True Scoops is an innovative, premium ice cream mix company helping to bring the joy of making ice cream at home without the use of an ice cream maker. Founded by Shelly Marshall and Kelly Williamson who met at Penn State University’s “Ice Cream School”. On this episode we discuss the challenges of launching ice cream outside the ice cream aisle, how to succeed with merchandising, and their new Kickstarter launch.
Learn more: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/maketruescoops/true-scoops-ice-cream-mixstarter
Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at Foodbevy.com to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.
Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Hey everyone. On today's episode, we are going to be sharing the journey of true scoops, and I have on today the two co-founders, Kelly Williamson and Shelly Marshall. Welcome.
Kelly Williamson: Hi.
Shelly Marshall: Hi Jordan. How are you?
Jordan Buckner: Great. So would love for you to share the quick 32nd overview of True Scoops and what the product and brand is.
Shelly Marshall: Yeah. So you know, true scoops. Was started because I wanted to make my own life easier while making ice cream at home with my children during the pandemic. And I'm an ice cream maker by trade. I own my ice cream shop with my husband, and it probably should have occurred to me that ice cream is not a simple process at home.
And so it took. Almost seven hours for us to get from start to finish. And I was like, there has to be like an easier way, it's 2020 at the time for people to make ice cream. Like wasn't there like a Betty Crocker style product that you could use and just add one ingredient And even if you didn't have an ice cream maker, you could make ice cream.
And I realized there actually wasn't. So [00:01:00] I took the time. Testing in the kitchen for like seven months before I called Kelly, who was my ice cream partner from ice cream school up at Penn State. And I'm like, I'm trying to do something. She's like, what are you trying to do? I'm like, I'm trying to make a mix that was super easy for my children and me to make ice cream.
She was like, well, who wants to make ice cream at home? It's so complex. I'm like, exactly. It's complex. And so she helped me through the finish line, getting the product to where it is now. And that's how True Scoops was born in 2021. Out of me wanting to make ice cream for kids at home.
Jordan Buckner: I love that and.
As you mentioned, making ice cream at home is not easy, and I'm assuming making a product to make ice cream at home isn't easy as well. No. And so I'd love to talk today on, you know, how you started on this journey. The lessons learned and also the the new packaging design and format, which you are just launching as well.
And you have the Kickstarter that's going out to support that too. But maybe let's kind of go back. So you [00:02:00] mentioned the problem that you're solving of wanting to make ice cream at home for your kids and help other people do so as well. What was the kind of core insight that you found on how to make that process easier for.
Shelly Marshall: Well, one, if you look at how ice cream is traditionally made, you have to heat cream, milk sugar, you have to add temperate eggs, but the base is hot, so you have to wait till the base cools down in the refrigerator, probably like two to three hours before you can put it in an ice cream maker, which you need an ice cream maker.
And when you think about all of those things together, you have to have some level of skill to do that. You have to have the ingredients, you have to have an ice cream maker. And so I felt like that was a problem. Like, who has time to do all that? Like mothers of two and three of small kids wanted to make their own ice cream because we make our own cookies and brownies at home.
Right? And it's super easy. Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker made that really easy for us, and I felt like no one really like took ice cream to the next level. The way that Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines Jell-o took those products to the next level. And I wanted to do. I wanted to make it easy. It had to be real ice cream [00:03:00] ingredients just in powder form, no ice cream maker required.
I don't want you to add milk cream on all the thing you have. You shouldn't have to go out and buy two or three things in addition to the mix. So just one added ingredient and with a simple hand mixer. And that's what the goal was. If you're gonna make something fun, it has to be fun. It just, it can be complex.
Jordan Buckner: So Kelly, when Shelly came to you with this idea and you were like, oh, interesting. What was your response or what did you think about things?
Kelly Williamson: I thought she was crazy. I won't lie. I was. It's like, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? This makes no sense. But I had gotten laid off from work and so I was just star fished on the couch watching endless shows relaxing and you know, my itch to get back into ice cream.
Cause I had an ice cream business years ago. Kind of came back, I said, you know, all right, up for this challenge. I have no idea what this means I've never worked with dry ingredients for, you know, common liquid product. And so just got back to tinkering in the kitchen, which was really fun.
And it really never stopped until we found [00:04:00] our first initial formula. And. You know, I got the, the entrepreneurial bug again and said, I don't wanna go back to a nine to five office. I wanna work 24 7 for myself. And you know, the rest is history. So they say,
Jordan Buckner: I love it and I know that history is still being built.
