Cold Stone Creamery, a slab-style ice-cream chain with 1,450 locations in 12 countries, will either be thanked by parents everywhere or excommunicated from the church of frozen confection for its newest product: ice cream that doesn't melt at room temperature.
The new product, which is co-branded with the Kraft Jell-O brand name, is a product that is ice cream at cold temperatures, but Jell-O pudding-like at room temperature.
The chain is introducing four flavors that the company says have a texture like mousse. They will be offered at all locations nationwide in July: all stores will offer butterscotch and chocolate versions, while vanilla and banana pudding flavors will be optional.
A spokesperson says the chain is supporting the launch of the new Jell-O flavors with a national coupon insert breaking on Sunday. And the company is tagging commercials with a Jell-O message. Television, radio and print media are handled by local co-ops. Cold Stone also has a link to Kraft's Web site offering coupons for consumers who join Cold Stone Creamery's Birthday Club.
In a new report, Chicago marketing firm Mintel says that ice cream parlors represent a real competitive threat to the $12.1 billion at-home ice cream market because of freshness, variety, and portion control.
Still, the firm says the ice cream segment was flat between 2003 and 2008, and will probably remain that way through 2013 -- and that growth depends on innovation, especially toward healthier products.
The report says ice cream and frozen yogurt parlors "offer a compelling alternative partly because consumers assume that the ice cream for sale in an ice cream parlor is fresher, available in greater varieties, and generally of higher quality than store bought."
Also, per Mintel, parlors benefit because they have toppings that people don't stock at home -- and from their ability to let consumers delve into new flavors without having to buy a pint or more; no prep work or cleanup for consumers; from the social element; and of course because they offer built-in portion control.
The firm says slab-style ice cream parlors like Cold Stone, Maggie Moos, and Marble Slab are an additional threat to at-home consumption because they add the element of entertainment -- since one's ice cream order is sculpted on a slab of marble, not just dispensed or scooped out of a tub.
The good news for ice cream overall is that a Mintel survey of ice cream consumers found that younger consumers are more likely than their older counterparts to eat all ice cream products, expecially frozen novelties, frozen yogurt, and gelato.
"The fact that the young prefer a variety of ice cream forms bodes well for the future of the ice cream and frozen novelties market, but it is not as favorable for the near term (2008-13) as older consumers grow to make up an increasing proportion of the overall population," says the firm. "Younger consumers are typically less concerned about the healthfulness of the foods they eat."