Retailers that devote a significant portion of their ice cream aisle to Italian ices and non-dairy fruit and dessert bars are definitely not skating on thin ice.
The category has been around for decades, but industry observers say it has really taken off in the past couple years.
The 104 year-old S.R. Rosati recently switched to natural cane sugar and is now testing a coconut water-based product in Whole Foods stores in the Southeast.
“We are making a break from using high-fructose corn syrup,” says Richard Trotter, president of S.R. Rosati, based in Clifton Heights, Pa., “and we are a nice alternative to items with dairy and gluten.”
In addition to reentering the supermarket channel, Rosati does a booming business in schools. “We do the school cups and make about 150,000 cups in a 10-hour shift,” Trotter says. “In 2014 our sales grew by about 32 percent, and in 2015 we grew by another 14 percent.”
Sales are also booming at Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., a New York-based manufacturer of pops containing three ingredients: fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar. Available in Strawberry, Mango, Dark Chocolate, Raspberry, Pineapple and new Tangerine, Chloe’s differs from its competitors by putting fruit first and having a very clean ingredient list.
“With the fruit first, the flavor really comes through and you get the soft-serve aspect of it,” says Michael Sloan, CEO and co-founder. “That is why we have the words ‘soft serve’ on our boxes twice, because it really is a big differentiator.”
Chloe’s is in six of eight Costco regions as an in-and-out summer seasonal product. “It is basically a paid sampling,” Sloan says. “We need to have other retailers carry us so that as soon as we come out of Costco consumers can still buy it.”
Froozer is a new product rapidly gaining steam by being sold in Houston and Dallas public schools and a handful of Whole Foods stores in Denver and Salt Lake City. “We are looking to go into mainstream supermarkets and have verbal commitments from maybe 1,000 stores,” says Charlie Walling, COO of Froozer/Cool Frootz, based in Boulder, Colo.
Available in three initial flavors—Strawbanana Bliss, Tropical Sunset and Blue Aloha—Froozer is available for retail in a six-count 2-ounce retail flex tube package similar to a Go Gurt package.
“Our uniqueness is that we are a blend of fruits, and in some cases veggies combinations,” Walling says, noting that Blue Aloha contains carrots. “It is 99.1 percent fruit with no water, juices or concentrates. We have not been able to find another brand out there that can make that statement. The way it is proprietarily blended it maintains the fiber and nutrients.”