Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Alex Beckett, senior food analyst, Mintel, said Japan has and continues to lead the global ice cream sector in terms of product concepts and flavours.
"More than any other country, the're pioneers when it comes to ice cream," said Beckett. "Japan is really at the forefront of ice cream innovation"
"You've only to look at the next launch in Japan to rip up the rule book."
The Japanese affinity for unorthodox ice cream flavours is well documented.
In the last year, for example, Häagen-Dazs has developed limited edition ice cream made with "premium red wine" from Bordeaux, and incorporated the aroma of cherry blossom into another development.
The use of salt, according to Beckett, is also currently "very popular" in the country.
"It's appearing in some mainstream ice cream innovations," he said. "They're actually specifying where the salt comes from."
Worldwide, however, Beckett identified portion control is a "unifying trend."
"Concerns about health have no boundaries," he said.
Portion control, Beckett added, falls under the wider "permissible indulgence" trend that has led to an increase in the development of ice cream products deemed healthier by the consumer.
Earlier this year in Japan, for example, Häagen-Dazs launched two varieties of vegetable flavoured ice cream.
Ice cream products made with all natural ingredients seem, however, to "resonate" best with Western consumers, he said.
"In Europe and the US, it's not lower fat or lower calorie, it's natural."
“Natural resonates as wholesome, but with nothing removed.”
"Ice cream is a treat, it's indulgent. People don't want that to be compromised."
Ice cream manufacturers in the West have also been quick to take advantage of the current snacking trend.
“Ice cream manufacturers have moved very fast to embrace the snacking trend in Europe and the US, and increasingly in Asia," said Beckett.
“People are now eating ice cream throughout the day – as a snack in the afternoon and as a treat in the evening.”