Ice cream is in a slump. By and large they’re losing out to frozen yogurt and other healthier treats – or that at least seem healthier. Nonetheless, we’ve taken a good hard look at the top ice cream chains and identified the two best ice cream franchise opportunities. We’ll also give you the scoop on other top contenders to give you a full picture on the current ice cream game.
If you’re interested in reading about frozen yogurt franchises, check out our guide to the Best Frozen Yogurt Franchises. For more on franchising in general, check out our guides to Choosing a Franchise and Opening a Franchise.
Best Ice Cream Franchise: Sub Zero Ice Cream
Total Initial Investment: $160K – $381K
No. Existing Locations: 49
Employees Required: 5 to 10
Royalty Fees: 6%
Agreement Length: 10 years
Though a relatively new and unknown franchise, we recommend Sub Zero, in no small part, because they’re one of the only major ice cream franchises that’s growing. Sub Zero was founded in 2004 with the unique idea of making ice cream on the spot with liquid nitrogen. Whereas most ice cream chains have stagnated or declined in the past five years, Sub Zero has almost tripled in size – granted, they’re still fairly small, with only 49 locations.
As one enthusiastic customer pointed out on Franchise Chatter, the freeze-on-the-spot method gives franchise owners numerous advantages:
- Flexibility: The customer gets to choose their cream base, flavors and mix-ins, as well as the firmness of the ice cream.
- Healthy Options: Whereas traditional ice creams stores have just a couple low-fat or vegan options, Sub Zero can mix any milk base (i.e. original, low-fat, yogurt, lactose-free, vegan, etc.) with any flavor.
- Easier Storage: Being made on the spot, you don’t need giant freezers to store ice cream containers.
- A Spectacle: The process behind the counter, which involves liquid nitrogen and clouds of vapor, is a marketing attraction in and of itself.
On the other hand, the fact that it’s made and served behind the counter means you need a larger staff around, especially during peak hours. Also, as a smaller chain, there isn’t much data out there about their current profitability. Nonetheless, given their unique concept and growth, we feel this is one of the best ice cream franchise opportunities currently out there, especially considering their initial investment cost can be as low as $160,000.
Check out this video of a Sub Zero Ice Cream franchise in action:
- See more at: http://fitsmallbusiness.com/best-ice-cream-franchise/#sthash.D4gOQPjV.dpuf
Sub Zero's long awaited patent is officially published! Read about the patent here and check out the actual patent below!
Founders, Jerry and Naomi Hancock were featured in the Deseret News as part of a special religious piece on Mormons on TV. Check out the full article here.
Jerry and Naomi Hancock were featured on KSL 5 News in Salt Lake City as part of a National Ice Cream holiday! The news cast really enjoyed our Sugar Cookie sensation of the month for December!
Fabuluxe always incorporates great desserts in their gifting lounges and this event was no exception to that rule. Sprinkles Cupcakes was present with their ever so delicious, one-of-a-kind treats. Another worthy brand was Sub-Zero, which is famous for creating ice cream through the use of liquid nitrogen, creating a fun show of steam and fascinated faces! And now, on to the gifting!
Los Angeles • Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt, a Utah company that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream in front of customers, set up shop at a celebrity gifting suite this week as part of the 2013 Emmy Awards celebration. Read article here.
Skateboarder, Tony Hawk loved Sub Zero Ice Cream!
QSR Magazine:One's To Watch: Sub Zero Ice Cream-Molecular gastronomy gives this ice cream brand a differentiating factor and room for growth.
Sub Zero Ice Cream serves up theater, science, and frozen desserts, bowl by individual bowl. Each Sub Zero customer selects one of six bases, which include higher-fat premium, custard, or classic, as well as healthier options: low-fat, yogurt, or lactose-free rice and soy milk.... Read Full Article Here.
Delta Sky Magazine
For August, Delta Sky Magazine featured Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt as "Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream that Everyone's Talking About." We hope you saw it if you flew Delta this month!
It only takes a minute for a milky mixture to meld into ice cream beneath a cloud of frigid nitrogen "smoke." Liquid nitrogen ice cream technology can quickly freeze an ice cream base with any add-ins, turning a liquid into a solid as if by magic. Read full article here.
July is National Ice Cream Month, and creameries are still reinventing the classic treat, using organic, hand-crafted ingredients and making the cones, cups and sundaes more delicious than ever. See video here.
Utah magazine considers Sub Zero Ice Cream one of the coolest treats around! See what they have to say. See full article.
From a homemade pie company to dog-friendly cake mix, from gluten-free play-dough to s'more-shaped mini-muffins, ABC's Shark Tank has seen a whole host of food products pitched to investors over the years... Read full article
The new place in town to go for ice cream has a creative method. Sub Zero uses liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze a custom ice cream, at -321 degrees Fahrenheit. The new shop in the lower level center of Eden Prairie Center has been open just over 3 weeks. Staff shows us how it's made here. To learn more about Sub Zero Ice Cream, click here.
