Dippin Dots – The Ice Cream of the Future Could Be a Thing of the Past [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Mar02

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Dippin Dots – The Ice Cream of the Future Could Be a Thing of the Past [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

Dippin’ Dots – those little balls of goodness, which market themselves as “the ice cream of the future”, has fallen on hard times. The company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, despite turning a profit last year.

Dippin’ Dots were invented in 1988 by Carl Jones, a microbiologist. Jones applied liquid nitrogen to ice cream, which cryogenically flash freezes, causing the mixture to break up into tiny balls.  The ice cream balls are stored at -40° below zero. Isn’t this what they did to Walt Disney’s head?

Jones first tested the product with his family and friends before finally securing his original kiosk location at the now closed Opryland USA theme park in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dippin Dots for sale in a mall food court.

The ice cream, sold in dozens of flavors, ices, and mixtures is available at amusement parks, boardwalks, sports stadiums, food courts, and movie theatres from coast to coast.

I remember having my first taste at Idlewild Park in Ligonier, PA when I was a kid.  My family and I were mesmerized at the “ice cream of the future” and gave it a try. I had the Oreo cookies and cream, which are little chunks of Oreo cookies mixed in with vanilla ice cream balls.

Some of the more exotic flavors offered include rainbow (which are several different sherbet flavor balls mixed together), Alien green (green colored vanilla dots with cookies), Liberty Ice (a blend of blue raspberry, cheery, and lemon frozen ices), and they’ve just introduced Rocky Road (a blend of marshmallow shaped balls, chocolate ice cream balls, and pieces of roasted almonds.)

Any of their products can be ordered online and shipped to you in two days.  Prices start at $2.50 for a small package or $30 per gallon, plus shipping.  For the weight watchers, Dippin’ Dots ices start at 100 calories and the ice creams start around 130 calories per ½ ounce cup.

Sales were strong when these novelty desserts were first introduced and continued to sell well until the 2008 recession.  Since then, sales have fallen as Americans are no longer spending on expensive novelties such as this.  With this summer’s predicted gas price increases (or should I call it gouging), it looks as though everyone will have to tighten their wallets once again.

Dippin Dots for sale in a baseball helmet at Yankee Stadium, New York.

At stadiums and parks, the Dippin’ Dots kiosks can be quite expensive.  It’s not uncommon to see prices start at $4 for a small cup.

On November 11, 2011, the company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The company owes Region Bank, their only creditor $11 million.  Filing for bankruptcy will allow the company to operate while it reorganizes and tries to find new ways to bring in revenue.

Dippin Dots began to fall in the red during the peak of the 2008 economic downturn.  The trouble began, not with the economy, but from a court battle.  Jones was questioned as to whether he had properly filed his patent papers that would protect their special freezing process.

The judge ruled that they could not patent their freezing process, since the product had been already on sale for a year when the forms were officially submitted.  This pretty much allows anyone else who wants to, take their idea and make a go for it.

“All of that hit us at the same time,” Steve Heisner, director of administration, customer service, and information systems told The Wall Street Journal.

Dippin Dots for sale at an ice cream festival in Austin, Texas

The company continues to have a work force of 170 and produces 25,000 gallons of dots each day from their Paducah, Kentucky plant.  Dippin’ Dots has 140 stand alone retail locations and agreements with 9,552 vendors who sell to the crowds at amusement parks, malls, fairs, and sports arenas.

The company has no plans to slow down production and is slowly starting to recover some of their losses. The bottom line 2011 profits were up $1 million from the year before.

In addition to finally making a profit, they have rolled out new Rocky Road flavor I mentioned earlier and a special Leprechaun Crunch (mint chocolate Dippin Dots and Oreo chunks) for St. Patrick’s Day. They are also working on a new clusters line, which is their ice cream balls clustered with milk chocolate that binds several of the beads together.

Several press releases on their website try to ensure faithful fans that the product will not be going anywhere. They ensure their fans that they company is not broke, but undergoing the bankruptcy reorganization.

So, can Dippin Dots climb out of debt and keep on rolling its ice cream balls across the country? Only time will tell. The company hasn’t missed a beat yet and is certainly not going down without a fight.

THE 411

Name: Dippin’ Dots

Slogan: “The ice cream of the future.”

What: novelty ice cream that is flash frozen and served in little pellet balls

Where sold: malls, amusement parks, fairs, sports stadiums from coast to coast

Website: www.dippindots.com

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: They’re a fun product and quite tasty, but their biggest downfall is the price. They are rather expensive for what you get. I can pick up a gallon of ice cream for what Dippin’ Dots charge for a cup.

Sure, nitrogen can be expensive and the production and shipping process drives the cost up, but they have to find a way to lower the price. Take a look at what other marketing firms are doing right now. Dollar menus are back, discount aisles with deep sales in stores, and coupons are being used more and more.

If a family of four were trying to buy these on a trip to their already overpriced sports arena or amusement park, they couldn’t do it for $20.

An out of order Dippin Dots vending machine at a park in Maryland.

Dippin’ Dots also needs to find a way to introduce their product for sale at grocery stores or vending machines. I believe I’ve seen their vending machines in the past, but I honestly can’t remember where. There should be one in every mall food court and convenience store.

It’s been a real mild winter and spring’s just around the corner, so the temperatures will be going up before you know it and the best way to refresh is with a cool treat! If you’ve got some extra bucks to part with – give yourself a Dippin’ Dots treat and let’s keep the ice cream of the future – a staple of today!

Image credits – newwwavegurly, jpmatth, newyork808, alegrya, Andreanna Moya Photography, h-bomb, robinpresta, and TheKarenD