A Closer Look: Halo Top vs. Ben & Jerry’s

The world loves ice cream…but we hate the calories. So back in 2012 when two lawyers launched Halo Top as a lifestyle ice cream that focused on a lower calorie, lower sugar, high protein product the world rejoiced. In just 5 years, Halo Top has had the distinction of becoming the top selling ice cream brand in over a third of the places where they do business. With 2500% growth, they can say they are the fastest selling ice cream in the U.S. and were recently named the top selling pint ice cream.

Innovation has always been the mother of necessity. Many new products come about because of real needs. In this case the owner and founder of Halo Top had hypoglycemia and still wanted to eat ice cream. He was constantly mixing things in his kitchen that would create a satisfying alternative to his ice cream cravings. And once they launched, there was obviously a market of eager consumers with and without health issues who wanted the same.

A New Premium Ice Cream

Halo Top positioned itself differently as it aimed to enter the premium ice cream category. They were still concerned with the best ingredients – but they were most concerned with a low calorie, high protein alternative. And they were so confident in that position they put the number of calories on the front of the container and made it central to the brand proposition and design. And it worked.

The thing that distinguishes young startup companies and allows innovation are often time and process. Small companies are not hindered by the “big machine” that slows down the speed to market life cycle. They make a decision to do something, they figure it out and they do it. They don’t spend a lot of time getting the machine moving, activating people, getting approvals or writing reports. That ability to act quickly is also the same advantage that allows them to build market share while traditional competitors are getting their arms around how or if they are going to react.

The Empire Strikes Back

Such is the case with the Ben & Jerry’s response to Halo Top. Five years after Halo Top launched – Ben & Jerry’s has finally come out with a counter offer and introduced their Moo-Phoria line of “light” ice cream.

The million dollar question – is it too little too late, or just in time? It’s likely that Ben & Jerry’s will win back some of their loyal fans who left for the angelic calorie glow of Halo Top thanks to the power of the brand. Consistent products, a good price and brand promise attributes will be enough for many.

It’s also likely that Halo Top still continues to dish up the full pint experience sans guilt considering that Ben & Jerry’s calorie callouts are for a ½ cup serving which means that front of pint number needs to be multiplied by 4 – versus Halo’s save the bowl – you can eat the whole pint message.

Innovation is Key

What Halo Top can teach brands of all sizes is the need to stay tuned into the trends and not be afraid to innovate. These innovators saw not only their own need, but the trends driving lower calorie, healthier eating and protein rich foods. Innovators have always found a better way to do what seems like the norm. NatureSweet created a better tomato experience, and Method created better cleaning products. I’m sure Proctor and Gamble didn’t imagine an environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing hand soap would change their market share in the cleaning category. The list can go on.

Big brands are not too big to lose dramatic market share quickly. Every company should have a regular process for innovation and a rapid response team that can deliver speed to market when needed. That will also be important for Halo Top to remember. Ben & Jerry’s was once on top with Halo Top coming from nowhere. Somewhere in the world, the next Halo Top is taking shape through kitchen experimentation… so keep your spoons ready.

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