Gwen Michael of Chanhassen has some good news for ice cream lovers with food allergies. Michael is opening a Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt shop with a concept that makes going out for ice cream fun and worry free. Not to mention entertaining with a science twist. Read full article here.
Perhaps the biggest in the business is Sub Zero, the 10-year-old chain with 25 locations in nine states. Founder Jerry Hancock says he's planning to add 144 more in Texas and 120 more in Southern California over the next decade.
One of my new favorites is called Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt. It has always been known for being able to produce 37 trillion different flavor options (Don't ask how Jerry came up with that math). They can cater to any taste and flavor the mind and heart would desire.
The liquid nitrogen dazzles as it turns kids’ creations of cream, yogurt, or almond milk, mixed with flavors, fruit, and candy, into a tasty treat, right before their very eyes.
ABC4 news in Utah featured Sub Zero on their news channel. Check out what they thought of the fast frozen treat.
Sub Zero Ice Cream Selected For "The Best Of Utah Valley"
A spokesperson from Sub Zero Ice Cream commented on the recognition: "This is quite an honor for us. The fact that The Daily Herald included Sub Zero Ice Cream in its selection of "The Best Of Utah Valley," signals that our constant efforts towards business excellence are paying off. We are proud to be included in this recognition."
Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt is a franchise organization dedicated to providing gourmet, custom-made ice cream. In 2004, Sub Zero opened in Orem, UT and has since spread throughout the United States and other countries. Quality cream, flavors, and mix-ins are flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen to produce over 34 trillion tantalizing combinations that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Following the publication of Sub Zero Ice Cream's selection for The Daily Herald's The Best Of Utah Valley list, American Registry seconded the honor and added Sub Zero Ice Cream to the "Registry of Business Excellence™". An exclusive recognition plaque, shown here, has been designed to commemorate this honor.
The Huffington Post Food blog raved about Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt's vegan andallergy-friendly food options after visiting our Sarasota, FL location. With many different cream base options and 20+ mix-in options, we can cater to almost any dietary need. And if we can't, bring in your own stuff and we'll freeze it for you! Read full article here.
Daily Herald - Fun with Nitrogen Oct 25, 2012
Sub Zero to Appear on Shark Tank! - Jan 2013
Read the Press Release here. Founders Jerry and Naomi Hancock will appear on an episode of "Shark Tank" that airs Friday, January 11th, 2013 (8:00-9:00 PM MT) on the ABC Television Network. Most Sub Zero Ice Cream locations will be hosting in-store viewing parties with free samples and nitrogen demonstrations.
Now Freezing in San Diego County - Dec 2012
Read about our newest locations in San Diego County!
Allie Mac Kay was live from Sub Zero Ice Cream where they freeze your ice cream in front of you with a blast of liquid nitrogen.
A new twist on ice cream and frozen yogurt is offered at a store in Simi Valley that uses liquid nitrogen to create frozen treats on the spot. This is the first California franchise for the Utah-based company founded in 2004.
Sub Zero in the News! KUTV did a fifteen minute segment on site at our location in Layton, covering the unique freezing process, the educational program, its catering options, and what happens when you freeze objects such as roses and gummy bears.
Combining his chemistry background with a desire to give customers unlimited options, in 2004 Jerry Hancock created a unique flash freezing process to create to order ice cream that customers can customize. Customers choose not only what flavors and mix-ins they want, but also what kind of milk their ice cream is made from (custard, premium, yogurt, rice and soy) and how frozen it is.
September 9, 2010
Chemist makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen
Arizona’s “The Republic,” talks about Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt’s creative flash freezing process. Leon Merkley and Adam Tashman discuss their Sub Zero Ice Cream franchise purchase in Arizona. They mention goals and ambitions for the franchise and why Sub Zero is a great choice for purchasing a franchise.
- The Republic
January 5, 2010
New: Sub Zero Ice Cream
Viewmont High School shares statistical information about ice cream and American consumption. Sub Zero is noted for offering and making fresh ice cream because it isn’t pre-frozen. The process of making Sub Zero ice cream is mentioned and author shares enthusiasm for the new Centerville store. The author rates Sub Zero a 7 out of 8.
- Viewmont High School
December 29, 2009
Small Business Spotlight
KSL selected Sub Zero as “Small Business of the Month!” The article highlights the educational aspects of the company. Sub Zero’s company involvement with schools to promote science and their products is recognized as well.
August 18, 2009
Sub Zero Ice Cream in a (slightly) different location
Illinois State Fair blog mentions Sub Zero’s new location at the fair. The blog entry specifies where the new location is (south end of Food-A-Rama). A video shows the process of how ice cream is made.