So now that you kinda had the initial formulation for the ice cream how did you go about selling and presenting? Because not only was there not one on the market, but you know, was there a market for people looking to make ice cream at home in this way? What did you find?
Shelly Marshall: What we found was that, if you take a step back in the pandemic, what were people making a lot of, they were baking a lot, a lot of pickled stuff, but people weren't making ice cream. There's a reason for that. Right. But they don't actually know that it's so complex cuz people don't think to do it.
They go to the bodega at the corner store if you're in New York and they buy ice cream. And so the hard part about this mix is that now we have to teach people to do a thing differently. We're essentially taking ice cream outside of the freezer and into the aisle, and people don't see ice cream in [00:05:00] the aisle.
You're just not looking for it there. So now our goal is, and it's quite expensive to teach people to make it, to have them want to make it change their lifestyle. Making a thing that they didn't think to make. Because if you make a batch of cookies, you're gonna have a pint of hog and NAS in the fridge.
And that's just how it's, no one's gonna think, oh, let me make the ice cream as well. So, no, that's the hurdle that we have to get. to, so when we talk to customers, they were like maybe I'll try it once, maybe I'll try it another time. But it's not a lifestyle yet, right? People are still like your daughter.
She would love it, but you one thing to make it with her, cuz it's not something that we do, it's not like jello, right? Oh, lemme go make some jello. It's the thing that we're trying to instill in the market and change human behavior. It's, which is the hardest part where we speak to customers, we realize that.
It's gonna be the hardest hurdle for
Jordan Buckner: us. Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's definitely, you know, I remember growing up and my mom bought a quiz in our ice cream maker, and we tried a couple times to make ice cream in, like, I think it came out like, okay, but most of them were [00:06:00] failures. We didn't really want to eat. And I think we were like, can we just go buy some?
And I think it said in Our basement for a decade after.
Kelly Williamson: And that's what we always joke about is that ice cream makers are either in your basement, covered in dust, they're still in the box, or they're on Facebook marketplace. Nobody has them anymore. And so we wanted to make the process just super easy using equipment that you already have in your home.
Jordan Buckner: And I've made some of your ice cream before, and it was really good, and it was easier than using the ice cream maker. So that was definitely a huge win. Yeah. What's been some of the early, I know you mentioned some of the little bit of the feedback from customers, but what's been some of the early feedback that you learned in terms of how you're starting to educate them on usage and creating usage occasions for the product.
Shelly Marshall: We see them liken the customizability factor of the product. The fact that you can literally look on the list of Ben and Jerry's flavors and make any of those flavors with Audrey bases. And so once we highlight that to customers, it's like, oh my gosh, you're [00:07:00] totally right. I can make cherry yahsi, I can make Netflix and chill.
I can make Rocky Road and so that factors the value proposition that they see. Yeah, they might have to mix it up themselves, even though it's five minutes yeah, , it's not ready made from the grocery, but at least they can make their own flavor. And so we see customers really liken that part of it just going wild.
And you know, everyone can have their own pint at home. In fact, the new packaging shows you can name your pint. And every, little kids can have their own. so it brings out creativity in kids and parents have something to do with them. So we see that part. Customers really like that part of it.
Jordan Buckner: So when you launched, I know you had originally the mix in a pouch. Yeah. And you came out with a new paint design from that. Yeah. You know, I mean, Kelly, I'm interested to hear like what kinda led in that decision to switch the packaging.
Kelly Williamson: Yeah, again, this was Shelly's brilliant idea that I thought was crazy at first.
Clearly I have trust issues with my partner. I'm just kidding. No, she had this great idea for [00:08:00] a pint container, and really it's what people know. It's what's familiar. It's a familiar shape. You know, I did a test in Target the other day with these on the shelf, and somebody's like, wait, what's ice cream doing in here?
So it's a recognizable unit. It is also purposeful. So once you make your mix your liquid mixture, you pour it actually right back into the container and can freeze your ice cream in the pint and then just devour it straight from the pint as we all do. So it's multi-functional which is pretty cool.
And you know, it's also an economical thing for us as business owners to go to a smaller size so we can be more profitable and sustainable and growth in the retail setting.
Jordan Buckner: And one thing I saw you mention as well is , in retail where the product is going to be placed. So can you talk about the aisle in store where customers can find tree scoops?
Kelly Williamson: Yeah, we are thinking, and we're doing a lot of testing this summer with the pints in the baking aisle, which sounds kind of weird because we're not a baked good. But if you think about it, the baking aisle is where [00:09:00] creators go. You go to buy ingredients to make something, if it's spices, flour, sugar, chocolate.
