Lori Joyce received a chilly response when she pitched a national grocery chain her idea for a premium, high-fat ice cream made with traceable cream and zero preservatives. “When I first met with them, they said, ‘What makes you think you can go up against someone like Nestlé? They own the category and they’ll bleed you dry with the marketing dollars they’re going to put into it,’” she recalls.
The entrepreneur’s reaction was instant. “You obviously don’t know me,” she said at the time. “I love that you told me that. My goal is to be the staple ice cream that’s in everybody’s freezer.”
Joyce, who, in 2002, co-founded the successful B.C. retail chain, Cupcakes, and co-starred in the Gemini Award–winning series Cupcake Girls, is confident Betterwith Ice Cream can go cone-to-cone with leading premium ice cream brands. She believes the category is ready for a strong challenger brand. “There’s been disruption in every other category except for this one. I’m a disruptor, and I felt it needed it.”
Betterwith was originally conceived as an in-store brand for Cupcakes (as in cupcakes go better with ice cream), but Joyce quickly realized she would need to produce a minimum of 60,000 pints of ice cream to make it financially viable. “When I did the math, I realized I needed to get some big accounts,” she says. “I needed to get into grocery fast.”
Joyce hired Vancouver agency 123w to oversee branding and design and, this past December, she launched Betterwith in Whole Foods and Choices Markets in the west, and on online grocery site Spud.ca. To date, she’s invested around $400,000 into the launch.
With any luck, the investment will pay off. But Betterwith enters a market that has cooled over the past decade. The Canadian Dairy Information Centre (CDIC) says annual consumption of ice cream fell from 9.85L per person in 2005 to 4.79L per person in 2015, largely due to consumers’ desire for less fattening treats and a lack of innovation in the category.
Joyce says Betterwith is the only preservative-free ice cream and is made with traceable milk sourced from the family-owned Lavender Farm in Abbotsford, B.C. Betterwith’s butterfat content is between 16% and 18% higher than mainstream ice cream brands, positioning it as an indulgence item.
For Joyce, quality and traditional flavours trump trendiness. There’s been a surge in what she calls “funky” flavours catering to millennial consumers, but she’s targeting a different demographic: kids and adults 55 and older, the leading consumers of ice cream.
At the moment, Betterwith is available in six flavours (cream, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, caramel and coffee) and Joyce plans to add six more “old school” flavours this year. Currently, she’s producing about 3,000 cases per month, and is aiming for sales of $1 million in the brand’s first year.
Joyce envisions the brand expanding into other food categories but, for now, she’s building a foundation—in ice cream—on home turf. “As much as I want to play with the big guys, I absolutely keep my feet on the ground,” she says. “I want to stay local as long as possible.”