Aussie ice cream serves up export success

Austrade

Australian ice cream made with premium Australian milk and cream is tantalising taste buds across Asia. This case study profiles some of the Aussie ice cream and ingredient makers enjoying export success.

28 September 2021

Ice cream sealed its status as the ultimate comfort food in 2020. The trend shows no signs of slowing down in 2021.

Global ice cream sales soared to US$76.5 billion when COVID-19 forced millions into lockdown. Australian ice cream has a growing share of this market as a premium product made to exacting standards.

Australian ice cream success

Australia exported packaged ice cream products worth $46 million in 2020–21. Companies such as Bulla Dairy Foods, Golden North and Norco saw strong export sales in 2020.

Ingredient makers Burra, Frosty Boy, Goulburn Valley Creamery and Richmond Dairies also achieved good results. These companies are working with Austrade to enter markets in North Asia and Southeast Asia.

This success generates income for farmers who provide the milk and provides jobs in regional communities. Bulla Dairy Foods, for instance, employed an additional 200 people over 2020 to meet demand. Dairy cooperative Norco achieved record returns for its farmer owners in 2019–20. It is reinvigorating its export strategy to create even more value.

The success is due in part to the Australian Government’s $72.7 million Agribusiness Expansion Initiative (ABEI). The initiative helps Australian agribusiness exporters overcome the challenges of difficult trade settings and the COVID-19 pandemic. The surge in ABEI services delivered by Austrade has generated $300 million of export sales since the start of 2021.

Aussie ice cream icons find sweet success

Ice cream and ingredient manufacturers source milk from farmers in their region, and around Australia. Australia’s pasture-fed cows produce milk with a high percentage of milk solids. Grass-fed cows also produce milk with a unique flavour that’s often preferred in ice cream. Asian consumers regard our ice cream as a premium product, thanks to its rich, creamy texture.

Norco Cooperative Limited

The farmer-owned dairy cooperative, Norco, will never be short of fresh milk. Norco has almost 300 members across 203 farms in southeast Queensland and northern NSW. These farmer members supply over 200 million litres of milk a year. It is investing $30 million to upgrade its ice cream manufacturing facility in Lismore. The upgrade will significantly increase the facility’s output.

Norco has been making white-label ice cream for US and Japanese customers for several years. More recently it launched Norco-branded ice cream in China. The cooperative is working with Austrade to continue this growth in new markets in Southeast Asia. Austrade is providing market research reports and distributor lists and assisting with regulatory requirements. It is also inviting Norco to showcase its products at virtual events.

‘Besides driving incremental profit, our focus on export growth is instrumental in building the farmer-owned Norco brand in key markets,’ says Tanya Crowther, General Manager Export, Norco. ‘This is a welcome strategic outcome for all stakeholders.’

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Bulla Dairy Foods

Australian dairy companies source all or most of their ingredients from local suppliers. They experienced few interruptions during the pandemic. Rivals with global supply chains, however, struggled to find ingredients for their products.

Bulla Dairy Foods, one of Australia’s largest dairy manufacturers, scaled production quickly to fill shelves left empty by a competing global ice cream giant. The company doubled exports to Malaysia in 2020 as a result.

Bulla has been exporting ice creams and frozen yoghurts for 25 years. The company is aiming to grow exports from 5% to 25% of total revenue. It is working with Austrade to enter the UK, Thailand and the Philippines, and to grow business in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Austrade is also helping Bulla build its brand in key markets while travel restrictions remain in place.

‘Our international growth has no limit,’ says Sam Zhang, Bulla’s International Business Manager. ‘Austrade has been and will be pivotal to our export business. They’ve helped us find new customers and sell on major platforms.’

Golden North

South Australian icon Golden North has been making ice cream from the same factory in Laura since 1923. It exports its premium, palm oil-free ice cream to China, Vietnam and the Pacific Islands. Hong Kong and Singapore are on Golden North’s radar, following strong export sales in 2020.

Top-quality ingredients used by international manufacturers

Australian milk is also the source for ingredients to make ice cream and frozen desserts. These ingredients are used in Australia for sweet treats and exported to manufacturers worldwide.

Frosty Boy Australia

Frosty Boy Australia has exported its Australian-made dairy-based powders for over 40 years. Manufacturers use these powders to make soft serve ice cream, gelato, frozen yoghurt and beverages. Frosty Boy products are served to 1.7 million people every day at 10,000 outlets in 65 countries.

Frosty Boy used Austrade as its ‘boots on the ground’ when overseas travel was restricted. Austrade provided market insights and introductions to distributors, importers and foodservice partners in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt.

Goulburn Valley Creamery

Goulburn Valley Creamery makes frozen cream, frozen milk concentrate, and skim and reduced fat milk concentrate. It sources milk from the rich Goulburn Valley region. The dairy business had plans to enter China but switched its attention to Southeast Asia. The company has a healthy export business in Malaysia. It is eager to replicate this success in Thailand and Vietnam, with Austrade’s help.

Not just vanilla: innovators in manufacturing

Ice cream makers are skilled at formulating products that meet specific tastes or dietary requirements. They offer ice cream free of trans-fats, preservatives, nuts, gluten, lactose and palm oil. Ice cream can also be low-calorie, organic and Halal-certified.

Ingredient makers are particularly innovative. Frosty Boy tweaked the formula for its soft serve so it holds its shape for up to 20 minutes. This enabled customers in the food service industry to deliver soft serves during lockdowns.

‘The post-pandemic customer is demanding better flavours and different taste experiences,’ says Dirk Pretorius, Managing Director, Frosty Boy. ‘We provide innovative solutions so our international and Australian customers can meet rapid market changes. That’s an integral part of our business.’

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Frosty Boy Managing Director Dirk Pretorius sampling the company’s iconic soft serve ice cream.

Richmond Dairies

Richmond Dairies in northern New South Wales is another innovator. The company’s unique Fast Freeze Technology turns fresh milk into frozen cream, frozen skim milk concentrate, frozen whole milk concentrate, dried dairy products such as SMP, yoghurt powders, and butter.

Key to Richmond Dairies’ success is its ability to meet specific requirements, such as adjusting the butterfat content in its frozen cream. The company exports to food manufacturers in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and China. It is working with Austrade to explore opportunities in Asian markets.

Burra Foods

Based in Korumburra, Burra Foods manufactures dairy ingredients including frozen cream and frozen milk concentrates. Freezing these products maximises the fresh flavour and functionality of milk. This results in ice cream and desserts with an authentic flavour.

Burra exports frozen cream and milk concentrates to manufacturers in China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. These manufacturers are responding to consumer demand for products with a premium, fresh dairy flavour. Austrade is supporting Burra to expand sales in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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