Spirited startup gives ice cream a kick

December 15, 2020

Five years ago, Kentucky native Jennifer Randall-Collins launched Liquorem Holdings—parent company of PRO/OF Alcohol Ice Cream—after getting her hands on an old family recipe for bourbon ice cream.

“In Kentucky, bourbon goes into everything,” Randall-Collins recently told Food Business News. “They put it in all kinds of food. I swear, they even put bourbon in their bourbon.”

Despite her roots in the Bluegrass state, she headed to South Carolina (where the regulatory environment allows for the combination of food and alcohol in one product) to launch a proof of concept. It started with taste tests in local bars and eateries.

“The first thing out of people’s mouth was, ‘Oh my God, where can I buy this?’” she said. “Initially, I was thinking on-premises in bars and restaurants, but the big response from people was that they wanted to buy it at retail.”

The first iteration launched in stores. The combination of classic ice cream flavors with bourbon, rum, or moonshine caught on quickly—and three years later Ms. Randall-Collins and her business partner Dirk Brown bought out their prior investors. They came back to market under the PRO/OF Alcohol Ice Cream brand with the vision of expanding across the country and internationally.

The company currently is in more than 80 stores throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida, and is gearing up to ship internationally in South and Central America. Proof is sold in liquor stores and grocery stores, as well as online through the Touch of Modern e-commerce platform and a new direct-to-consumer website.

“One of the biggest things that fuels our success is getting the spoon in a consumer’s mouth,” Randall-Collins noted. “Once we get them to taste it, there’s returning revenue.”

The brand offers three permanent flavors, mocha chocolate moonshine, strawberry moonshine and bourbon caramel, along with a rotating selection of seasonal flavors. This summer saw the launch of coconut rum and cheesecake moonshine varieties. In September, the company introduced pumpkin spice and apple pie moonshine; followed by pistachio rum, bourbon chocolate cherry, and peppermint moonshine in November.

“Keeping that rotation and keeping the menu fresh and relevant to the seasons has been very helpful for us,” Randall-Collins said.

All the flavors are 7% alcohol by volume (ABV), making each serving akin to a high gravity craft beer. The relatively high alcohol content helps Proof stand out in the emerging alcohol ice cream category.

“When I brought it to market in 2015, to my knowledge and to our intellectual property attorney’s knowledge, there was nobody in the space at the retail market,” Ms. Randall-Collins told Food business News.. “There were folks that were doing what I would call ‘infused ice cream,’ where it’s more of a flavor and not an actual appreciable amount of alcohol.”

Nestle’s Häagen Dazs, for example, offers alcohol ice cream under its Spirits Collection line. The products are made with ingredients like whiskey and rosé wine but are less than 1% ABV.

“We are distinctly different,” Randall-Collins commented. “Alcohol is not a main ingredient like it is in our products. We have had some folks follow us into the market and try to imitate us, which is very flattering and it’s good market validation.”

Research contact: @prooficecream

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