Last week, we sat down (virtually, of course) with Founder and Managing Member of Silly Ice-Cream, Michael Stauffer, to learn more about his journey of building one of the most innovative and unique ice-cream businesses in the world.
Silly Ice-Cream has cracked the code in developing a dot (or pearl) ice cream that can be distributed like regular Ice Cream treats. Dot ice cream is usually stored at -40 degrees°C, however Silly Ice Cream is stored at the same temperature as ice cream (up to + 10°F/-12°C). This secret recipe, combined with years of experience, and technological know-how has allowed them to partner with one of the major ice cream companies in the USA and be at the forefront of innovation in the frozen desserts industry.
Tell us a little about how the Silly Ice-Cream journey began.
The idea for Silly Ice-Cream came about approximately 13 years ago when we were playing around with the idea of trying to make a dot ice-cream that would work for regular ice-cream distribution. There used to be only one Kentucky company that knew how to make that type of ice cream but we were able to source equipment and patented materials from Europe and bring it to the US where we assembled it and took it to some ice-cream manufacturers to look for a viable partner. We ended up partnering with Kemps Dairy who we still work with to this day.
What about the name for Silly Ice-Cream, where did that come from?
We brainstormed about 30-50 different names on a bar napkin when we were starting out and wanted to focus on something new, unique, and different that would explain the ice-cream well to our target consumers - kids. We thought the idea of making little balls or dots out of ice-cream was a little silly and so we eventually settled on Silly Ice-Cream.
You create your ice-cream using a special Cryo Process, can you tell us more about that?
We take a special ice-cream pre-mix and instead of freezing it with mechanical freezers like all other ice-cream is made, we dip the pre-mix into liquid nitrogen and it comes out as frozen balls of ice-cream. The liquid nitrogen process itself is trending in some cryo ice-cream stores where they will prepare it in front of the consumer because you can get really rich, creamy ice-cream that way and it’s also something new and cool for consumers to see live.
What kind of consumers are you targeting and what are you finding their main consumption moments to be?
Our ice-cream is made for kids, tweens and teens. Anyone between the ages of 3-19 are part of our key demographic.
We have been able to take this product and bring it to the consumer at their homes. We find that it’s incredibly versatile and they often share it among themselves on a daily basis like any other novelty ice-cream. They will also take it to birthday parties and celebrations because it is a product that was traditionally not available for those occasions. We also suggest that you can gift it because it is unique and kids can enjoy it.
Tell us more about the formats you have available.
Currently, we have a one-size fits all which is a 85g single-serve cup but we are able to work with any partner to create a personalised dot format according to their needs.
We have proprietary formulations for water-ice, sorbet, yoghurt, and ice-cream available, which are generally stored at up to +10 F°/ -12 C° and can be handled much like regular ice-cream. Our products are the perfect size and format for virtually any freezer whether it be at home, in retail channels or foodservice.
What would you say are your Unique Selling Points (USP’s)?
We are the world’s only ice-cream company to offer ice-cream dots that are ready to ship, store, and serve just like regular novelty ice-cream. No-one else can do what we do and it’s down to the unique formulation we have as well as the state-of-the-art technology and equipment in our factories.
As we have our formulation and production process perfected, this allows us to focus on innovation through products, flavours, packaging and processes when working with partners.
Our entire process from making the ice-cream to packaging is unique and a trade secret under Silly Ice Cream. When we begin working with a partner, we will give them the turnkey solution using our processes and formulations so they can be guaranteed to have a unique solution for their market.
It has taken you many years to develop this successful formulation, what kind of challenges did you encounter along the way?
Normal ice-cream is pumped through a factory, but you cannot pump little balls of ice-cream. Creating a formulation of ice-cream that allows it to not only taste delicious to consumers but fits in with the traditional ice-cream distribution channels is incredibly difficult and expensive to trial. These are some of the main reasons why some of the world’s Big Food companies previously failed when trying to create similar products. Issues like melting on shelves and in the consumer's car on the way home are hard and expensive to solve.
