Retailers pushing hard on soft-serve ice cream

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) Two convenience store chains are engaging in a simmering "cold war" to feed a growing soft-serve ice cream craze across Taiwan, even as winter approaches.
Long lines for soft ice cream have been seen at 7-Eleven and FamilyMart stores recently as the two giant retailers battle fiercely over a frozen dessert market worth NT$4 billion (US$135 million) a year. President Chain Store Corp., which operates the 7-Eleven chain in Taiwan, said it has sold over 100,000 servings of soft ice cream introduced from Hokkaido since it went on sale at 10 stores nationwide on Oct. 28. Featuring both Japanese cream and cones, the 7-Eleven cold sweet has been so popular that consumers sometimes need to take a number and wait for more than half an hour. The fact that dairy products, including ice cream, sell better in Hokkaido in the winter than the summer has given the retailer motivation to continue promoting ice cream even in cold weather, according to a 7-Eleven public relations official. Not to be outdone by 7-Eleven's ice-cream campaign, FamilyMart, which introduced Japanese soft serves to its 190 stores beginning in March, responded with a new chocolate flavor last month in 26 stores across Taiwan, drawing a positive response. "There's not a big difference in the number of customers buying ice cream between summer and winter," said Charine Ho, a public relations manager for Taiwan FamilyMart Co., adding that FamilyMart has sold about 5 million soft-serve ice creams so far. The battle between the two retailers over the frozen dessert market is likely to grow, with both chains vowing to introduce the soft serves to more stores as strong sales justify putting in more of the high-cost ice cream makers. 7-Eleven has yet to announce a clear goal for expansion, but FamilyMart said it intends to double the number of stores serving soft-serve ice cream from the current 190 to 400 across Taiwan by the end of 2013. (By Lee Hsin-Yin)