11 July 2024

On a hot and sticky day, there’s nothing quite like a scoop (or two) of strawberry sherbet to cool the mind and body. But what was once regarded as a summer treat, ice cream is today an indulgence enjoyed in all weathers and at any time of day.

Some of this can be put down to the pandemic, which put a stop to Thais going out to ice-cream parlors and sharing a massive sundae with all the trimmings. Instead, many have chosen to purchase larger amounts of take-home frozen treats to eat at their convenience, according to a recent marketing analysis report by a leading Thai food processing and packaging solution company.

Moreover, consumers are now looking for healthier indulgences when purchasing ice cream for home and are also more open to experimenting with different flavor combinations, according to the report.

Responding to the trend, leading ice cream manufacturers are adding new varieties and flavors in a bid to grasp bigger market shares of Thailand’s thriving ice cream market. According to figures from the Food Intelligence Centre, the Thai ice cream market was worth more than 12 billion baht in 2020.

Among the new tastes are Nestle’s Mochi Vanilla Salted Egg, Ete’s sugar-free virgin coconut ice cream, Happy Addey’snon-dairy ice cream, and a plant-based frozen blend for the vegan market from Meat Avatar.

Coriander flavor ice cream. (Photo Courtesy Jinta Hommade Ice Cream)

Great or gross?

Meanwhile, 10010 Bar serves artisanal ice cream with exciting flavor combinations that can’t be recreated by big companies, along with soft cookies and layered French pastries.

“Our ice cream is freshly made. We avoid adding artificial ingredients, food additives, colors, and preservatives. That gives the ice cream a cleaner and purer taste,” says chef Kittibhoom Harnpatanakitpanich, 45, who owns 10010 Bar and trained in the art of baking, making pastries, and ice cream at a California college.

Kittibhoom has invented unusual or even crazy flavors to draw people to the parlor and keep his customers happy.

“Ice cream shops are everywhere in the city. Fast-food restaurants offer soft-serve ice cream. Bartenders made ice cream for sale when alcoholic drinks were banned during the pandemic.  I have students who own a fruit orchard and have a food business. They want to make fresh fruit ice cream for sale too,” he says.

Kittibhoom, who has been in the bakery business for almost two decades, also runs culinary classes in ice cream and dessert making.

This craft ice cream shop offers a range of inventive sweets inspired by places and cultures. Among the interesting highlights are Fish Sauce, Squid Ink, and Sea Urchin.

“If you’re a fan of fish and dairy mixes, you’ll love these,” Kittibhoom laughs.

“I love traveling. When I discover local ingredients, I turn them into ice cream. I came up with the fish sauce idea when I taught baking to inmates of Rayong Central Prison. The province is known for its highquality fish sauce products.”

Other interesting flavors are Floral Garland made of jasmine tea and rose petals, and Holy Water, a mix of white chocolate, olive oil, and pink peppercorn. They’re inspired by the garlands that mark Makha Bucha Day.

A traditional Chinese herbal remedy used to treat coughs called Chuan Puay Pi Pae Kao has also found its way to the parlor.

“Mostly, anything is possible,” says Kittibhoom, who took ice cream to another level by turning the popular Thai dish, stir-fried century egg with holy basil and chilli (kaphrao khai yiao ma) into ice cream, making it one of the most unexpected flavors in the country. It’s made of fried century eggs, fresh basil leaves, and chilies mixed with an ice cream base and topped with crispy basil leaves. This limited-edition item was available for a couple of days.

“We use a wide variety of ingredients from different sources. We source our vanilla from Chiang Rai, Madagascar, and Tahiti, each of which creates a different taste. Your dining experience varies with every visit,” he says.

Watermelon and dried fish flavor ice cream. (Photo by Jinta Homemade Ice Cream)

No-added sugar but flavourful

Sirikanya Karnjanaprakorn and her husband Suntisook have created homemade ice cream for home delivery. Unlike mainstream products that are laden with added sugar, their “Flavorful” ice creams are sweetened with sugar alcohols that occur naturally in foods and come from plant products such as vegetables and fruits.

“My husband can’t get enough ice cream but he needs to watch his sugar intake. So, we created sugar-free ice cream for our own consumption then started selling it from home,” Sirikanya wife says.

She took Italian gelato courses and consulted a nutritionist on sugar substitutes. After two years of trial and error, she created an ice cream that works well and then opened a Facebook shop in late 2020 when Thailand was hit by the second wave of Covid-19 and restrictions were again introduced.

“The pandemic’s not all bad. It’s been good for the food delivery service business. We drove to customers’ homes to deliver our products. They love them. Now we have many regular customers,” Sirikanya says.

She uses an imported gelato ice cream base, buys organic dried figs from her friend’s farm, cashew nuts from her mother’s friend’s farm and organic black glutinous rice from trusted sources. She combines sweeteners like sugar alcohols and stevia (ya wan) extract to ice cream. Dietary fiber inulin that can help improve digestive health is also added to the blend.

“It’s not so much sugar that’s our enemy but the amount of it we consume. Too much sugar can lead to serious health problems. Our sugar-free products should help people who want to cut back on their daily sugar intake,” Sirikanya says, adding that many of her customers are diabetic. Currently, the shop offers 3 vegan ice creams – Strawberry, Passion Fruit, and Black Glutinous Rice and Bean, and 11 dairy flavors, among them Cottage & Parmesan Crunch; Celery, Mint &Green Apple; Fig & Cinnamon; Milk Choc Cranberry; and Dark Chocolate. The calorie count of an 80-gram serving ranges from 40 to 150.

“People who enjoy natural food products love our ice cream. Those who have a sweet tooth say they are less sweet. You can add some honey or toppings to make them tastier,” she says.

Fig and Cinnamon flavor ice cream. (PHOTO by Flavorful no sugar ice cream)

Being real

Medhavaj Kaitkeratisakul, the owner of Jinta Homemade Ice Cream, makes the desserts with fresh fruits and veggies full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. In addition to ice cream parlors in shopping malls, the brand now offers delivery services.

It was Medhavaj’s love for his kids that inspired the former logistics sales representative to become an ice cream man. He took several courses, spent years experimenting and then plunged into the world of homemade ice cream. He opened his first shop in 2013.

“I wanted to make ice cream that was healthy and tasty for my daughters. I named brand for my eldest daughter, Jinta. Making ice cream with veggies makes kids enjoy them more,” the father of two says.

He added that each ingredient he uses has been carefully selected for its quality, freshness and taste and is sourced from reliable suppliers. He uses only organic milk produced by free-range cows and buys most of ingredients from organic farmers. Colors and food additives are used when necessary but in minimal amounts.

“We use no frozen products. Our ice creams are made from local fruits and veggies in season.”

So far, Medhavaj has created more than 80 flavors of ice cream made of veggies, fruits and plants to meet the ever-changing demands of consumers. Most people go to his parlors for its signature flavors; Spinach and Pumpkin; the Greenery, a unique mix of kailan and peppermint; Bitter Gourd Cheesecake and more creative items like Golden Latte with turmeric and ginger; Matcha Green Kale; Charcoal and Black Glutinous Rice; and Coconut Rice Pancake featuring spring onions and coconut milk.

He also blends unique and exotic fruits that have medicinal properties like bilimbi (taling pling) and sunrose willow (makiang) with ice cream to make them more exciting. Black Forest, for instance, blends bitter chocolate with sour sunrose willow jam, all balanced by the creaminess and sweetness of the ice cream itself to create a totally new experience.

“We like to try new things as much as we can to keep pace with changing tastes.” Medhavaj says.

By Veena Thoopkrajae with additional report by Sukhumaporn Laiyok