It sometimes seems that every time you look around there’s a new ice cream parlor or store offering the latest in exotic flavors.
Mexicans don’t eat that much ice cream
The proliferation of fancy brands —Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Santa Clara— might lead you to the wrong conclusion about just how much ice cream Mexicans consume.
According to some reports, Mexicans only eat on average 1.5 liters of ice cream a year, a small fraction of what Americans and New Zealanders —the world’s top consumers— guzzle down.
Also somewhat surprising, for a relatively low-wage country, is the amount of business done by ice cream brands of which a single serving cone or tub can cost anything from three to four US dollars.
Market studies here can be incomplete in a country where there is a large informal economy, and products such as ice cream and popsicles are often made by individuals whose sales are off the marketing-experts’ radar screens. It’s ice-cream franchises, however, that are expected to generate the growth in product consumption in the country.
Buying ice-cream in Mexico
If you visit or live in a large city or tourist resort, the most likely place you’ll find ice cream is at one of these chains, many of which are located at malls. Local grocery stores —las tienditas— convenience stores such as Oxxo and 7-Eleven, as well as a majority of pharmacies have fridges with prepackaged ice creams and popsicles, mostly in single servings. Multi-packs and larger presentations are found in the freezers at supermarkets.
The best known brand of ice cream in Mexico, and apparently the one with the largest market share is Helados Holanda. These tend to be cheaper than the boutique brands, whether bought in individual servings or in larger packages. This makes a lot of sense when buying ice cream for a family, but for those particular about quality —all natural ingredients, for example— this apparently won’t do, and those who can afford it prefer to buy the expensive stuff.
Flavored popsicles are popular in Mexico
It’s almost impossible not to come across a popsicle shop —paleteria— called La Michoacana. These shops sell a wide range of fruit-flavored paletas as well as cream ones, paletas de crema. A word of advice, go for the water ones. Although originally from the state of Michoacán, apparently just about anyone can call their paleteria La Michoacana, as this interesting report suggests.
In smaller towns, and still occasionally in large cities, you can find the traditional ambulant purveyors of helados, or nieves in the case of lime sorbets, being served from a pushcart or from a container placed in ice on the front of an adapted bicycle. These vendors are famous for crying out “de limón la nieveeeeee!!!”
Soft ice-cream for passing refreshment
Soft ice cream from a machine is also growing in popularity, not only because of the flavor but also because of the price. McDonald’s offers a range of these ice creams at its restaurants, but also has separate ice cream counters at many of its outlets (and kiosks at shopping centers) for those who just want to pick-up some passing refreshment. If your budget is somewhat strained and it’s hot out, this can be quite a useful option.
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Why do you advise going for the water-based paletas rather than the crema ones?
In Tijuana, where I live, Thrifty is the predominant ice-cream parlor and the only place I have found that carries sugar free ice-cream besides Smart and Final.
Here in Aguascalientes ice-cream is very popular. There are vendors at the square, shopping areas, mercados, and it appears that every Barrio has an helado vendor. I know of three vendors who make their ice cream and it is delicious. The flavors vary and are familiar ice cream flavors. Perhaps not as rich flavored as Blue Belle or Ben & Jerry’s but locally made and delicious.
You have to go to Dolores Hidalgo. In the zocalo there, on the 4 corners, are 4 ice cream sellers(at least there were last time I was there). They have a multitude of flavors and will give you samples of any of them. Great fun. Some are pretty good,nopal, and some were aweful,cerveza. But it’s all fun!
Also, the flavors that exist in Mexico are very interesting including, rose petal, corn, avocado among many others.