Adding ice cream to the menu

Ice cream offers bakeries an opportunity to initiate growth without much risk.

The key for any successful business to foster organic growth is taking that next right step without tripping and falling because the step was too big. Sometimes the only way to figure this out comes from a trial and error method, but a lot of times, a well thought out, strategic move provides the best opportunity to successful growth.

One easy step for retail bakeries to take in the direction of growth is ice cream. Ice cream offers a number of avenues to initiate growth at the retail level. With a multitude of product variations and a natural fit with existing products, bakeries can make their own ice cream or buy it from vendors to branch out start generating more revenue.

Complementary

Many bakeries incorporate home-made ice cream into their menu. Nothing complements the staple products of the retail bakery like ice cream. In June of 2013, Taylor’s Bakery in Indianapolis decided to offer its customers that product which they’d been craving and requesting. Taylor’s started off with four basic flavors of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and cookies and cream. To date they’ve added more flavors and offer special flavors of the month.

New flavors include Triple Chocolate Ganache, Mint Cookies & Cream, Butter Pecan and Wedding Cake. Without getting to into the ice cream business and remaining a bakery at its core, Taylor’s continues to grow in its ice cream business. “It is a wonderful item to complement cakes,” says Drew Allen, owner of Taylor’s Bakery.

Making it happen

Getting started with ice cream might seem like a daunting endeavor to a shop with no experience, but with some practice and experimentation, it could add considerably to revenue. As with anything new, starting off slowly and a little bit at a time is key.

It doesn’t take a lot of space to make ice cream, and with the exception of the ice cream maker, a retail bakery already has most of the ingredients and some of the equipment. “I could really see it being a trend for bakery because you’ve got a lot of the ingredients and you’ve got the space,” Allen says. “Throw an ice cream machine in and it just lets you completely diversify.”

Emery Thompson offers ice cream makers of all sizes including a counter top machine with a 3 L finished capacity. The counter top machine does everything the larger machines do and is very affordable at a price of $5450. It’s designed the same way as the larger machines — to run 24 hours a day for the next 45 years.

Flavors

To make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed, start slow. When breaking in a new product like ice cream with your customer base, a handful of flavors should be enough to get started. “One of our biggest problems now is trying to limit down the number of flavors,” Allen says.

To start with, follow Taylors’ lead of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and a flavor like cookies and cream. The cookies and cream flavor can vary depending on your bakery’s situation relative to your other standard bakery products. “It was kind of a natural for us because we do chocolate covered Oreos, and naturally we break a fair amount of Oreos,” Allen says.

Create your fourth flavor in the same way as Taylor’s. Think about any waste you have from good selling products and figure out a way to incorporate it into an ice cream flavor. Cookies, cakes, leftover chocolate or nuts, all of these things would work for ice cream.

Products

Ice cream sandwiches are a great addition to bakery fare, and it’s an excellent way to get the ice cream moving out the door, but there’s more. “Ice cream sandwiches are a fantastic way to get our cookies out, let people taste a little bit of our ice cream and decide if they want to buy a quart of it,” Allen says. “On top of that, it gives us a little experience so that if we start dabbling around with ice cream pies and cakes, it will give us a little practice before we get there.”

For the retail bakery, birthday cakes represent one of the “bread and butter” products. The birthday cake product gives customers a consistent reason to come into the shop to place a special order. Multiple birthdays fall on every day of the calendar year, but for every birthday celebrated in the country, there are that many bakeries competing for the birthday cake business. Ice cream cakes with house-made ice cream provide an advantage for gaining that business.

The two easiest ways to make an ice cream cake are the layer and the roll. For layer type cakes, simply construct a two layer cake with the ice cream on the bottom. For the roll, lay out a thinner layer of sheet cake, cover with a flat layer of ice cream and then gently roll into a log. Ice both style cakes to your liking, or to customer specifications for special orders.

Some experimentation will be necessary to perfect your method and formula, and you might have to adjust existing formulas and recipes to make the cake work with your ice cream, but it’s worth the time and effort.