little bit more for the products that we produce."

Currently, ice cream exports make up less than 1 percent of our dairy exports and the report suggests creating unique Kiwi flavours - one chocolate fish gelato please - could be one of the keys to our success. 

The report said Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom are three of the markets where we should capitalise on our existing dairy export pathways, especially as our free-trade agreement with the UK progresses. 

"It's huge, it means we can compete with other countries that have free trade agreements or don't have the same tariff barriers that we have at the moment so it levels the playing field," Nash said.  

New Zealand ice cream exports are growing in value, but volumes have been relatively flat at 10-12,000 tonnes per year for around 15 years.

New Zealand exported around US$36 million of ice cream in 2020, just 0.3 percent of the value of our total US$11.2 billion in dairy exports.

China and Japan make up 72 percent (US$26 million) of our ice cream exports but New Zealand is only a minor player in the wider Asian region. Around US$281 million of ice cream was sold in Asia by European producers in 2019.

There are 48 local ice cream manufacturers in New Zealand and the industry body said the report is aspirational.

"From the export side, there is a lot of expensive requirements, compliance issues," Ice Cream Manufacturers Association president Karl Tiefenbacher told Newshub. "For the larger players, that is an exciting prospect but for smaller players, it's probably a bit beyond our means." 

Even as one of those small players, Wood is optimistic. 

"Long term we'd look at expanding beyond New Zealand but there are a lot of things we can do in New Zealand first," Wood said.  

You scream I scream, the world is screaming for our ice cream. 

Watch the full story above.