How to Become an Ice Cream Wholesale Distributor

Updated February 21, 2017

Who doesn't know the story of Ben and Jerry, the Vermont guys with more than your average passion for a good bowl of ice cream? These entrepreneurs took their ice cream obsession a step further than most, turning quirky recipes and funny names into one of America's most delicious brands. But the Ben and Jerry mystique might not have spread outside New England had their collective wisdom not encouraged the pair to become wholesale distributors of blends like Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia. Channel your inner Ben and Jerry by following tips in this article to establish your own business.

Understand the buying and selling game. You need good negotiating skills, a talent for knowing what trends in the ice cream business are on the horizon, and a gift for buying at the right price and selling at a profit.

Formulate a business plan for your ice cream distributorship. If you have no experience in this area, turn to a book, the Small Business Association or a friend with know-how. Your business plan should include goals, objectives, a competitor audit, operational plan, funding avenues, marketing and advertising direction and an executive summary with plan highlights.

Secure funding to jumpstart your distributorship and run your business for at least a year. Find a balance between investing personal funds, seeking collateralised loans, selling stock shares in your ice cream wholesale distributorship and other creative underwriting avenues.

Rent a warehouse. Many distributors start out in their basements, but you might be hard-pressed to explain to your spouse why yours was stripped to accommodate wall-to-wall freezers. Subletting a facility already outfitted with everything necessary to handle perishable food is ideal.

Go into the wholesale ice cream market with a clear understanding of how it works. Wholesale food distributors account for about £2.1 trillion dollars in annual U.S. sales. Ice cream products are a large part of the dairy segment and while perceived as a luxury item, there's evidence that sales skyrocket in bad times. Use such facts to help you compete in the wholesale ice cream market.

Comply with all federal and state Department of Public Health food protection, licensing, warehousing and operational requirements and mandates. Expect to be held to a high standard of regulatory laws and prepare for site inspections imposed on all U.S. wholesale distributors. Turn to your state for materials delineating your responsibilities as an ice cream wholesaler.

Pay licensing application fees and expect a pre-qualifying visit from state and local Food Protection Program authorities. You'll be evaluated on the cleanliness of your water supply, plumbing, health and hygiene of personnel, equipment and utensil maintenance, safe food handling practices, temperature controls, sanitation and sanitary practices. The results of this report determine whether or not you're granted a license.

Invest in the best power generator your business budget allows and obtain appropriate insurance coverages for your business. Given the fact that you are working with very fragile inventory, you can't put into place too many checks and balances to keep your inventory and reputation safe and secure.

Start making sales calls to establish a base for the brand(s) you plan to distribute. Retail outlets for ice cream products are as limitless as the flavours posted on the wall of a Baskin-Robbins shop and this is one business where you won't be averse to making cold calls.

Things You'll Need

  • Warehouse
  • Refrigeration equipment
  • Business plan
  • State-mandated licensing
  • Retail clients
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About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.