The ice cream cone monopoly you never knew existed

Joy Baking Group has cornered the ice cream cone market over the last hundred years.

There are few things that pair better with summer than an ice cream cone.

While the best place for a scoop varies by region, there’s a good chance the cones are all coming from one place: Joy Baking Group, which has quietly established an ice cream cone empire, per The New York Times.

Joy Baking Group…

… was founded in 1918 by a pair of Lebanese immigrants. The company almost went under when a fire hit the warehouse in 1964, but since then it’s been eating up the rest of the industry. The company:

  • Produces 15m-20m cones per day during its busy season
  • Accounts for an estimated 60%-70% of cones sold in US stores between its direct and private-label business, according to an industry expert

For context, Keebler, its closest competitor, makes up 14.5% of store sales.

So how did Joy own the cone?

First, making cones is harder than it seems, and Joy has the scale to do it. The company has four factories across the US equipped with high-tech gadgets, including ovens, pipes to move cone batter from place-to-place, and robotic arms to package the final product.

All that space and equipment is costly — which is why many smaller cone makers have either gone out of business or sold to Joy.

The second reason is its product. Joy keeps it simple, stocking classic cake, sugar, and waffle cones that tap into consumers’ nostalgia.

Joy’s prices…

… have tracked inflation over the past decade, keeping fears of monopoly power in check.

But one expert believes the company will have an even tighter grip on the cone niche in three to four years due to its scale advantage and capacity.

Ice cream shop owners are hoping that this doesn’t impact prices, per NYT, citing ice cream’s status as an “inexpensive luxury” that keeps customers coming back.

Speaking of ice cream, this professional ice cream taster (yes, that is actually his job) once had his taste buds insured for $1m.

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