Los Angeles–based sweets brand Coolhaus has extended its customer reach through a new partnership with Kroger grocery stores. Across the U.S., 1,300 Kroger locations will now carry select flavors of the architecture-inspired ice cream sandwiches, as well as its recently launched pints.
Coolhaus cofounder Natasha Case says that her brand’s initial growth through natural and gourmet retailers like Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Fresh Market set it up for success with other grocers.
“Stores like Kroger and Safeway more and more are looking to those premium, gourmet stores as adding in those brands so that they can grow more with their volume,” Case says. “Ours being a very high-performing product, something really original and unique … they recognize that as a great fit and a great seller.”
In its quest to offer more premium products, Kroger solicited information from distributor UNFI, which specializes in natural, organic products and partners with Whole Foods. Whole Foods and other gourmet grocers already sold Coolhaus sandwiches, and soon Kroger approached Case and cofounder Freya Estreller about carrying their products, too.
“We're a Millennial brand; we're the next generation,” Case says. “Our goal is to be our generation's Ben & Jerry's. We're really thinking big and what's great is we've been able to scale [without changing] the quality.”
Beginning with its debut at the Coachella Music Festival in 2009, Coolhaus has had a finger on the pulse for gourmet desserts. Case and Estreller sold their wares via mobile ice cream trucks at the height of the food truck craze. Although it now has a national fleet of nine trucks and two brick-and-mortar shops, the brand’s vehicle for growth is retail relationships, like this newest one with Kroger. By the end of the year, Coolhaus will be sold at roughly 5,000 retail locations. Case says that the food trucks and stores help guide their retail choices.
"They are great R&D kitchens; they're incubators for flavors; they're a place that we can test something and see a response on a much smaller, petite scale,” Case says. “And that data has taught us a huge amount about what to bring to distribution.”
Case and Estreller further bolstered the buzz around their brand with a Coolhaus cookbook and partnerships with trendy restaurants like Umami Burger in Los Angeles and Bareburger in New York. The cofounders have also made deals with other non-gourmet grocers like Smart & Final, Winn-Dixie, and Safeway. Case says these partnerships will be key to expanding Coolhaus from a boutique operation to a global brand.
“That’s the way that we can get our product to anyone around the country and eventually around the world.”
By Nicole Duncan