Packaging ice cream might sound simple enough, but there are a slew of unexpected challenges. There are strict laws about labeling; having to coordinate with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture; and, not least, the basic challenge of keeping a frozen product frozen.
Katie Heldstab, co-owner of Leona’s Ice Cream, discovered this firsthand, while working to get her company’s lactose-free, 100 percent dairy ice cream into stores.
“Why didn’t I make granola bars? Or bread? Something that’s a little easier to ship,” says Heldstab, laughing. “Alas, we did ice cream ... and it’s delicious.”
Last month, the company known locally for its ice-cream sandwiches released its first round of pints. The flavors include: vanilla, chocolate, fresh mint chocolate, coffee and cinnamon oatmeal lace, as well as a rotating seasonal flavor.
The packaged ice cream is currently available at just a few stores in the region, including the 52nd St. Market, in Lawrenceville, and the Sunny Bridge Natural Foods and Café, in the South Hills, but that number is growing.
True to the company’s aesthetic, the owners opted to package the ice cream in colorful — and frankly, pretty adorable — boxes, rather than the standard cylindrical cartons.
“I remember growing up with boxes of ice cream,” says Heldstab. “That shape evoked a nice memory.”
The box design also allows for more efficient stacking and shelving, which is a big plus when working with limited for space, as Heldstab and her purveyors are.
“We're small, all of our retailers are small, and frozen shelf space is very hard to get,” she says.
The research and design process was another unexpected chore, she adds, but a well-built, aesthetically pleasing result justified the work.
“It took a little bit longer than we would’ve liked it to,” says Heldstab. “But we did it right.”
For a list of retailers carrying Leona’s pints, check out leonaspgh.squarespace.com.