Customization of Jeremiah’s Italian Ice softens the brand’s appeal in the dessert space

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, an 89-unit franchise brand expanding primarily in the Southeast, plans to open 40 more stores next year.

The dessert space has become a crowded domain, with ice cream brands, donut shops and cookie shops dotting cities across the country. A mark, however, clears the way for the soft serve to enter the fray.

Jeremiah’s Italian ice cream founder, Jeremy Litwack, was introduced to Italian ice cream on the New Jersey boardwalk while in high school, and he ended up selling Italian ice cream from a cart. outside the Philadelphia Mint.

“He loved the idea of ​​being able to sell a treat that makes just about everyone smile,” Devin Schneider, director of brand development for Jeremiah’s, told in a phone interview. “Who’s not happy selling ice cream?”

Litwack studied marketing at the University of Delaware and rented a warehouse in 1992, where he worked on his own gelato formula to combine fresh fruit, fruit puree, filtered water and sugar. . He saw an untapped market for ice cream in the Southeast and set up a small food truck and ice cream cart. Once Litwack felt he had the formula in place, he checked out some markets in Georgia before looking for a base of operations in Florida.

He eventually landed in Orlando and opened his first Jeremiah’s Italian Ice in Winter Park in 1996. Over the next 10 years, he opened two more stores in the Central Florida area, while receiving non-stop franchise requests. .

“He wanted to be slow and strategic in his initial growth to make sure he had it all figured out,” Schneider said.

Litwack continued to develop more flavors and treats. Today, the company has developed more than 40 flavors.

After running three stores for 10 years, Litwack seized the opportunity to build Jeremiah’s on a national scale, making sure to solve all the problems in his business before creating a franchise and building a corporate team.

In 2018 the brand partnered with Pivotal Growth Partners, and in 2019 a franchise program was launched. In his first year as a franchise, Jeremiah signed 100 deals.

“The quality of the product, the energy of our team, the culture of our stores and our teams was really infectious,” said Schneider. “We just had a ton of demand and interest in the franchise program.”

Today, there are 89 Jeremiah’s Italian Ice stores in the United States in eight states, mostly in the Southeast. Of these, 19 are corporate units and the others are franchises.

The menu

Jeremiah’s offers three main courses on the menu: over 40 flavors of Italian gelato ranging from fruity flavors, like strawberry, blueberry and a Key West tropical, to rich flavors like cookie butter, café latte and tarte à la pumpkin ; high quality soft ice cream with vanilla, chocolate and a swirl and gelati, the layering of Italian gelato and soft serve ice cream.

A secret menu is available on the brand’s loyalty app, which has 450,000 members, creating flavors like Caramel Apple, which mixes salted caramel ice cream, apple and vanilla ice cream.

Finally, there are layers, like mini chocolate chips, Oreo cookie crumbs, and cookie butter crumbs.

“It’s relatively simple; however, the customization for guests and the options they have access to in terms of flavor profiles is pretty much endless, which is what makes it so cool,” Schneider said.

Growth and process

Growth will continue in the Southeast, as the brand is still relatively new in some of those states. Outside of Florida, the biggest growth market is Texas, particularly the Houston area.

“Process is key. Process brings speed,” Schneider said when asked how Jeremiah’s maintains continuity across the brand as it grows. “We always remain available and flexible to work one-on-one with our franchisees, but we have a lot of systems and processes and oversight to make sure our standards are being met not just in product quality, but also in the culture that is felt. in our stores and the energy felt without our stores for our customers. Our aim is to ensure that we pick up tasty experiences no matter where we are and that is extremely important to us. We keep our brand standards close to our hearts and so we’re looking for franchisees that we believe align with that culture from the start.”

Franchise Consultants work with franchisees to help ensure consistency and maintenance of brand culture, as well as area representatives who also assist with this.

Schneider says the Jeremiah product stands up to any other Italian gelato and does well in a competitive market. The quality is superior, he said, and the standards for the company’s overall business model are high.

“We make sure our product is always the best, most refreshing and enjoyable ice cream you can find,” he added. “On top of that, we feel that our brand itself is a big part of the selling point. We like our locations to be very energetic, bright (and) dynamic, even down to the music. We’re very specific about it.”

Franchisees are expected to be part of their communities. “It is extremely important that we become more than a financial transaction for our customers and that we are a place to create lifelong memories,” Schneider added. “We have been very lucky over the years and we even see in some markets that we are the first date place. Sometimes we are the place where you ask someone to marry you. “after-church or after-school hangout. Those kind of lasting memories that we want Jeremiah to be a place for.”

By the end of the first quarter of next year, Jeremiah’s is expected to reach its 100th store. In 2023, the brand plans to open 35 to 40 locations.

“We’ve always chosen to be cautious…but we’ve still managed to maintain an exciting rate of growth over the past few years, as evidenced by the number of stores we have,” Schneider said. “We’ve opened a number of incredibly successful locations and it’s really exciting.”