Think your industry is weird? Get a load of the beaded ice cream business

Dippin’ Dots and Mini Melts are in a fierce competition to monetize their similar novelty ice cream products.

Dippin’ Dots may be the so-called “ice cream of the future,” but it has a much more intriguing past.

Five mirrored cups of beaded ice cream against a rainbow-colored background.

It was founded in 1988 by Kentucky microbiologist Curt Jones, who was experimenting with liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze animal feed, landing on a flash-frozen novelty treat instead.

Jones’ beaded ice cream launched a roller coaster ride that’s included a bankruptcy, two factory explosions, a $300m annual sales peak, a cryogenics side hustle — and, as of last year, a $222m acquisition.

  • New owner J&J Snack Foods must be happy with its purchase — Dippin’ Dots helped turn its Q3 earnings sheet all green.

If you think there isn’t room for two beaded ice cream behemoths…

… Sorry, but you’re so very wrong. UK-based purveyor of tiny ice cream globules Mini Melts is coming for Dippin’ Dots.

The more globally focused Mini Melts, serving 40+ countries (versus Dippin’ Dots’ seven) has now taken off in the US, per Food Dive.

  • With 34k+ distribution sites, Mini Melts USA expects to sell ~30m cups this year.
  • Annual sales have grown ~35% YoY, and execs think $100m+ in sales is within reach.

True to industry tradition, Mini Melts USA’s backstory is wild:

  • Philly teen Dan Kilcoyne helped his brother with a school assignment: to find a product not sold locally and draft a plan that’d convince the corporation to enter the market.
  • Dippin’ Dots was his pick, management bit, and he started selling them in the school cafeteria before expanding to 18 retail locations.
  • When Kilcoyne got priced out by Dippin’ Dots’ franchising fees, he teamed up with Mini Melts to bring its product stateside.

Now a competing CEO, Kilcoyne is nipping at his old company’s heels, launching a very, very cold war.

The X factor: To hold off upstart Mini Melts, Dippin’ Dots must give the people what they want. By this, we of course mean more of their official mascot, Frozeti the Yeti.

Topics: Food

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