December 2000, COVER
'Ice Cream' on the Rocks
Its developer says Blend's is just a frozen treat for adults,
The newest ice cream style frozen dessert on the market, offered by The Ice Cream Bar, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., has everyone screamingthough not necessarily for ice cream. With an alcoholyes, alcoholcontent ranging from 5 to 10 proof, about the same amount as in a beer, an aerated, solid-like-ice cream frozen dessert called Blend's® has critics ranting, buyers considering and adults applauding.
Offered in classic ice cream drink flavors such as Pink Squirrel, Grasshopper, and Brandy Alexander, Blend's is only one of the recent innovations combining alcohol with popular consumer products. Other successes, such as lemon-flavored alcoholic drinks and fruity alcoholic mixers, have created a resurgence in the classic drink market. "There is a lot of innovation in new products," says Gary Hemphill of Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York City-based beverage research and consulting firm. "[Companies] are appealinng to people who don't like alcohol but still want to drink it." And now similar spirituous products are sneaking their way into your nearest freezer case.
Daryl Orris, Ph.D., president and owner of The Ice Cream Bar, Inc., calls his new product "ice cream with an intoxicating difference." And different it is. Actually, it can't even be called "ice cream." Categorized by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a distilled spirits product because of its alcohol content, Blend's is only available to those of legal drinking age and can only be sold in places where liquor can be sold.
Critics however, disagree that the product is suitable for any type of environment. "It's just another means of introducing alcohol to new consumers," says George Hacker, director of alcohol policies for the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. "It's a reflection of how cavalier we are when it comes to America's No. 1 drug." Although it's not marketed toward minors, Hacker sees the product appealing to young people who may like ice cream but not necessarily alcohol.
The intent of Blend's, according to Orris, is to make different liqueurs known to the 21-to-55 year-old female demographic who may never have been exposed to liqueurs before. He says that underage consumption is "pretty remote and pretty unlikely."
Nonetheless, Orris had to deal with backlash from critics such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as it voiced its opinion of the product, saying that the over-seal on each container required by the ATF is not enough to keep children out. However, recent test marketing of Blend's showed that adults had trouble breaking the seal, proving to Orris that kids will have an even harder time getting into the product. "And once open, if parents keep it out of reach like alcohol, this should not be a problem," he adds.
Using the same recipes as top bars and restaurants in the U.S., Blend's combines premium ice cream and liquors and liqueurs into a solid ice cream type distilled spirits product which also can be blended into an intoxicating drink. With an SRP of $.99 to $1.49 for the 100ml size and $14.85 to $17.85 for the 1.75 liter size, the price breaks down to about $2 for an 8-oz. drink/serving. Orris says that the price is a great buy compared to the drink prices at a bar which could run the consumer about $5 to $15 for an 8-oz. drink.
But feelings such as these don't seem to be deterring adults from enjoying Blend's in test markets, which leaves Orris predicting that the product will do well with consumers. "There is a considerable market out there," he says.
So what's next for the company? The Ice Cream Bar, Inc. is in the talks with the Taylor Corp., a freezer company, to develop a specialized machine to offer soft-serve versions of Blend's to foodservice companies internationally. Wonder what the critics will say about that?