All of those things are in that same aisle, if not, you know, your toppings and your sprinkles and things of that nature. So we are part of that creator's aisle. And so we're gonna be testing there to see how well the pints do and, you know, go from there. But yeah, that's like been the million dollar question that I think a lot of people that we've talked to is like, well wait, you're not frozen.
You wouldn't go with other ice cream. So where would you. So again, it's another part of that challenge Shelly was talking about earlier. It's not only do we have to change customer behavior of how they think of ice cream and making it at home, but also now their shopping behaviors and going to look for a product that normally doesn't exist in a certain location.
Jordan Buckner: No, I think that's that's definitely a challenge and I experienced that myself with my product. TeaSquares where they were energy bars, but they were packaged in like a multier pouch and so grocers didn't know where to put them, and I honestly didn't really know where to put them either [00:10:00] because the energy bar set, the shelving was designed for like a bar pack.
And so like ours was too tall, like physically, and they could go by like the granola. But if people are looking at our product on a per pound basis, which is a lot of times how people shop for granola, the like pricing was way out of whack. And then some put us in like all over the store. And so there's a huge challenge that I learned from that as well.
Kelly Williamson: Yeah, it's gonna be a long journey ahead to test this out, but where really where we're going is next is Shelly and I will be testing a lot of retailers in our backyard. So Shelly's in Brooklyn, New York. I'm just north of Boston, so we're gonna be taking these pints and working with these stores and doing demos and talking to people to get real-time feedback and really work and build these relationships with these retailers.
To see where we can be and thrive and then kind of take those learnings and go and grow elsewhere to bigger box retailers.
Jordan Buckner: Love that. So Shelly, you mentioned around how you know, people can recreate their favorite ice cream flavors with true scoops as a base being in that creator's [00:11:00] aisle.
Are you looking at doing any merchandising where you say like, Hey, grab true scoops and then grab the walnuts or the dry cherries or things that you can add?
Shelly Marshall: Yeah, that's like, actually a really great question. That's twofold. That, which would help all of us because our product is actually the center, right?
We can have a one off on the chocolate chips and one off on the cookies, and we can all bring it together to create something really great if we do brand collabs. But a step further than that, we want to actually do collabs with brands. Let's call a brand name. Let's call it a huge chocolate.
We wanted to do like a chocolate chip with our vanilla ice cream. It becomes chocolate, , or cookies, becomes Cookies and cream. And so we would actually want to have a small packet of the brands inside of our pint, so the customer gets the full experience.
If they wanted to do just the cookies and cream, it's a one stop shop, so those could be limited edition. Type of offerings that we have on shelf in addition to us doing merchandise [00:12:00] bundles with other brands, which is what we plan to do with other small brands first, and then we move on to , the larger brands.
But I think it's a good opportunity for us, especially in summer and national ice cream month and kickoff of Memorial Weekend to do strong partnerships with brands where, yeah, you can literally get the cookies right here and the chocolate sauce and everything together with the ice cream.
Sort of like a one stop shop kind of type deal.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I love that. In terms of the mixes and everything, are you making all the mixes yourself or are you working with a cofactor?
Shelly Marshall: Yeah, we have a coman up in New York that we're working with right now, so there's no way we'd be able to produce thousands and thousands of pounds of powder.
It'll be a tsunami
Jordan Buckner: too much for the shop. I definitely understand that. Yeah, just thinking in terms of like the collabs that you might do, ways of like doing those limited runs and testing. And hopefully they have some of the flexibility to do that. Cause I think , that's really cool. You know, one benefit that you definitely have over other ice creams is that it's much easier for you to ship online than actual ice cream.
Yeah. I'm curious though, like, how have [00:13:00] you found your diva c sales compared to retail?
Shelly Marshall: So naturally food Bev d c always starts off, well for us, a little bit weaker than b2b. Where we see a lot of our revenue coming in from is corporate gifting and subscription market, because unlike a frozen pint of ice cream, now they, all of them have.
A category for ice cream. And it's because of us. And that's why we are so handsome to them, especially in summer, direct to consumer. We're slowly building that and growing that. We don't do paid ads yet. We're mostly focusing on influenza marketing so that we can grow D to C sales. But a lot of our revenue come in from the B2B side of it.
While we build Amazon, while we build direct to consumer, we're focusing. On the B2B for now as it's an easier way to get into the markets especially for corporate gifting and subscriptions.
