Everything you thought you knew about the origin of ice cream is wrong.

Ice cream, a slightly regressive sweetness essential in the summer… A mostly fleeting product, synonymous with hedonistic and most often shared moments, it evokes childhood nostalgia. According to the National Confederation of Glaciers of France (CNGF), the French consume about 6 liters per year, and 50% of sales come from ten weeks in the summer.

There are sherbets (without fat) or ice cream (containing milk or eggs) that can be eaten in pots, tubs, cones or sticks. Also, according to CNGF, an organization that has supported and escorted the ice cream parlor for eighty years, popular flavors will be vanilla, chocolate and coffee for ice cream and strawberry, lemon and pear for sherbets.

Stories and legends

Many stories and legends are associated with its origin. However, most researchers agree that ice cream was invented in China. Its appearance ranges between 3000 and 200 BC. J.-K., according to sources.

Some documents explain that the Chinese used mare’s or donkey’s milk, which was fermented and heated with flour and camphor, then cooled and consumed. In other texts, goat’s milk was flavored with honey and plants, and the cooling technique consisted of a mixture of water and saltpeter.

Today, France is the leading producing country in Europe and the second largest exporter after Germany.


The Persians created faludeh or faloudeh, an iced drink made from rose water and vermicelli, to which saffron and fruit were added, and then reserved for the wealthiest. In the same region one would find snow-chilled fruit drinks called sharbet. This word of Persian origin subsequently gave rise to the French word “sherbet”.

Much inaccurate or even conflicting information circulates about the evolution of ice cream and sherbets over the following centuries. For example, contrary to popular belief, neither Marco Polo nor Catherine de Medici were behind the introduction of ice cream in Italy and later in France. But ice cream, similar to what we eat today, was born in Italy. These are the famous gelati.

In France, in 1686, the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli bought the Procope café in Paris, where he offered over eighty flavors of ice cream, thus becoming the first ice cream parlor in the capital. The success is total: representatives of the aristocracy and the richest come to his house to enjoy ice cream. At that time, it was difficult to mine and then store ice. Therefore, the product is expensive and intended for the elite.

During the 19the Over the centuries, methods for preparing and storing ice cream have improved significantly. In the 1840s, American Nancy Johnson invented the first hand-held ice cream maker, improved in 1885 by the Englishwoman Agnes Bertha Marshall, nicknamed the Ice Queen. In 1860, the Frenchman Charles Tellier created the first refrigeration machine, which made it possible to produce artificial cold. The advent and development of electricity also made it possible to preserve food. Then the number of glaciers multiplied, and the success of ice cream grew.

Growing attraction for artisanal ice cream and ice cream producers

According to Xerfi’s classic study on the production and market of ice cream and sorbets, published in April 2022, France is today the leading producer of ice cream and sorbets in Europe and the second largest exporter in the world after Germany.

In France, two players stand out: industrial producers and ice cream producers. The former largely dominate with a turnover of 1.2 billion euros in 2021, mainly due to sales to large and medium-sized stores. Ice cream producers, the vast majority of which own their own stores, sell their products directly to consumers and, again, Xerfi estimates that they will have a turnover of around 400 million euros in 2021.

A large number of artisanal ice cream makers use short cycles and seasonal products, eliminating colorants and over-processed sugar.


However, the French are increasingly favoring the products of ice cream artisans, and this profession is in full development. In addition, the number of handicraft enterprises and small industrialists increased by 31% between 2012 and 2020 due to various reasons.

First of all, consumers are increasingly demanding on the composition of the foods they eat. With apps like Yuka, they can instantly know about the stabilizers and additives in their ice cream. That is why they often turn to higher quality products that combine pleasure and health, and are mostly artisanal.

There is also a strong enthusiasm for environmentally responsible products. A large number of artisanal ice cream makers use short cycles and seasonal products, eliminating colorants, ultra-processed sugar and other preservatives.

Giulia Kanou (one of the rare women with the title of ice cream maker in France, even if the trend is changing) and Thiago Barbosa, co-founders of the eco-responsible Único ice cream parlor in Lyon, work directly with their producers. and their sorbets are made from fresh ingredients only. This is why many restaurateurs turn to them for the quality ice cream that accompanies their menu. For example, they have already created one with artichoke and developed a sorbet with vinegar, shallots and crushed peppers to accompany oysters during the holidays.

The work of an ice cream maker also includes an artistic part, such as baking.


Small ice cream producers are also keeping an eye on these new trends as well as new consumption patterns. Cecilia Thomas and Laura Fey, the creators of the Lapp brand, have innovated by creating poptails, frozen cocktails, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, made from natural and vegan products. They explain that their choices are linked to their consumption patterns and their environmental beliefs, choices shared by an increasing number of consumers.

Alongside these independent artisans, it’s rare to find well-known pastry chefs who don’t make their own ice cream with marketing positioning – price, packaging – often very luxurious.

Finally, the work of an ice cream maker includes an artistic part, such as baking. The palette of inventions is vast: the play of textures, colors, the possibility of creating savory tastes or bold new combinations… Among the various Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) gastronomic competitions in the glacier category, there is French craftsmanship. at the peak.

The mastery of gestures, tastes and textures of those who, after years of preparation and a large dose of self-denial, receive a blue-white-red collar, is admired by many novice craftsmen and consumers in search of quality.

If the profession of an ice cream man remains less popular to this day than the profession of a pastry chef, then it is nevertheless in full development and attracts more and more enthusiasm.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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