Ice cream is a tough category. Competition is fierce. Grocery shelf space is limited. Large brands dominate. That’s why Eat Me Ice Cream’s remarkable success over the last seven years is a true testimonial to savvy, resourceful, and persistent entrepreneurship.
More importantly, founders Amber Odhner and Catelyn Augustine have demonstrated that scalable growth comes from capitalizing on market trends, knowing your customers, building a unique brand, and focusing on quality.
Currently, the “dairy-free ice cream that eats like dairy,” is available at more than 50 Wegmans stores in the Northeast, Whole Foods, and dozens of specialty food stores and restaurants.
The Eat Me founders focus on the flavor and taste experience or what they call “mouth revelations.” In fact, the duo waxes poetic when they talk about their product “spinning off of craft brewery infusion styles to create a road map for tongue fantasy.”
The company started because they recognized a gap in the non-dairy market. “Plant-based ice cream simply did not provide the flavor and interesting variety that consumers wanted. Ice cream fans know what they like, and they weren’t getting it from products on the shelf. The category lacked innovation and imagination, ”says Catelyn.
Additionally, more and more consumers were turning away from milk products because of health and ethical reasons. She cites double-digit growth in the vegan, plant-based and frozen desserts markets over the last several years. According to a new report by Grand View Research, the global dairy-free ice cream market is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2025, expanding at a CAGR of 14.8 percent.
The company’s target market is primarily female Millenials and GenXers who are food lovers, plant based eaters, clean label connoisseurs, and vegans. “Additionally, our customers want food that tastes different, “she says. “That’s why we created flavors like Lilac, Crystallized Ginger and Cashew Curry Coconut, Lavender Goat Cheese, and Taco along with more classics like Bourbon Vanilla Bean and Peanut Butter Chocolate.”
After five years of taste-testing and product development among local consumers, the company expanded to independent groceries in Buffalo, New York City and Philadelphia in 2017. In 2018, they were approached by Whole Foods Market and Wegmans, This year they have solidified sales in these stores, ramped up production, and expanded marketing efforts.
One important component of their growth plan is becoming more knowledgeable about how to work with investors. To that end, they joined The Entrepreneurs Network and participated in the Class XXVI boot camps. “It is very important to us to grow smart,” says Catelyn. “This means not only knowing how to talk with investors, but also finding the right investors that fit in with our brand and values. TEN has been very useful in helping us on our path forward.”
Another important component of their growth is making sure the combined skills of the founders continually get strengthened through their collaboration. Growing up as teenagers in Churchville, the two best friends serve as an inspiration to each other. Amber loves working in the plant and creating new flavors; Catelyn gravitates to the sales, marketing and business sides of the company.
“It is truly an extraordinary experience to create a company with your best friend,” says Catelyn. “We are limitless in our ideas of where the Eat Me brand can go. Today, ice cream. Tomorrow, who knows?”