Kelly Williamson: Yeah, and Amazon's actually been very good to us. We had a really great piece in Real Simple Magazine last fall, and we saw a major uptick in continued sales through our Amazon platform, which has been great.
Jordan Buckner: I love that. You know, I think I'm a huge [00:14:00] advocate for Amazon, especially with your product because as people, you know, not everyone knows where they can buy ice cream or if they can buy it on Amazon or not. But like most, I don't think there's probably any brands or very few ice cream brands stilling on Amazon.
And so when someone goes to search ice cream on Amazon, you're probably one of the few if only products that calmed up. And so it's a great opportunity for people to like buy and try it out. I'm sure there's probably some confusion though, where people are like, oh wait, it's not the actual ice cream.
And it's like the dry mix. So there's like that hurdle over.
Shelly Marshall: We're spending a lot of time to. Create a great store, Amazon store that's very explicit in what we're offering so people don't think they're getting a frozen pint and be upset that it's mixed and not know what to do with it.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. They're like, oh, this is cheap, relatively cheap for like a frozen shipping product. And they're like, oh wait, it's right. But yeah, I think that's awesome because you're right that education fr is one of the most expensive things when you have to change behavior. And I went through it myself.
I know just how expensive it it is.
Shelly Marshall: It's almost, unless you have a million dollars to [00:15:00] pump into marketing it's almost impossible to really do it fast and efficient at first.
Jordan Buckner: It is. I'm kind of curious, with both of you kind of having experience in the industry, are you looking at your business as something that you're trying to like grow really quickly?
Are you taking a little bit more of like a medium long-term approach to your timeline of growth? How are you thinking about it now that you've been doing true scoops even for a couple years?
Shelly Marshall: Well, because of budget constraints, we can grow quickly the way we would like to. So we're taking the medium to the long term, well, more medium.
Type of approach because there is no way we can pump 10,000, 20,000 a month in paid ads. And so we're taking the influence around because the product is very process heavy. You have to see it being made to understand it. And so influences, I think will do a great job for that for us, especially with the new launch.
But seeing us talking about it and being more transparent through storytelling, I think is the way to go for us, because of the budget constraints and because. It's just a cheaper way to do it. And it gets you in front of your customer, which is what we want to be.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. And I [00:16:00] love that customization.
You know, it's interesting as you were talking about it, when I made cheese for the first time, I think I made the strawberry flavor and cause I wanted to try a prop that just made it straight without anything else. And I'm sure like a lot of customers for their first time, like might do the same thing, just like make the ice cream on its own.
What are some of the ways that you are encouraging that customization? Are you including recipes that you're putting together? Are you kind of positioning the influencers to talk about how they would customize the product? What tactics are you doing?
Shelly Marshall: Yeah. We have a campaign coming up called the Copycat Campaign.
Well, it's not officially called the Copycat Campaign, but what we're trying to do. Our tagline is ice cream is love. And so ice cream means something to everyone. It means something to your daughter right now. And she's not even an adult yet. So as we go through, everyone goes through their own ice cream journey.
To us ice cream is love, but to you might be joy to your daughter. It might be happiness after school. And I scoop from the ice cream shop. So the influences their job is to make the flavor of their dreams. Doesn't matter what it. And then end of the [00:17:00] video, tell the audience what ice cream means to them.
So now we take people to a place of nostalgia where they see their memories of. When they were seven years old, or 10 years old, 12 years old, or 37 years old, of how they could now take a true scoops mix and recreate that for themselves. So that's what the campaign is about, making your copycat flavor and telling your audience what this whole experience meant to you and what it reminded you of.
You know, making our cream, our grandmother. Having ash cream on the beach, whatever it was. So that's how we are like getting in front of our customer through influenzas.
Jordan Buckner: I love that. You know, it's funny because I my wife is big into like, we're both cooks, but she loves looking at like copycat recipes from the restaurants and places and before her, honestly, I like never even knew that was a thing.
I don't think I really looked it on myself on YouTube right now. She's like huge on that. And I could see this popping up all over you know, Pinterest and everywhere else cause people type in like you know, Ben and Jerry's Rocky Road Ice Cream. Yeah. Like looking for recipes to make it themselves.
Kelly Williamson: Exactly. It's the beautiful part about [00:18:00] our mixes is you could make. Chunky monkey, cherry Garcia, whatever you want. But if you are just want a little bit of walnuts or a ton of walnuts or a little bit of cookie dough, half the pint is cookie dough. You can have that. So it's tapping into your nostalgia and your favorite memories, but also creating something new and something totally unique that you made for yourself that nobody else can have.
