Spring is in full swing, and the summer is fast approaching, meaning the weather is warming and people are more likely to reach for the cool sweetness of ice cream. The classic dessert enjoyed as a scoop, a shake, or anything in between has created countless shops that specialize in frozen bliss. Ice cream may seem like a standard product, yet a nearly endless array of flavors and combinations means there is always something new to try and there is plenty of opportunity for emerging brands to leave their mark. One of the largest premier ice cream shops in the U.S. is Cold Stone Creamery and their claim to fame, a frozen slab where they combine their custom flavors with a variety of additional candies that can be mixed in. Add in seasonal flavors that with other popular brands and Cold Stone casts a wide net over the industry. There is still room for others; however, and that is where our challenger, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream fits in. How have they carved out their own niche and will Cold Stone stay one scoop ahead?

Cold Stone was originally a mom-and-pop shop founded in Arizona in 1988 by Donald Sutherland and his wife Susan. The founders were ice cream lovers who grew disappointed with the prepackaged ice cream available at their local shops and supermarkets. Their idea was to make small batches in-store on the same day that customers ordered it. Freshly made ice cream and a commitment to using high quality ingredients positioned Cold Stone as a premium brand. The store was one of the first to lay out ingredients in an assembly line and allow customers to choose what they want and watch their food be made, a trend that is popular in fast casual restaurants today. Cold stone has exploded in popularity since the 1980’s and that small mom-and-pop shop has become an international brand servicing almost 30 countries and throughout the United States. Each location features their signature frozen slab where customer can watch their in-house made ice cream be combined with a variety of candies and fruits without melting. Whether ordering the Founder’s Favorite or a custom creation, Cold Stone is a worldwide crowd pleaser.

Ice cream is a common American dessert, and that ubiquitous popularity leads to the abundance of pre-packaged varieties served in restaurants and grocery stores. The lack of creativity and quality in these pre-packed ice creams is what led to the founding of Cold Stone, and it was the driving force for Jeni Briton when she opened up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in 2002 in Ohio. Even though Jeni’s got started in 2002, the company’s founder had been making ice cream since 1996 and brough her unique flavors to the North Market in Columbus Ohio. Jeni’s focuses on unique flavor combinations that use locally sourced ingredients including family-owned milk suppliers. She opened her first scoop shop in 2005 and the concept has expanded across the U.S. The company also runs an online shop that ships to all 50 states and boasts a grocery store presence. Jeni Briton won a James Beard Award in 2012 for her ice cream and the company is a Certified B Corporation dedicated to improving their social and environmental impact.

We are in an era where inflation has driven up restaurant costs dramatically and consumers have balked at these higher prices. The success of both Cold Stone and Jeni’s Ice Cream can both be attributed to a commitment to provide customers with high-quality and fresh ingredients. These two brands are on the pricier side for dessert shops, yet the current success they enjoy shows that consumers are still willing to pay for a product if they feel the quality warrants the charge.