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Earlier summer weather heats up expanding ice cream market

Two women hold "Haagen-Dazs Bakery" sandwiches in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 18, 2017. (Mainichi)

With days reaching over 25 degrees Celsius coming earlier each year, ice cream manufacturers are also beginning their summer competition for sales sooner, expanding the ice cream market with innovative new ways to enjoy the cool summer treat.

    According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, March 10, 2013 holds the record for the earliest observed day over 25 degrees Celsius in central Tokyo. The trend toward earlier summer weather has expanded the market for ice cream and other icy desserts, with the Japan Ice Cream Association reporting that the market size grew 30 percent over the last 10 years and is worth roughly 465 billion yen. This year the first day over 25 degrees Celsius visited Tokyo on April 16 -- 11 days earlier than average -- kicking off competition between companies for the best sweet cure for the heat.

    One summer standby has been convenience store chain FamilyMart Co. beginning sales of its icy "Frappe" drinks after the "Golden Week" long holiday period in May. However, the company began sales three weeks ahead of usual schedule this year on April 23. The strawberry-flavored frappe with double the original fruit and other new products will be added to the lineup monthly to keep customers coming back for more.

    "They sell well when the temperature rises above 25 degrees Celsius. We were losing out on meeting the demand for them before Golden Week," a public relations representative for FamilyMart stated. Fellow convenience store chain Lawson, Inc. also began sales of its popular super frozen drinks defrosted at the register early on April 18.

    The novelty of thawing icy drinks before enjoying them is said to be popular among women from their teens to their 30s. Convenience store Ministop is trying to appeal to more middle-aged and elderly customers by increasing its lineup of traditional Japanese sweets-inspired icy desserts. This includes a "mitarashi dango" (rice dumplings coated in sweet soy sauce) flavor among its summer-only "Halo Halo" crushed ice parfaits.

    Other manufacturers are taking different routes, with ice cream giant Haagen-Dazs opening its "Haagen-Dazs Bakery" for a limited time. At the Maison Kayser Cafe in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, 14 different Haagen-Dazs items including vanilla ice cream sandwiched in a croissant can be enjoyed until May 9. Brochures handed out with the recipes for the creations challenge customers to try to recreate the unique desserts at home, aiming to increase demand for the ice cream.

    Also introducing recipes to beat the heat is Morinaga & Co., listing ways to make treats with its "Icebox" lineup of fruit juice-flavored ice cubes on its website since April 17. The main audience for the product is children and teenagers, but Morinaga is seeking to expand its reach with cocktail recipes for adults, such as adding the ice cubes to red wine.

    The Japan Ice Cream Association, of which both Morinaga and Haagen-Dazs are members, has designated May 9 as "Ice Cream Day," and will engage in campaigns promoting the event nationwide following the expected spike in sales during the Golden Week holidays.

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