Once known for its tagline “the ice cream of the future,” Dippin′ Dots-owner J&J Snack Foods is predicting a bright outlook for the popular beaded frozen product.
While the 35-year-old brand has since abandoned its familiar tagline in favor of “Taste the fun,” a top J&J executive said despite its age, there remains plenty of room to grow Dippin’ Dots sales by expanding its presence in existing retail channels and accelerating its pace of innovation.
“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us,” Lynwood Mallard, J&J’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “We’ve only just begun.”
Sales for Dippin’ Dots are “a little under” $30 million a quarter, according to J&J. The brand is posting double-digit growth behind the strength in popular flavors such as Cookies ‘n Cream, Rainbow Ice and Icee Cherry ‘n Blue Razz. During the past year, more than 70 million servings of Dippin' Dots have been sold.
Founder Curt Jones initially started using liquid nitrogen in the late 1980s to flash-freeze animal feed. He later brought the technology to his favorite treat, ice cream, and Dippin’ Dots was born.
J&J, the owner of Icee and Slush Puppies, purchased Dippin’ Dots for $222 million last year, adding a strong consumer brand with a profitable, growing business that it could scale. At the time, J&J didn’t have an extensive ice cream offering so Dippin’ Dots helped build out the frozen novelty category for the company.
In acquiring Dippin’ Dots, J&J also added to its mix a brand that was an undisputable household name.
Dippin’ Dots has brand recognition of 97%, one of the largest in J&J’s portfolio and “significantly higher than its competition,” according to Mallard. Other key metrics, including consumers who intend to purchase Dippin’ Dots in the coming months or recommend it to others, are equally strong at 91% and 95%, respectively.
The brand’s primary competitor in the U.S. is Mini Melts, which focuses its presence at entertainment establishments like Dave and Busters, zoos and aquariums as well as convenience and drug stores. Sales, which are above $50 million, are growing 35% annually, according to Mini Melts’ CEO.
Dippin’ Dots is popular at sporting events and amusement parks. And while it has exposure in movie theaters — the brand is currently in about 25% of these locations — as well as family entertainment centers, these channels have significant room for further expansion, Mallard said. J&J is trying to collaborate with establishments that carry one of its other brands, such as Icee, Superpretzel and ¡Hola! Churros, to carry Dippin’ Dots, too.
“It’s an easy conversation to have,” Mallard said. “As we evolve and kind of mature and get better at cross-selling, Dippin’ Dots is a key component of that portfolio story.”
Convenience and grocery stores are areas where J&J sees more upside for the Dippin’ Dots brand. Currently, 13% of c-stores carry the brand, according to the company.
Not only could J&J explore getting its Dippin’ Dots single-serve cups and pouches into more locations, but the New Jersey company could consider new packaging formats, such as multipacks that consumers can take with them.
Mallard said the snacks maker is working on a new experience for consumers to enjoy Dippin’ Dots at home that would require a different temperature. He declined to provide details, but said “it’s a fascinating opportunity if we can get it right.” Any launch is more than a year away.
J&J’s optimistic outlook for the brand also hinges on a slew of other opportunities. It continues to see white spaces in seasonal offerings and new flavors. It recently launched Frozeti Dough flavor — a combination of sugar cookie flavored Dippin' Dots ice cream and pieces of both chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate sandwich cookie dough — that was inspired by Frozeti the Yeti mascot.
At the same time, J&J is looking for ways to bring Dippin’ Dots together with other brands in its portfolio.
Just a few months after the Dippin’ Dots purchase closed, J&J partnered with its Icee brand to debut a Cherry ‘n Blue Razz flavor of the beaded ice cream, which has been one of its best-selling flavors to date. Mallard said “there is a lot of opportunity” for Dippin’ Dots to work with other brands in its portfolio, such as ¡Hola! Churros or Superpretzel.