You can have it your way. It's it's a really fun, playful experience and it's, I mean, it's ice cream. You're supposed to have fun. Go, you know, go nuts. Make something fun with vanilla. Maybe you have your strawberry plain, but you pour a big river of hot fudge sauce on top. You know, it's, it's all good.
Any which way you have it.
Jordan Buckner: You know, I'm excited for some of the experimentation that you might be able to do in retail. I'm just releasing a series of articles on merchandising for emergency CPG brands. And there's a lot of untapped opportunities there in terms of partnerships and doing off-shelf displays.
And a lot of retailers are a little overwhelmed just by like their [00:19:00] day-to-day and keeping up with their own labor issues. But they're looking for brands to come with creative solutions to drive category sales for the entire isle. And so I love that idea of having an additional kind of usage occasion beyond cookies and cakes for those other mix-in items and doing some off-shelf displays.
And if there's some like cool things that you can, partnerships like in an aisle that you can do or blended. Display stand and stand up like cardboard displays with retailers. We're doing incap displays on how to mix in, that's a really great way of driving incremental velocity and sales and volume to the tile.
Yeah. And that's what retailers love.
Kelly Williamson: We've just been talking about this all week, cuz we were just, do you know, doing our little on-shelf test at local retailers by us and it's, you know, yes, we're in a sea of cookie and pancake mixes and cake brownies and all those things. I mean, which ice cream goes excellent with all of them by the way.
You know, but how do we get crafty and stop people dead in their tracks and be like, wait a. Those are pints of ice cream. What are [00:20:00] they doing here? You know, so is it shelf talkers or display trays or, you know, separate shipping containers like in the middle of the aisle. That's where we're really trying to like, figure out how can we really wow people when they go down this specific aisle and not look for their everyday item and be like, oh my gosh, this is something so new, so unique.
Mm-hmm. I'm still gonna get my brownie mix, but now I'm gonna put ice cream on top of my.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. I love that. I think that incrementality story is huge for retail in terms of driving that basket size. So lots of fun stories to tell. It's a lot of work to do it, which I definitely know and don't underestimate.
I know a lot of money,
Kelly Williamson: my gosh. But we think demos in store too are going to really help to be able to talk through. All of these points that we just discussed with you. Because talking to people face-to-face, answering their questions, get, even getting to know what their favorite flavor is, you ask anybody what their favorite flavor of ice cream is.
It doesn't matter if you're 80 years old or eight years old. People get so excited to talk about it. So we know that's going to be we're [00:21:00] gonna see the needle move once we can get in store and do some demos.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. That's one very strong benefit for you is that there's like, 99.9% awareness of what ice cream is.
You don't have to educate on ice cream
Kelly Williamson: positive and a positive emotion tethered to ice cream. You know, it's not a sad food. It's not depressing, it's not seasonal, it's ice cream. Exactly.
Shelly Marshall: It's a number one dessert in the US for a reason.
Jordan Buckner: I love that. Well, I know you definitely have a long journey ahead and can stay fueled with ice cream to keep you going throughout all the good and the bad moments.
So, wishing you both the best luck and excited for the Kickstarter campaign. Tell me a little bit about when the Kickstarter campaign is launching. I think it's gonna, this episode's gonna air right around the launch, so tell us about what your goals are.
Kelly Williamson: It, so our Kickstarter launches a week from today, which, I mean, today's the 28th, so we launch April 4th. It will go for 30 days, so through May 4th, and we are trying to raise $15,000. Hopefully we will hit our stretch [00:22:00] goal of $45,000. We have a lot of fun rewards from scoops and sprinkles and t-shirts and of course, pints of ice cream to be had with every different tier of donation.
And yeah, so all proceeds are gonna be going towards the production of the pints, the packaging marketing efforts, you know, updating our Amazon storefronts, gonna be a big one, website updates, and you know, a bunch of other little things. So every dollar accounts, and we hope that it is a raging success
Jordan Buckner: actually.
And best of luck with their campaign coming up and the ice cream season, which is just around the corner.
Shelly Marshall: Yes, we have to send your daughter some and have her take a cute little t I dunno if she's, you allowed her to be on TikTok or, or Instagram. I love to see It.
Jordan Buckner: Sounds good. I appreciate and can't wait to make it with her.
Absolutely. Thanks for being on. Thank
Shelly Marshall: you, Jordan.