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