‘Our closest competitors are all private equity owned and in the market share business; we’re family owned, so we’re in the ‘We better be profitable’ business…’

But while there have been some hairy moments over the years, McConnell’s​ Fine Ice Creams​ has managed to stay in the game and maintain slow but steady growth by focusing on what it does best: making decadent, high butterfat dairy ice cream with signature flavors from Eureka Lemon and Marionberries, to Turkish Coffee, and the lowest overrun (air) in the business.

Allof our closest competitors on a national and even regional level are all private equity owned, so they’re effectively in the market share business,” ​observes CEO Michael Palmer, a winemaker who acquired McConnell’s in 2012 with his wife Chef Eva Ein when it was on the verge of bankruptcy, and now supplies a couple of thousand grocery stores as well as its own scoop shops in southern California.

“We’re family owned – the only one that I know that still is – so we’re effectively in the ‘We better be profitable’ business.”

On the one hand, he says, knowing you can’t throw money around like there’s no tomorrow “makes us very rigorous.” ​On the other hand, however, it can sometimes feel a bit like “the deck is stacked against you,” ​he adds. “They’re gobbling up market share because their intention is to sell that brand in three to five years, whereas we’re trying to make a profit and be a real business ​[for the long term].”

High butterfat, low overrun, differentiated flavors…

While small fry compared to some of the players in a category dominated by multinationals (Unilever, Nestlé et al) McConnell’s is a complex vertically integrated business, which makes all of its own ice cream (and co-packs for some other brands) from a factory in Oxnard supplying grocery stores and restaurants, but also owns and operates six scoop shops and runs an e-commerce business.

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