Offbeat Treats

The trend for bizarre flavor combinations has extended into the ice cream space. This includes limited-edition novelties created through partnerships pairing corporate owners of food brands with smaller specialty ice cream marketers known for their unusual flavors:

  • The latest iteration involves Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, a brand of the Kraft Heinz Company, in a collaboration with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream of Brooklyn, New York. The flavor was released on July 14, National Macaroni & Cheese Day, and sold through Van Leeuwen’s online shop and its physical stores in four states. Supplies had to be replenished after the first batch sold out quickly.
  • French’s worked with Coolhaus to produce a limited-edition yellow mustard–flavored ice cream for National Mustard Day in August 2019 that one reviewer described as “blindingly yellow and upsettingly good.” French’s is owned by McCormick & Company.
  • Another Coolhaus collaboration, this one with Mondelez’ Ritz brand in September 2020, resulted in a Crackers and Cream flavor featuring Ritz Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches in a peanut butter ice cream base. (This example does not seem all that odd in comparison to the others, but it generated a lot of press for its uniqueness at the time.)
  • Back in 2018, Davey’s Ice Cream in New York City offered two collaborative flavors with Président Cheese, one incorporating the brand’s Creamy Brie along with roasted garlic and caramel, and the other integrating its Feta with guava curd and spiced pie crust crumble. The first was available at the shop’s Manhattan location and the other at its Brooklyn location, with both available for delivery.

Several brands of beer have also been featured in ice cream partnerships, a combination that might have been considered odd in the past but now seems normal.

As indicated by these examples, which have occurred over a span of more than three years, such pairings are still relatively few and far between. They are typically meant to be the central focus of promotional events that spur a conversation around the two partner brands and generate significant publicity. While they often lead to quick sell-outs (generating more media buzz), few turn into ongoing flavor options.

It would not be surprising if more unusual corporate-licensed ice cream collaborations focusing on odd flavor pairings popped up over time. Flavors that have appeared in non-licensed forms include pickle (e.g., at Baskin Robbins in 2020) and tomato-oregano-basil pizza (at Little Baby in Philadelphia, starting in 2017), among many others. And several ice cream makers have taken it upon themselves to use branded ingredients in special-edition flavors. Several Texas ice cream shops used Hot Cheetos as toppings, swirls, or mix-ins in 2020, for example, while Lake Effect Ice Cream in Buffalo launched a chicken wing flavor featuring Frank’s Red Hot as a key ingredient in 2019. All of these efforts could pave the way to future official collaborations.

Note that some of these offbeat-but-real flavors are not that different from the concepts that corporations sometimes throw out into the universe on April Fool’s Day. Press releases marking that holiday have put forth fake concepts ranging from Tapatio Ramen ice cream (in 2020) to a Kentucky Fried Chicken frozen treat (2019).

Flavor-based corporate tie-ins such as these are part of a broader, ongoing trend for corporations of all types to pair with ice cream makers for promotional purposes.

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