'Super-premium' ice cream chain finally opens in PH

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 24 2013 11:15 AM | Updated as of May 25 2013 04:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Barely a year after Haagen Dazs closed its stores in the Philippines, "super-premium" ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery is opening its first store here.

Cold Stone Creamery, located at Serendra in Bonifacio Global City, is hoping Filipinos will fall in love with its unique ice cream creations.

In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, Michael McGill, president of international at Kahala, said there is a demand for super-premium ice cream in the Philippines which bodes well for the US chain's success here.

Michael McGill, president of international at Kahala

"The economic climate in the Philippines is really at a great position for our brand now. There's an emerging middle class in the Philippines and also the sense of, there isn't a super-premium ice cream concept in the Philippines. So we felt we can come here and fill the need of ice cream lovers here," he said on Thursday. Kahala, which owns Cold Stone Creamery, is one of the fastest growing franchising companies in the world.

McGill sees the exit of Haagen Dazs as a chance for Cold Stone to be the only "super-premium" ice cream brand in the Philippines.

"We love ice cream competition and I'm sorry they left the country but we see this as an opportunity for our brand to really appeal to the masses, with our unique experience, our ice cream is made fresh in the store every day. We offer 11.5 million combinations of ice cream creation. We have a unique service style... These factors are what sets us apart from any competition," he said.

Cold Stone opened its first international store in Japan in 2005, followed by an aggressive expansion in Asia. Now, it has over 1500 stores in 20 countries.

But why has it taken nearly seven years for the ice cream chain to open in the Philippines? McGill said it took some time to find the right partner here. Arizona Ice Cream Corp., a unit of Trimark Holdings, holds the Philippine franchise for Cold Stone.

"With Trimark, we found we had the right partner in the Philippines that would help grow and develop the brand - bbviously their record of success with the diversity of brands that they have, their ability to take retail companies into Philippines and make them successful," he said.

Philippine flavors

Cold Stone offers a wide range of ice cream flavors which are made fresh daily and mix-ins, which are mixed on a granite stone chilled to 16 degrees Fahrenheit. McGill noted that a Harvard University doctoral study calculated that 11.5 million Cold Stone creations are possible.

Cold Stone Creamery opens its first store in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Among the sample creations on the menu are "Birthday Cake Remix," "Peanut Butter Cup Perfection," and "Coffee Lovers Only." Any customer can go in and choose an ice cream flavor and pick any mix-in to go with it.

"I think the great thing about the Philippine market is that everyone loves ice cream. I think the great thing about cold stone is that we appeal to all classes of people, all walks of life. If you look at our product line we offer gourmet ice cream cakes to very simple ice cream creations and we offer them at price points that we feel will allow all customers in the Philippines to enjoy our product," McGill said.

The price ranges from P95 for a "Lick It" scoop of ice cream to P200 for a large "Love It" ice cream creation.

McGill said Cold Stone always tries to bring a bit of local flavor to its internationals stores. In the Philippines, Cold Stone included dried mango and Hany milk chocolate as mix-ins.

"Every market we go into, we want to offer mix-ins and flavors that are local to the market. For example, one of the mix-ins we offer here is dried mango. That's a mix-in we don't offer anywhere else in the world," he said.

McGill said Cold Stone will also ask for feedback from Filipino customers. "We want to hear from them what are some ice cream flavors that are local or candies or fruits that we can use to create Philippine-type creations," he said.

With the wide array of flavors, it is interesting to note that four flavors are the most popular in almost every country, but only one is unique to Cold Stone.

"The four most popular flavors are the same, vanilla, chocolate strawberry and the fourth one is actually a flavor that Cold Stone invented called cake batter. Cake batter is a flavor that Cold Stone invested fifteen years ago," McGill said.

Another unique aspect of Cold Stone is that its service staff usually break out in song and do tricks while mixing the ice cream.

McGill said they don't interview their employees but ask them to "audition."

"They come and we'll ask them to sing, do something funny because we want to see their personality. One thing we pride ourselves is we like to make people happy. If our crew members are happy and they enjoy their jobs, that's going to rub off on the customers and they're going to have a great experience as well," he added.

More stores coming soon

A second branch of Cold Stone will open at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City in June. McGill said there are plans to open 2 more this year, although the locations are yet to be determined.

In the next five years, McGill said they are targeting to have 10 Philippine stores, but this can still be increased, depending on the demand.