Nightfood Ice Cream hits store shelves next month: 'If you’re already eating ice cream at night, how could you not give it a try?'

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Nightfood Inc.
Photo: Nightfood Inc.

Related tags: Ice cream, Snack

Americans are snacking at all hours of the day and as the evening hours approach, those snack choices tend to take an indulgent turn into the sweet and decadent (according to Mintel). So why not position an ice cream brand to address this nighttime snacking behavior?

That’s the concept behind Nightfood Ice Cream (parent company Nightfood Inc.) which is launching ice cream pints with 'sleep-friendly' ingredients including low-lactose dairy claimed to be easier on the stomach and digestion, decaffeinated coffee beans (for a cold brew coffee flavor), and a specific type of cherry with a higher natural amount of melatonin in its 'cherry eclipse' variety. The pints of ice cream also contain higher amounts of calcium and magnesium that studies have linked to improved uninterrupted sleep quality.

Motivation behind nighttime snacking:

According to Mintel research, the top reason Americans snack is to “treat themselves,” ​prioritizing health over taste when choosing a snack. The market intelligence firm noted that consumers start their snacking off on an nutritional high note, but as the day comes to a close more snackers turn to items that are sweet (30%), comforting (25%), and indulgent (22%).

“Everybody’s got their prism for when they formulate. For us, it’s not about cheap or expensive, it’s not necessarily about being the super lowest calorie, and it’s not necessarily about being super premium. It’s about let’s look at sleep and let’s make a great tasting product that people are going to be comfortable replacing their Ben & Jerry’s with or their Häagen-Dazs where there’s no sacrifice,” ​CEO Sean Folkson told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We want it to taste better, we want to do it without the erythritol or sugar alcohol sweeteners, that was important to us because from a digestion standpoint those are not optimal and they do tend to lead to over consumption.”

Nightfood Ice Cream uses a small amount of zero-calorie monkfruit sweetener in its pints, Folkson added, helping to keep the calorie range between 280 and 400 calories per pint.

Becoming a nationwide brand

Nightfood Ice Cream will be launching its eight sleep-friendly flavors (for an SRP of $4.99 per pint) next month into a major supermarket chain. While Folkson wasn’t able to disclose the name of the chain just yet, he did say that he expects the brand to be available nationwide within one year and that the company is in talks with several other chains who are interested in stocking Nightfood Ice Cream within the next six months.

To drive consumer buy-in, Folkson said the company is being particularly cautious as to not market itself as a purely functional product.

“From a branding standpoint, we don’t like to go out there and talk about milligrams and ingredients. The more we talk about calcium or the more we talk about enzymes and amino acids, I think the more the mainstream consumer is going to be turned off,”​ Folkson said.

And emerging brands such as Halo Top prove that consumers are willing to bet on a new brand walking down the ice cream aisle, according to Folkson.

“Halo Top and others have definitely paved the way and shown us that consumers first off all, are willing to switch. I don’t think people are brand loyal at all,” ​he said.

‘The one pushback that we got was: Do people care about this?’

But will a night-time specific ice cream brand really gain steam and can it gain the same type of fanfare as emerging brands such as Halo Top low-calorie ice cream and Talenti premium gelato?

“The one pushback that we got was do people care about this? And my belief is that while people may not be walking around every day saying I need to find a better ice cream for night time, I think that when they see Nightfood on the shelf and it says ‘nighttime ice cream’, we feel that’s it’s going to stop people dead in their tracks,”​ Folkson told FoodNavigator-USA.

“If you’re already eating ice cream at night, how could you not give it a try?”​ he said.

Folkson has experienced products that didn’t quite catch on as a night time snack. In 2015, Nightfood Inc. launched nutrition bars​ but the company learned that a bar wasn’t a consumer's first choice as a go-to snack when winding down at the end of the day.

“We really never found the traction that we were hoping for with the bars and the reality is that nutrition bars are not something that people eat at night,”​ Folkson explained.

“We know the most popular stuff is cookies, chips, ice cream, and candy, and to get people to switch to bars was I think in retrospect, too much friction.

“That’s why when we decided to launch ice cream I wanted to remove every ounce of friction that we can because the only thing standing between us and a billion dollar market cap is consumer friction.”

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Sugar Alcohol

Posted by James Sklar,

I read that this ice cream contains a sugar alcohol. Unfortunately this type of sweetener causes bloating, gas and diarrhea. Not sure this agrees with sleeping...

Why not simply use stevia, a natural zero glycemic sweetener?

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100% marketing?

Posted by Jennifer Kaplan, Instructor, Introduction to Food Systems, Culinary Institute of America,

Clever, but I'm not sure this is a market maker. What are the defensible or proprietary 'sleep-friendly' ingredients? Trace melatonin from cherries? Decaf coffee? Low-lactose dairy? From what I read, the only true product differentiation is positioning. I suspect this positioning, if it gains traction, will be tough to defend against existing competitors. Also, not sure it, like their bars, will actually find the traction they are hoping for.

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