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How to Overcharge and Have Customers Coming Back for More

The recent heat wave in Los Angeles has prompted me to think not of global warming, but a rather more pedantic subject – ice cream.  In particular Jeni’s Splendid ice cream.

I had purchased the “Whiskey and Pecans” flavor at my local Whole Foods after reading about it in Fast Company.  In addition to the incredible taste, what was most remarkable was the price.  $13 a pint.  By the way, a 1.5 quart tub of Dreyers is often on sale for less than $4.  That’s right –Jeni’s is 10x more expensive per ounce – 81 cents to 8 cents for Dreyers.

Yet, Jeni’s is on track to sell more than a million pints this year.

How is that possible?

It’s all about the underlying vision, value proposition and company execution in creating the product.  Jeni Britton Bauer’s vision for her ice cream was completely different from any ice cream that had preceded it.   She believed that ice cream should be more akin to “edible perfume – butterfat melts on contact with your tongue and releases scent into your nose.”

As importantly, she executes her vision in a way very consistent with what her target audience (I did buy it at Whole Foods!) would expect of an ultra premium ice cream:

  • The ice cream uses “grass-grazed Ohio milk from a family of small farms within 200 miles of our kitchen.” Why? Cows who eat grass produce more flavorful milk.
  • The chocolate comes from Shawn Askinosie, who engages in “small batch direct trade” with cocoa growers in Tanzania, Ecuador, Honduras and the Phillipines. And, he shares his profits with the farmers, too.
  • The vanilla comes from “Lulu Sturdy’s Fair-Trade-and Organic-Certified farm in Africa”
  • The fruit in the fruit flavors come from “Hirsch Fruit Farm, an hour’s drive south of our kitchen, which has been growing apples, pumpkins, and more for 125 years.”
  • My Whiskey and Pecans ice cream included whiskey made from the Columbus, Ohio micro-distillery, Middle West Spirits, which uses only “100% soft red winter wheat grown in Ohio”.

After a while, the bullet points do sound like something out of the “J. Peterman Catalogue” from a Seinfeld episode.

Nevertheless, Jeni’s is a certified B corporation, which is a certification conferred by the nonprofit B Labs as having metrigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In essence, B Corporations are to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee.  Jeni’s talks the talk AND walks the walk.

Jeni’s prescription for success is:

  • A very unique value proposition
  • Very distinct and precise communication of that value proposition
  • Verified consistency with that value proposition in every aspect of the company’s operations
  • A clear understanding of their target audience
  • A price point that their audience accepts, and allows them to do business on their own terms

What is yours?

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