Chicecream is very expensive Chinese ice cream and the startup behind it just bagged $30 million in Series A funding

Business & Technology

China’s ice cream market is heating up with investors seeking to create a national brand — Zhong Xue Gao is in the running.

Photo from Chicecream website.

“Chicecream” is the unfortunate English name of Zhong Xue Gao (钟薛高 zhōngxuēgāo), an up-and-coming premium food company that bills itself (in Chinese) as an “authentic” Chinese ice cream brand.

But what’s in a name? Chicecream just completed a 200 million yuan ($30.7 million) Series A financing round, according to tech blog 36Kr, led by Genesis Capital, H Capital, and Wanwu Capital. Prior financing came from Zenith Fund and Tiantu Capital.

Founded in Shanghai in March 2018, Chicecream’s branding emphasizes its Chinese origins. The design of its ice cream bars resembles a Chinese roof tile and the character 回 (huí, “to return”). The packaging is high end: simple and elegant.

  • The brand took off on China’s social media months after its founding. It became the most searched item on China’s Xiaohongshu, a popular ecommerce platform, in 2019.
  • Priced at three to four times the average ice cream bar, the brand has succeeded in selling itself as a premium product.
  • Chicecream also promotes itself as low sugar and low fat at a time when young Chinese are becoming more health conscious.
  • Last year, during Alibaba’s Singles Day, the largest online shopping event in China, Chicecream ranked first in Alibaba’s Tmall in the ice cream category. Its Tmall store has more than 1.8 million followers, and 34 million ice cream packs were shipped in 2020.
  • The company has now diversified into boxed ice cream, miniature ice cream, and cakes.

Young adults have become one of China’s largest spending groups and they are creating and consuming new national brands. The bubble tea giants, HEYTEA and Nayuki, for example, are both rumored to have IPO plans for this year.

  • That has led investors to seek out the “HEYTEA” of other snackable consumer segments. Based on its rapid growth and investor support, Chicecream is positioning itself as a soon-to-be giant in China’s ice cream segment.
  • China’s ice cream category remains fiercely competitive. Competitors include established domestic brands such as Mengniu Dairy, Yili, Guanming, and Sanyuan, along with foreign giants such as Nestlé and Unilever.
  • For a long time, ice cream products were sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. But since the pandemic, accelerated digitization, new consumer habits, and creative marketing strategies have seen many consumer brands move to online channels.
  • Chicecream has been at the forefront of new marketing tactics. In June last year, the brand was recommended by one of China’s most famous bloggers, Lǐ Jiāqí 李佳琪.

China is the largest market for ice cream in the world. According to a 2020 industry report (in Chinese), the market totaled 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) last year.

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