Jeni Britton Bauer isn’t a politician nor does she vote on elections, but she does know a thing or two about how giving people what they want is a key to earning their loyalty and affection. And that includes some powerful people.
Among the big fans of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a politician who is now trying to find a winning formula for both a stability-seeking Democratic Party base and a set of more progressive voters focused on new ideas for the future: Presidential candidate Joe Biden. Biden tweeted ahead of a recent debate that Jeni was part of his pre-game prep before taking on President Trump (the debate took place in Jeni’s home state of Ohio).
Biden, leading in the polls, could turn to Jeni against the president for general strategic thinking. At least importantly, as Britton Bauer recently explained to CNBC, the difference between success and failure in his ice cream business is similar to the road a candidate for public office has to travel between restoring what an existing support base wants and attracting new fans at the same time.
Jeni’s Splendid now has sales north of $ 50 million per year and is expected to hit the 50 store mark next year (it currently has just under that number of stores). The company has grown so much that it has surpassed its original source of SBA funding and bank loans. Since 2016, it has returned through private equity as banking partners have said it is growing too fast. But his first ice cream company, Scream, founded in his college town of Columbus, Ohio, was a failure.
When she opened her first ice cream business, Scream, in the North Market in Columbus, Ohio, she saw herself as an ice cream artist. Britton Baeur was an art and design student at university.
She made the flavors she wanted to make each day, drawing inspiration from stories she wanted to tell, like a local farmer or a book she was reading. She thinks artists can create any flavor they want and everyone will be “super excited.… Back in a business that I go to every day, I realized it was consistency and all that. that I had the last time I was there ”, she declared during the recent Spotlight on CNBC Evolve virtual event focused on middle market companies.
“It turns out what brings us back are the flavors we had last time around, although we change our mind when we get there,” she wrote in a follow-up email to CNBC. “So if I come across something that a lot of people like, like Salty Caramel, I learn that’s a compelling reason to come back. So I had to keep it on the menu.”
Where Scream failed, Jeni’s Splendid would ultimately succeed by accepting that each of her own wishes or creative ideas was no better than the existing ones that kept consumers coming back.
“It took a long time and a lot of soul-searching to realize that entrepreneurship is a two-way conversation with clients. You have to give people what they want, listen and try to do things that you think are good. they’ll love it, as well as keep doing the things that inspire you based on what you know and learn, ”said Britton Bauer.
In addition to retail stores, Jeni’s Splendid flavors are now in supermarkets including Publix, Amazon’s Whole Foods Market, Kroger, and Giant Eagle. And its pints command a premium: up to $ 10 to $ 12 a pint for some flavors, while the grocery store price is $ 7.99, but still higher end for ice cream.
“When I reopened when Jeni’s after Scream closed, I set up two dip cabinets – one for customer favorites and one for experimental and seasonal flavors. That way people could taste. new flavors, but order their old stash if they wanted. To this day our line follows this pattern with a blend of signature flavors that will always be there, like Brambleberry Crisp and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. But also edition flavors limited that reflect what currently inspires us in the R&D kitchen. hits they become signings. Others might only live for a month or even a few weeks. “
Jeni Britton Bauer at the original location of the North Market in Columbus, Ohio.
Source: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Brown Butter Almond Brittle is its best-selling flavor and was inspired by children’s author Roald Dahl.
It is a tight-knit group of the company team that decides on the new flavors, made up of Jeni, as well as the R&D chef, who helps formulate the concepts, prepares the tasting samples; the sales manager, who makes sure the flavor matches the brand’s plan, will generate revenue; and an editor, who develops the flavor description / copy and makes sure the company can talk about the flavor creatively.
She told CNBC that “it is important to be this tight” and that for each flavor invented, the creation process can start with up to 15 ideas, but only a handful of flavors advance in the process, and in average, she estimates that only two or three flavors are rejected for each new flavor that arrives to consumers.
“Everything you read or experience, whether it’s a pint container or a photograph in the stores or what people tell you, was written by the team that created the cream. frozen. “
Britton Bauer also pointed out that choosing a new flavor requires knowing that you are not matching an existing version of the “best” on the market.
“We have our own production facility where we can do everything that someone can’t do better… better than better is the way we think about it… Whether it’s caramelizing sugar over an open flame to achieve the right level of toast or make strawberry sauce or cake or chocolate, or any other ingredient, praline or marshmallows. “
In addition to the four “decision makers”, there are a total of eight staff members involved in presenting the creative prizes to the consumer.
Experimentation continues to this day. While Jeni and her team have yet to do a Green New Deal on mint chocolate chips, she recently unveiled a new collaboration with hip-hop icon Tyler the Creator, Pluto Bleu: ” a blue raspberry slushie – except more fruity, less sweet, more tangy, actually refreshing Then imagine an orange push-pop kicking in – the orange flavor is stronger with a more lemony pop.
The company also brings out a flavor with the Napa Valley Chandon sparkling wine vineyard for the holidays.
She also continues to draw inspiration from local sources, such as Buttercup Pumpkin Flavors, which come from a local Ohio farmer who has supplied the company with pumpkins for years.
US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden laughs after being served ice cream during a campaign stoppage.
Nic Antaya | Boston Globe | Boston Globe | Getty Images
Britton Bauer’s relationship with Biden, meanwhile, dates back to Obama’s presidency.
“Biden really became a friend, an ice cream buddy,” she said. Britton Bauer first met the presidential candidate in 2012 and said, “I’ve gotten to know him over the years since. We love ice cream.”
Britton Bauer grew up in Ohio, one of the key states for Biden in the 2020 election. She lived in Columbus from the age of 12, and before that, in Peoria, Illinois.
“Ice cream is an important part of the culture here,” she said. “I always knew my first job would be an ice cream shop, which it was, when I was 15, and I came out of art class at Ohio State with the idea that ice cream could be more interesting. “
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