Is there anything better than a cold ice cream on a hot summer day? Whether it comes on a cone, in a cup or on a stick, Canadians love the frozen treat.
According to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre, in 2007 we were tied with Denmark for eighth in global ice cream consumption at 8.7 litres per capita, a drop of about a third from the 12.7 litres Canadians consumed in 1980 but well below the top spot held by New Zealand with a per capita consumption of nearly 23 litres.
We make a lot of ice cream in this country, too. In 2005 alone, Canada produced more than 300 million litres of hard ice cream, an increase of about nine per cent over the year before, according to Statistics Canada.
Tack on the other 117 million litres of soft ice cream made that year, and that makes nearly half a billion litres of the cool dessert.
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While the industry notoriously safeguards its seasonal sales figures, it is a business unquestionably reliant on the weather, and with the hot temperatures we’ve been enjoying in the Waterloo Region and across southern Ontario the past few weeks, ice cream sales have been steadily climbing along with the mercury, according to several ice cream shops in the area.
“May and June weren’t good months, we were still busy but it wasn’t what it’s been like for the month of July,” said Harold Taylor, manager of Lazer Video in Elmira.
“It’s been extremely busy this month.”
He estimates that during the peak summer months, 50 per cent of the traffic through his store will pick up an ice cream, be it one of his 16 flavours of hard scoop, soft-serve, or the 26 types of ice cream or novelty bars such as Drumsticks or Fudgesicles that he stocks as well.
The shop has been selling ice cream for about 14 years now, and typically the ice cream season runs from April through to October or November, when he stops ordering fresh tubs.
“We always start it up for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, regardless of the weather,” said Taylor with a smile. “We can sell about eight tubs on a nice day.”
In nearby St. Jacobs, much of the same was true at Moser’s Ice Cream Caboose. Alex Kerstens, who is in her fifth summer of work there, said that during the summer months she can scoop up to 100 cones of hard ice cream during a shift.
The store also sells vanilla soft-serve, frozen yogurt, smoothies, floats and their own version of the McFlurry called the Arctic Swirl, but she says the hard scoop has always been number one with customers.
“It doesn’t melt as fast,” she said with a laugh, adding that the wider variety of flavours makes hard scoop ice cream the superior choice over soft-serve or frozen yogurt.
“I like hard ice cream. Personally, I love chocolate peanut butter and you can only get that with hard ice cream,” she smiled.
Of course, record-breaking temperatures like last week’s 40-degree scorchers don’t guarantee record-breaking ice cream sales, either.
“When it was really, really hot it was really quiet,” Kersten’s said. “My theory is that I would rather be at home in front of the air conditioner instead of walking around outside, so I don’t really blame anyone for not wanting to go out.
“It really is weather-dependent.”
When it comes down to it, though, grocery chains and corner stores have made it easier than ever to get that ubiquitous summer treat whenever we want from the comfort of our own homes – So what is the appeal of taking a bike or a walk down to the local ice cream shop anymore?
“It’s a bonding experience,” mused Kerstens. “It’s a family thing and something you can do with friends. You can come in here, pick up a cone, and then head out mini-golfing or something.
“It’s not expensive and it’s easy to do.”