The companies--Marble Slab Creamery, Cold Stone Creamery and MaggieMoo's International--are competing with each other to be the Starbucks of ice cream. But to succeed, they need to take customers from
the market leaders Dairy Queen and Baskin-Robbins and the more than 15,000 other shops across the U.S.
Each of the Starbucks wannabes sells various flavors of premium ice cream and allow
customers to choose from an assortment of "mix-ins," like crumbled cookies, candies, fruits and nuts. Employees then blend the ingredients on a granite or marble slab. The total cost can easily top $5
for a medium serving. Premium ice cream is defined by the industry as having more than 12% butterfat.
Part of the experience is waiting in line and watching employees prepare
concoctions. "It's entertainment," says dairy-industry consultant Donna Barry. "I myself get intrigued by what other people order." But in an already crowded market, it remains unclear whether there
is a sustainable niche for high-end ice cream--much less one that can support a store on every corner.
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