How to Throw the Perfect Ice Cream Tasting Event

Want customers and food bloggers to scream for your ice cream? Try throwing a tasting event.
Determine a goal and pinpoint a target audience to have the most success at your store's ice cream tasting event. (Photo: All kind of people/Shutterstock)

Just like a wine tasting, an ice cream or frozen yogurt tasting event can build buzz around your brand and bring in new customers.

Tasting events allow consumers to experience the “adventure of eating,” said Freya Estreller, cofounder of Coolhaus, which has a national fleet of 10 mobile ice cream trucks and carts and hosts ice cream making classes at its Culver City, California, location.

Tim Allen, vice president at public relations firm TransMedia Group, works with San Bernardo Ice Cream promoting the brand’s creative flavors (such as cannoli or red cactus pear). With ice cream, he said, “it all comes down to the taste, especially when we’re trying to promote such unique flavors.” Getting customers and critics to sample those tastes is key to getting them hooked.

Related: Creative Marketing Ideas to Make Your Ice Cream Shop Stand Out


Use tasting events as market research by showcasing new flavors and promotions, says Freya Estreller, cofounder of Coolhaus. (Photo: Freya Estreller)

Decide on a goal and a target audience

Decide what you want to achieve with your ice cream tasting event, Allen suggested. Are you looking to increase foot traffic to your shop? Get publicity from food bloggers? Do you mainly want to test new flavors?


Inviting bloggers to your tasting event for free will lead to more publicity, says Tim Allen, vice president at TransMedia Group. (Photo: Jake Mazzone)

Ice cream tastings are great for market research, said Estrella. “It’s definitely a way to showcase aspects of your business brand and flavors that people don’t know about.” Gauging tasters’ reactions can help you decide to move forward with a particular flavor.

Based on the goal of your tasting event, define your target audience. If you’re targeting potential customers, it helps to know who they are. “If you don’t know your audience, any promotions you do are not going to see you any return on your investment,” said Allen.

His suggestion: Research. A short, low-cost social media ad campaign will provide insight into the demographic breakdown of who is interested in your products and where they live, he said.

Invite influencers

For San Bernardo’s first tasting event, Allen decided to focus on promoting the Italian Escapes product line to industry influencers. “When we were looking at innovative ways to promote this, we started thinking about bloggers and how influential food bloggers can be now.”

Table 87 Pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York (which was featured on Shark Tank) was selected as the event location. “Brooklyn historically has a very large Italian population. We thought we’d make it relevant,” he said. “It was an opportunity for the pizzeria to showcase their pizzas and then also for us to have all the Italian flavors of the ice cream as well.”

Allen invited bloggers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “They were basically going to get a free lunch. That’s what drove people in,” he said. Having the owner present was also a big draw. “While they were there they got to meet the owner, which doesn’t happen very often with larger companies.”

“At the end we got a ton of free publicity, which was fantastic. It went in blogs, local media and we had people that weren’t able to make it ask us to send them samples.”

Related: Think You Know Your Customers? Do Some Customer Research to Make Sure

Whiskey and Lucky Charms (Irish Breakfast) ice cream for Coolhaus’ collaboration even with Jameson. (Photo: Coolhaus)

Bring in a partner

A cooperative approach to a tasting has great potential benefits for both businesses, noted Estreller. “Bring in a collaborative brand partner so that you can access their audience as well. There’s obviously mutual benefits because you’re bringing your audience to them, too.”

One of Coolhaus’ more successful events, aimed at adults, was a collaboration with Irish whisky brand Jameson. “They did a whiskey tasting with their different types of whiskeys and then we made Jameson ice cream that paired with those whiskeys,” she said.

Tell a story

“From an educational point of view, when people go to wine tastings they like to know what’s gone into the development of that wine,” said Allen. At the Table 87 Pizzeria event, San Bernardo’s owner gave a brief intro to the brand. “We felt it was relevant to tell the story of what went into that pint of ice cream, where it came from or why they chose to go for that certain flavor.”

Your ice cream is unique, and so is your brand. Brand storytelling can help customers fall in love with your brand, and your product.

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