Your favorite ice cream chains are in danger — and millennials are to blame.
Brands such as Carvel, Dairy Queen, Ritas, and Häagen-Dazs have faced sales slumps and dozens of store closures, as franchise run, mass-produced ice cream chains have struggled to keep up with the continuing boom of artisan ice cream shops.
"Franchise ice cream parlors face a uniquely challenging market today," Baskin Robbins CEO Maya Butreeks recently wrote in a letter to shareholders.
According to Butreeks, these classic ice cream shops' struggles can be blamed on the usual culprits: millennials.
"Classic American ice cream just isn't good enough for these spoiled Millennial snowflakes. Everything needs to be a crazy flavor like wasabi green tea or avocado Kit-Kat," Butreeks wrote.
While it seems these days like millennials are being blamed for everything that goes wrong in our economy, Butreeks isn't wrong about the rapidly changing trends in the ice cream industry.
"There're just so many more interesting options then there used to be," Thomas Callahan, famed food blogger and Wall Street economy insights director, recently told Business Insider.
These more interesting options Callahan is referring to are most often the products of locally based start-ups that place the focus on small-batch quality and innovative flavors. One doesn't have to look far to see the myriad of unique ice cream options available in any given city; just a simple internet search will bring up stores that specialize in ice cream rolls, sandwiches, locally sourced small-batch flavors, and, in the case of Philadelphia's newest frozen dessert craze, deep fried sundaes.
"Oh yea, us nefarious millennials are killing ice cream chains just like Ford killed the horse and buggy industry. Boo hoo," Steve Gennarelli, owner of Moon Dawg Sundaes, said laughing in an interview with Surf and Turf Magazine.
Moon Dawg is the newest company to join the ranks of Philadelphia's burgeoning ice cream scene which already includes impressive names such as Weckerly's and Little Baby's Ice Cream, both known for their high quality and innovative flavors.
"More and more young people in the industry are taking the skills they learn, leaving the fine dining restaurants, and using them instead to enhance the foods we eat everyday. I've always loved ice cream and I wanted a way to combine it with my love of being a pastry chef. It's called innovation, and last time I checked that was a good thing," said Gennarelli.
Not to say ice cream chains are refusing to change with the times. Last year Carvel introduced a new cookie-butter flavored ice cream, and Cold Stone Creamery is known to occasionally feature offbeat flavors such as Wasabi and Spicy Red Hot; although most companies such as Dairy Queen simply rely on their industry foothold by holding special promotions such as Free Cone Day every first day of spring.
However, try as they may it's hard to say these compare to such intriguing menu items as Moon Dawg's PB&J Ice Cream Dumplings or Weckerly's Rosemary Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich.
"We're not too worried. Five years from now we're going to look back and say this was just a hiccup in an otherwise steady flow of business. Remember Dippin' Dots? Yea, neither do I," Oliver Klozoff, CEO of Carvel, recently told Nation's Restaurant News. While many of the larger ice cream chains are quick to agree, the National Restaurant Association reports that of the $799 billion reported restaurant industry sales in 2017, $13.7 billion of that was spent at smaller scale ice cream shops- almost double the $7 billion reported in 2015.
Trends aside, only time will tell if these artisan shops will find a more permanent place in the larger industry. Until then big ice cream will continue to throw their lot in with the countless other industries blaming millennials for their poor business, a sad attempt at scapegoating considering most of the generation already agrees with what Gennarelli said-