Dippin' Dots, Futuristic Ice Cream-Maker, Files for Bankruptcy

The immediate future of the "ice cream of the future" is in doubt.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Dippin' Dots, the pelletized ice cream company, has filed for Chapter 11. This summer, I profiled Curt Jones, the founder and chief executive of Dippin' Dots, who founded the company after working with bacteria and liquid nitrogen. At the time of my writing, there were already trouble signs, such as the company's decision to rein in its fledgling storefront business. But Jones also expressed excitement for new beaded products that would move the company beyond ice cream into coffee and even alcoholic beverages.

Here's the heart of my profile, including the patent to super-freeze ice cream into small beads:

TOO DARN COLD?

Dippin' Dots' chief asset -- its funny-looking pelletized technology -- is also its chief liability. Simply put: It's too darn cold.* Home freezers tend to be about zero degrees Fahrenheit. Supermarket freezers are often colder, around negative-10 degrees. That's good enough for regular ice cream. But Dippin' Dots must be stored at 40 degrees below zero without losing their eponymous dotness. So the product cannot sell in most supermarkets or live in most freezers.

dots.pngToday the company website carries the following instruction: "All online orders are shipped using Dry Ice and must be delivered to you within two days." Jones is trying to develop a higher temperature product that can sell in markets and doesn't require that families buy Dry Ice.

Dippin' Dots recently developed a line of coffee products it calls Forty Below Joe. The product doesn't look so different from chocolate Dippin' Dots: dark espresso dots made from Brazilian and Guatemalan Arabica beans served in a plastic cup.

"All of our coffee products are what we call high-temp," said Billie Stuber, a spokesperson. "Our coffee products can be held at a higher temperature, like a freezer."
A pelletized coffee product might strike you as a dead-zone -- too old for kids ("Mom, what's an espresso bean?") and too young for adults who prefer their coffee in mugs rather than ice cream cups. But Stuber insisted that it has tested positively testing in theme parks across the country, like Universal Studios in Hollywood and Jolly Roger park...

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Read the rest here.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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