Gourmet ice cream production provides lessons

How you approach a business is just as important as what you do.

The summer season is the most popular time in west Michigan. With the farmers markets, beaches and amusement parks, there’s plenty for the family to do. While summer is the top season, ice cream is a favorite treat. With the numerous ice cream companies to choose from, a new competitor has to be different in order to stand out. Understanding this has enabled the Ice Box Brand ice cream to become a growing business for the last five years.

Just by looking at these ice cream bar names, you can understand why they are popular. Flavors such as “belly full of hoppiness”, which contains a locally brewed stout, as well as a chipotle flavor with crumbled tortilla chips on top, owner Chris Morin really knows how to think outside the (ice) box.

With his businesses expanding from the support of the local community, he has now reached as far as Ann Arbor. However Morin says that he enjoys being in west Michigan since his ingredients are local and do not have to travel long distances. Most of his bars are made with ice cream from the Country Dairy Farm in New Era, Michigan and feature a decorative homemade chocolate coating. Additionally, the company accommodates food allergies, with options such as vegan ice cream.

The bars are produced by hand and packaged at their main site in Whitehall. There is a retail store, a bakery and a coffee shop. Moreover, products from his incubator kitchen tenants, who are getting started with a food product of their own are featured. Chris believes in “paying it forward” as many people gave him a leg up when he was getting started.

Chris says that building friendships is an important part of his business. He believes in taking small steps and building connections along the way. His strategy is to make sure he has accomplished all he can locally before he moves into bigger stores. Chris has the drive to succeed and is proving this by production and sales increase every year. 

Chris’ methods of taking it slow, making sure that he is known locally first, as well as producing and packaging all of his goods on a site he owns, may be beneficial strategies for any entrepreneur. Although it may take longer, it yields a greater sense of security.  Since Chris is now benefiting from this strategic method, his brand is one to watch.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development, packaging and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food, value-added agriculture, and natural resource products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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