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We all scream for ice cream, and in the case of Halo Top Creamery, the most loyal fans have crossed over into becoming stans (stalker/fan) of the brand. The most fanatical loyalists pillage the freezer section of grocery stores to buy up as many pints as possible, allowing Halo Top to push past competitors like Breyer’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Häagen-Dazs to become the best-selling pint of ice cream in U.S. grocery stores.
In 2017, the brand released its first commercial, opened its first brick and mortar storefront in Los Angeles (the same city in which the company is based), and landed a spot on Time magazine’s list of best inventions of 2017.
From thousands in debt to millions in revenue, Halo Top’s Cinderella story is the stuff entrepreneurial dreams are made of. Strong sales, great product and positive word of mouth (along with branded hashtags) overflowing on social media. What can startups do to dip into that dreamy sweet spot of their own?
While there’s no real recipe for overnight success, here are a few areas that Halo Top absolutely nails when it comes to starting and growing a business.
Create an irresistible product
Walk down the frozen aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see plenty of ice cream brands packed on the shelves. How does Halo Top stand out from the crowd? By being healthy and guilt-free.
Kind of sounds like a gimmick, doesn’t it? It’s not. The scoop is that founder Justin Woolverton, a former attorney, had dietary restrictions that made eating store-bought ice cream an impossibility thanks to its high sugar levels. After experimenting with recipes, he purchased a $20 ice cream machine to perfect a new formula using a zero-calorie, all-natural sweetener called stevia, a sugar alcohol low in calories called erythritol, and three-quarter cups of air (yes, really!) for every pint.
A year’s worth of trial and error went into the product, but the result was truly a “Eureka!” moment for Woolverton. He had created an ice cream that was low on calories, packed with protein, and was tasty too, encouraging consumers to rethink how they saw and consumed ice cream. Once upon a time, it was rarely purchased, and guiltily at that. Now, it’s a treat with tons of flavors that everyone can enjoy at a price (usually around $6 per pint) to comfortably fit every lifestyle.
Brand your business appropriately
With gold-rimmed lids that may remind consumers of the brand’s halo namesake, each pint of Halo Top is certainly aesthetically pleasing to look at and photograph on social media sites like Instagram. Some of the packaged pints include cutesy phrases like, “Stop when you get to the bottom,” as instructions for how to properly consume the product.
However, one of the strongest aspects of the Halo Top branding strategy has been putting nutrition facts where shoppers can see them. Calorie counts are on the front of the pints, not the back, making them easy to find. This allows shoppers to feel better about the purchase and the brand as a whole — to the tune of 13.5 million pints sold in 2016 alone.
Don’t neglect your social media audience
Since they got their start, one of the greatest tools in Halo Top’s toolbox has been social and digital outreach. Rather than opt for traditional media tactics, Woolverton and his team took their social strategies in-house. They were able to focus their dollars on targeted Facebook advertising to reach ice cream enthusiasts, build valuable partnerships with influencers on Instagram, and made a strong effort to respond to anyone that reached out to them, whether with a question or compliment, in their authentic brand voice.
In turn, they created an army of Halo Top followers who spread positive word of mouth far and wide about the creamery, further endearing themselves to the brand. Halo Top has even maintained that they will continue to keep digital as a high priority for the brand. It sounds simple enough to create and maintain a social presence, but for many startups, it’s tougher than it looks to remain active and transparent. Brands seeking extra inspiration might want to check out the activity on Halo Top’s social platforms — especially if you need a little help figuring out how to carve out your own sweet spot online.