China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest market for ice cream according to the latest data from Mintel.

Between 2008 and 2014, the Chinese market almost doubled to $11.4bn – while in the same period, the American market grew just 15%, reaching $11.2bn last year. Each country accounts for just under a quarter of the $50bn global market.

China also overtook its superpower rival on volume sales, with its 1.36bn people gobbling up 5.9bn litres, compared to the 5.8bn litres enjoyed by the 319m residents of the US. The two nations dwarf every other country on volume, with third placed Japan getting through just 784m litres.

On a per capita basis, Americans eat far more ice cream that consumers in any other country: 18.4 litres per year. This compares to just five litres in the UK, and four in China.

“Rising incomes and an increasingly developed retail infrastructure and cold chain network are driving growth in the ice cream market in China,” said Mintel global food analyst Alex Beckett. “However, the vast array of locally produced, low-price brands present a challenge for global ice cream giants looking to develop there.

“While rising global volumes of ice cream mainly reflect the category’s expansion in emerging regions, ice cream has encountered challenging conditions in more developed markets like Europe and North America. Growth has been dampened by consumer diet concerns, competition from other categories, such as yogurt, and the perennial challenge of unseasonable weather.

“As the world economy’s centre of gravity continues to shift away from the West, these challenges give ice cream giants all the more reason to extend their presence - and new product development investment - in more emerging economies, particularly in Asia.”