The final product has to be able to ship, store and serve like normal ice-cream as well as taste good to the consumer and that’s not possible without the right equipment, formulation and processes, all of which we have tried and tested and is in waiting as a turnkey solution for any partner that works with us.
We are confident that Silly Ice-Cream will be the most profitable item in your product line and will help you increase sales per gallon. We are willing to co-invest with our partners, and develop a business model that can help lower the initial capital investment requirements.
How is business going at the moment?
Business is very strong now. We have experienced double digit sales growth during the past four years largely in part to our increasing distribution in the US.
We have realised that our ability to treat the dots like regular ice-cream formats in distribution means that we are able to reach customers through various ice-cream sales channels but there are still so many untapped opportunities worldwide and we are just getting started - we are only limited by our imagination!
What are your plans for the near future?
Innovation is at the forefront of all our plans and we are always working on new sku’s and trying to bring new flavours to market. For example, this year we launched Super Power, which is a fruit-flavoured IttiBitz sku. In addition, for the July 4th, 2021 holiday, we will be launching a Limited Edition Red, White, & Pop which is our IttiBitz with popping candy.
Customised flavour and format innovation is something we are able to work on with each partner as well so their portfolio is as unique and novel as possible for their sales region.
We are a strong solution to a brand’s innovation pipeline today and in the future because we make the only product available and we can make it exactly how a brand needs it so it fits their portfolio.
What are your joint venture and export plans?
We are very open to joint ventures and export opportunities. We already work with partners in Canada and Mexico so are experienced in creating custom products and packaging for use in other markets and in different languages.
We consider ourselves a full-service partner. This means that we would be there to help you in every way we can to grow in your market and differentiate your brand using Silly Ice-Cream innovation. We can help you brainstorm new products or packaging concepts that fit with your brand.
In what way would you ideally like to work with new partners?
Ideally, we want to work with ice-cream manufacturers and businesses that are leaders in their local market and who look to be differentiated in their portfolios and have something that other people don’t have. We would love to work with someone who believes that Silly Ice-Cream could enrich their portfolio and make it stronger as a whole. A business owner who cares about their business and wants to make it grow in the long-term as well as being family-owned or orientated would be a perfect fit with our professional values.
With any partner we collaborate with, we will provide them with exclusivity in their chosen market and geographic region. We can bring together our years of know-how, technology and development and build a production room where we manufacture the ice-cream and help you choose the right format (size, cup/pack) for your needs. We can also help you pick the right equipment. As we mentioned before, we are willing to co-invest with our partners, and develop a business model that work for them. Some partners, we find, prefer us to build the production line whereas others don’t want that - either way, we are open to having a conversation and making the partnership work for both of us.
In terms of timelines, once an agreement with a partner is signed, we can usually have everything up and running within 9-12 months. This can involve setting up all the equipment in their plant. The best thing about our equipment is that you do not need a lot of space - we can set-up the machines in a space of 120-140 square metres depending on the formatting of the packaging (a cup filler takes up less room than a pouching machine, for example).
As a new partner in the INNODELICE ecosystem, what are your expectations over the coming months and years?
We are excited to be part of the INNODELICE ecosystem for many reasons. For us, exclusivity is attractive and in an ideal world, we would love to be able to work exclusively with your group of associates and partners around the world to create a more exclusive, innovative and unique category for all of us.
How can partners reach you if they would like to work with SILLY ICE-CREAM?
Feel free to read more about Silly Ice-Cream and reach out to us via INNODELICE here.
Founded by former executives in the Ice Cream industry, INNODELICE aims to create a worldwide ecosystem of solutions within the frozen dessert industry. Thanks to the relationships fostered by INNODELICE, manufacturers, brands, importers, distributors and suppliers can discover, buy and sell solutions to GROW their business. These solutions include co-manufactured and branded products as well as innovative and competitive ingredients, packaging and services. Our collaboration model generates lower costs and fewer risks for our participating partners while optimising their time to market. To learn more about INNODELICE, contact Nicolas MARIE (firstname.lastname@example.org), Andrea MONTREUIL (email@example.com) or visit www.innodelice.com.