If you have lusted after a luscious scoop of Haagen Dazs strawberry cheesecake ice cream but have been put off by the price, scooping stations may be the answer. Distributors of imported brands are planning to set up scooping stations in a bid to make imported ice creams pocket friendly. Compared to buying 250ml or 500ml pack at Rs. 150 to 300, you will need to shell out much lesser for a single scoop served in fresh waffle cones. Just as we have warmed up to gelatos and sorbettos, ice cream distributors believe the strategy will work for imported brands.

“The high price (100ml of imported ice cream can cost between Rs. 60 and 100 compared to Rs. 20 to 30 for a domestic brand of the same quantity) is a deterrent,” believes Nicholas Paul, MD, Tan Business Ventures.

The search is on for ideal locations, such as Eat Street and a few malls, to open scooping stations. The organised ice cream industry in India has a turnover of over Rs. 2000 crore and is growing at the rate of 12 to 15 per cent annually. Despite this, we lag behind many other nations in per capita consumption of the sweet treat. We consume a little over 300 ml per person compared to the average of 23 litres in the US.

Right now, the sale of imported brands as against Indian varieties is an abysmal 7:1, points out B.V.K Raju of Q Mart Enterprises. “Imported varieties are sold only in select supermarkets going by the demography of the buyers,” he says. Snack-sized ice cream bars of Mars, Snickers and Bounty are sold faster than the others. While London Diary and Ben and Jerrry's are popular, brands like Movenpick and Haagen Dazs are picking up.

The presence of regional brands makes the competition tougher. AP alone has more than 30 regional brands. And the flavours and varieties vary from the time-tested ones to the new low carb ice creams.

The prohibitive price of imported brands, says Nicholas, is unavoidable. “Importers pay high customs duty. And ice creams are imported in air conditioned refrigerated containers and kept in the port for 20-25 days before the customs clearance,” he says.

Summer is the best time to consume ice creams but not for distribution. Retailers are plagued by intermittent power failures and fluctuations. “Any break in the cold chain supply can damage 60 to 70 per cent of the stock; since much of the ice cream is air it becomes tricky. Plug-in freezers and chillers used in regular supermarkets are not ideal in case of power fluctuations, which can have a telling effect on the quality of the ice creams,” adds Raju.

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