Does China Love Ice Cream as Much as the West?

HSK 3 quiz

Ice cream is a popular dessert loved the world over. Many of my students assume that ice cream is a dessert that is imported from the West. That is NOT true!

Actually, ice cream originated in China. Millenniums ago, emperors stored iced drinks in cellars, to keep them safe from the summer heat, and would drink them each summer to cool off. These iced drinks were the beginning of ice cream.

Throughout the 20th century there has been a rapid growth of China’s and the world’s urban population. This population relies on increasingly high consumption of power resources, such as electricity. The ice cream lover relies on this same thing. Domestic Chinese ice cream companies have increased as the access to power has increased throughout China. More and more domestic Chinese ice cream makers have appeared and have become a summer dessert staple in many diets.

What do people call ice cream in Chinese? Do they like it? Watch a video to see:

冰淇淋 (Bīngqílín): n., a sweetened frozen food typically eaten as a snack or dessert, usually made from dairy products.

So what are China’s Favorite Ice Cream Brands?

1. 和路雪 (Hé lù xuě) Wall’s

As the world’s largest producer of ice cream, Wall’s not only brings a delicious treat to your table, but also brings joy. Wall’s is a famous British ice cream company, headquartered in the United Kingdom, with a number of branches around the world. It is a subsidiary of Unilever. Its Chinese ice cream brand is “He Road Snow” which was established in 1993. It is a subsidiary of the manufacturer Anglo-Dalian. It has many different ice creams branded differently for each country, including Miko in France, Wall’s for the UK, and Lu Xue for China.

Most popular variety:
可爱多 (Kě’ài duō) Cornetto

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2. 伊利 (Yīlì) Yili

Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., Ltd. is one of the leading enterprises in the dairy industry in China. It is listed under one of the 520 key industrial enterprises and rated the first of 151 leading agricultural industrialization enterprises in the country. Yili ice cream was ranked first in terms of production and sales in the country for ten consecutive years and was selected as the largest ice cream producer and seller in China by the China World Record Association.

Most popular variety:
巧乐兹家族 (Qiǎo lè zī jiāzú) Chocliz family

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3. 哈根达斯 (Hā gēn dá sī) Haagen-Dazs

Haagen-Dazs, an American ice cream brand, was developed in 1921 by Reuben Mattus and was branded and sold in the Bronx, New York, in 1961. It has also established a chain of ice cream specialty stores, selling its brand of ice cream around the world, and opening more than 700 branches in 54 countries or regions. Haagen-Dazs uses pure natural materials and does not contain any preservatives, artificial flavors, stabilizers or pigments. It also uses skim milk, appealing to health-conscious consumers. The New York Times magazine has given Haagen-Dazs the reputation of “Rolls Royce in Ice Cream.”

Most popular variety:
焦糖脆饼味 (Jiāo táng cuì bǐng wèi) caramel cone

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4. 蒙牛 (Měngniú) Mengniu

Inner Mongolia Mengniu Dairy Co., Ltd. was established in 1999. It is considered to be in the top ten ice cream brands. The company is always innovating and producing new products. It is quite classic in the market, and its ice cream is rich, has a lot of variety, and is popular for its taste.

Most popular variety:
绿色心情 (Lǜsè xīnqíng) Green bean, red bean and cream popsicle

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5. 雀巢 (Quècháo) Nestle

As the world’s largest ice cream company, Nestle has always adhered to the traditional and innovative business philosophy: to obtain innovative ideas from the global ice cream business network, and to transform the Chinese market to create products with global fashion and local flavor. The brand spirit of Nestle Ice Cream embodies a real sense of style, magic, and surprise.

Most popular variety:
8次方 (Bā cì fāng) 8th power

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6. 八喜 (Bā xǐ) BAXY

In 1932, BAXY ice cream was born in San Francisco, USA. It was once named by the Time Magazine as one of the best ice creams in the world. It is considered to be good because of its delicate taste, fresh fruit and good nutrition.

Most popular variety:
香草味 (Xiāngcǎo wèi) vanilla

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7. 冰雪皇后 (Bīngxuě huánghòu) Dairy Queen

Founded in 1938 by American McCullough, this ice cream was made because American was trying to make something new for the American market. Because Mr. McCullough, liked to call the cow, “the queen of the dairy industry”, he named his ice cream store Dairy Queen. The first Dairy Queen shop opened in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois, USA, and the rest is history.

Most popular variety:
软冰淇淋 (Ruǎn bīngqílín) soft serve

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8. 梦龙 (Mèng lóng) Magnum

Magnum is an ice cream brand owned by Unilever in the UK/Netherlands and is sold as a Heartbrand product in most countries. Since the acquisition of Delta Ice Cream in Greece from 2005 to 2006, the Magnum brand was sold to Nestle, so just like other Nestle products, the Unilever Ice Cream uses the name Magic.

Most popular variety:
经典桶 (Jīngdiǎn tǒng) classic tub

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9. 中街1946 (Zhōng jiē) Middle street 1946

This store is known as the “Hermes” in the ice cream industry. Upon the opening of the business Middle Street sold 3 million ice creams in just 8 months. It was such a hot commodity, it was always in short supply. Even in the winter, you could find it out of stock! With the brand concept of “freshness”, they created an elegant, high-society-grade Chinese ice cream.

Most popular variety:

抹茶牛奶 (Mǒchá niúnǎi) matcha milk

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10. 光明 (Guāngmíng) Guangming

It has more than 60 varieties of ice cream and is one of the largest ice cream food manufacturers in China.

Most popular variety:

冰砖 (Bīng zhuān) ice cream cube

HSK 3 quiz

HSK 3 quiz
1. Which of the following is not a dessert in China?

A. 冰淇淋 (Bīngqílín)

B. 布丁 (Bùdīng)

C. 油条 (Yóutiáo)

―Written by Becky Zhang―
Becky Zhang is a teacher at She has over eight years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!
More delicious food in China:
The 10 most popular Chinese dishes
Chinese Local Delicacies
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

1 thought on “Does China Love Ice Cream as Much as the West?”

  1. There are several different words in Chinese. Both “冰淇淋” and “冰激凌” are constituted of “冰(ice)” and the different transliteration of “cream”. Another word is “雪(snow)糕(cake/pudding)”, which sounds more traditional. And we usually call the ice-suckers as “棒冰”, “冰棒” or “冰棍”.

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