From neighborhood ice cream icon, to retail contender
“When Grandpa Joe first began making ice cream in 1984, it took him an hour and a half to make five gallons. Today, we make 10 gallons in 15 minutes.”
Grand Ole Creamery has seen many changes since the family-run business opened in St. Paul, Minn., 31 years ago, but some of the most dramatic have happened in the last two years. That’s when the Huffmans decided to make the leap from beloved neighborhood ice cream parlor to grocery store premium ice cream competitor. To help make that a reality, they knew their 14-year partnership with Lofton Label (loftonlabel.com) would need to shift into high gear.
BUILDING ON A SOLID BRAND IMAGE
“The biggest thing was to get a strong label,” said Chase Huffman, the youngest family member to join the business. “You can’t even get in the door without a strong label.”
According to Huffman, Kowalski’s Market (another successful Twin Cities family enterprise) had been urging Grand Ole Creamery to sell ice cream in their grocery
stores for years, starting with the Kowalski’s location less than a mile away from the Grand Ole Creamery’s flagship parlor on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue.
The savvy grocer has long focused on supporting local products, and offered advice to the Huffmans about how to make their ice cream containers stand out from their competitors.
That meant building on the strength of the bold red-and-white striped brand label that Grand Ole Creamery customers recognized, and that Lofton was already producing.
Lofton sales representative, Sue Tackman, describes how the team worked through the hurdles of a retail launch:
“Our challenge was the tapered pint
container. A standard rectangle label wouldn’t fit or be visually attractive. Kowalski’s spot-on advice was to use as much of the real estate around the container as possible, so we reconfigured the Grand Ole Creamery label shape to create the ideal arc to fit the container.”
Lofton worked closely with Grand Ole Creamery’s designer to overcome graphics software challenges to make the curved design fit exactly and to use every bit of available package space. During the process, Lofton identified and resolved non-conforming UPCs on the labels. Valid, scanable UPCs are a critical artwork component for fast-moving retail checkout, and necessary for product analysis and management. That meant they also were critical for the introduction into Kowalski’s Markets.
Lofton’s attention to detail even included making a referral to another local resource that was perfectly suited to applying the new labels to the containers.
“This was a fun, fast-paced project for us to work on,” said Lofton’s Tackman. “We stepped in to help wherever needed because we wanted it to turn out as perfectly as they did.”
Adding to the launch complexity was the need to include nutritional information on the labels. Grand Ole Creamery worked with resources to determine what needed to be included on the label for each of nine different flavors, as required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We threw an incredible number of curveballsat Lofton,” said Huffman. “But they never lost their cool. Someone from Lofton was always reaching out to make sure our bases were covered.”
As exciting as the retail launch is, Grand Ole Creamery has no intention of walking away from its ice cream parlor roots and the loyal customers who often wait in long lines outside the St. Paul location. In fact, labels on the new Kowalski’s containers promote a dollar-off discount at either of their two ice cream shops – as long as you bring in an empty pint container, of course.
For the launch, Kowalski’s displayed the Grand Ole Creamery products at eye level in the ice cream freezer case and added ‘new local product’ signage.
“We should have done this 20 years ago,” said Gary Huffman, CEO of Grand Ole Creamery and Chase Huffman’s father. “The glossy red-and-white labels on our products really pop for grocery customers, and I know that helped our initial shipment sell out in just over a week. The labels are definitely doing
THE TIPPING POINT
Now that an efficient label solution is in place, “the sky’s the limit.” The Huffmans are building up stock so they can sell their super-premium organic ice cream in all nine Kowalski’s Market locations.
Fans can expect to see more product varieties sold, too, as Grand Ole Creamery makes more than 200 flavors, including Black Hills Gold. Not only is this Huffman's hands-down favorite, but the President was also partial to it.
“When President Obama visited our Grand Avenue shop in 2014, I thought that was the best moment ever for Grand Ole Creamery,” recalls Huffman. “But seeing our labels on the shelf at Kowalski’s – and seeing new customers buying our ice cream – this is our
Grandpa Joe would be proud.