- Illinois State Fair
August 16, 2009
New, decadent foods abound at state fair
The State Journal-Register notes Sub Zero Ice Cream as a “decadent” food contributor at the Illinois State Fair. The author talks about the process of how Sub Zero ice cream is made, and interviews employee Ron Spann. Spann talks about allowing customers to interact with liquid nitrogen.
- The State Journal-Register
May 15, 2009
Making the coldest ice cream in the world -- but is it any good?
Popular Mechanics journalist acknowledges Sub Zero Ice Cream’s “creative use of liquid nitrogen.” The article mentions the author’s enthusiasm of ice cream. He discusses the process of making normal ice cream compared to the process of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen.
- Popular Mechanics
April 13, 2009
Ice cream enthusiast reviews Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt. Video shows interview with Idaho Falls franchisee and Sub Zero’sflash freezing process.
- Ice Cream Bloke
November 17, 2008
Business owners doing more for consumers
Idaho Falls News Channel 8 talks about Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt’s success despite failing economy. They mention the company’s motives to excite kids and people about science with their unique freezing process. Idaho Falls franchise owner is interviewed and quoted.
- News Channel 8
Sub Zero Video Media
KSL video features Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt opening in Idaho Falls.
And then there were two - Franchising can multiply and replenish the business community
Utah Valley Business Quarterly highlights Sub Zero as a growing company. The article mentions Sub Zero’s expansion of a second store in Provo. The article notes immediate success in sales with the new store addition.
- Utah Valley Business Quarterly
April 18, 2008
Hollywood house hosts charity
The Daily Universe announces a “Camo Party” at the Hollywood House for charity. Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt is noted as a participant and the promotions they will offer to attendees.
- The Daily Universe
Salt Lake Magazine does a spot on Sub Zero Ice Cream. The article features the creation of Sub Zero Ice Cream and its appearance in Jerry and Naomi Hancock’s New York Burrito franchise in Orem.
- Salt Lake Magazine
January 11, 2008
Sub Zero Ice Cream coming to Provo
The Daily Universe announces the addition of a Provo Sub Zero location. The expansion was made to better serve Sub Zero customers. The article mentions the specific location of where the store will be.
- The Daily Universe
October 31, 2007
Sub Zero Ice Cream owner reinforces science core
Daily Herald announces Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt owner, Jerry Hancock making ice cream in front of 500 students at Spanish Fork Junior High, and performing other scientific experiments involving liquid nitrogen.
- Daily Herald
July 17, 2007
I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream
BYU’s Daily Universe talks about July as National Ice Cream Month. The article gives a brief background on the creation of National Ice Cream Month, and lists fun facts about ice cream related to American consumption. A brief history of BYU’s Creamery is given.
- BYU Daily Universe
Ice cream gets even colder
AAA Traveler’s Companion notes Sub Zero as having delicious ice cream, especially fruit punch and cake batter flavors.
May 13, 2007
Unique ice cream choices abound in Utah County
A brief history and explanation of ice cream shops in Utah Valley are discussed by The Daily Universe. Sub Zero Ice Cream is mentioned as one of the top unique choices to get ice cream. “What could be more fun than watching a scientist make ice cream right in front of you eyes?”
- The Daily Universe
Mmmm...Cryogenically frozen ice cream
Cold Facts Magazine shares the history of how Dippin’ Dots and Sub Zero Ice Cream came to be. The processes of how both companies produce ice cream is mentioned as well as subsequent quotes from Sub Zero’s owner, Jerry Hancock.
- Cold Facts Magazine
October 1, 2005
Orem business uses cryogenic to flash freeze ice cream
Sub Zero’s unique ice cream making process is discussed by The Daily Herald. Owner, Jerry Hancock talks about his business and the efficiencies of liquid nitrogen freezing when it involves ice cream. Jerry speaks of Orem location problems and his marketing ideas to attract more customers.
- The Daily Herald
July 13, 2005
The Science of Sweetness
Owner, Jerry Hancock shares his enthusiasm about science with the Daily Herald and how his love for the subject helped inspire Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt. The author talks about Sub Zero’s unique theme and how it advocates education.
- Daily Herald
January 4, 2005
Orem ice cream parlor uses liquid nitrogen to give a traditional treat a sub-zero chill
The Daily Universe observes Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt owner, Jerry Hancock, make a cup of ice cream for a customer. “As he turns off the nitrogen and begins to stir vigorously, the scene has the look of a mad-scientist's lab, but Hancock’s creation is far from uncommon. It’s ice cream.” Hancock mentions how he got the idea for the store and shares his enthusiasm for the concept of Sub Zero.
- The Daily Universe
November 5, 2004
Ice cream frozen just for you
Deseret News interviews Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt owner, Jerry Hancock. "It's not just ice cream, although that's what we're selling...It's the experience." Deseret talks about the ice cream making process involving liquid nitrogen, and the new store opening in New York Burrito. Customers share their opinions about the ice cream.
- Deseret News