There’s nothing like a scoop of ice cream to counter a hot summer day. But when the rains start to pour and the chilly “-ber” months begin, even ice cream aficionados may have second thoughts about biting into the frozen delight.
But Sebastian’s, a local brand of specialty ice cream, has the recipe to stay profitable regardless of the weather.
Local ice cream maker Ian Carandang, the brains behind Sebastian’s, has been making his own frozen treats since the day he got an old-fashioned churner. Soon he was concocting his own flavors.
These he sold at Hotstix, a family-run restaurant he used to manage. In time, his creations earned a loyal following, including two entrepreneurial friends.
“What prompted me to finally turn it into a business was when Vitto Lazatin and Tony Bondoc approached me. They offered to handle the organizational and logistical aspects so I could focus on the product,” recalled Mr. Carandang. “Looking back, I’ve always been a foodie so falling into this was pretty much serendipity.”
His line of “super premium ice cream” is a mix of atypical flavors, with names like Cookie Dough, Chocoholics Anonymous and Mango Sansrival. Sebastian’s was initially offered to restaurants before the trio decided to serve their custom-churned ice-cream in a store of their own.
“We did this via our scoop shops, the first of which opened in Alabang Town Center. To date, we have branches in the Podium Mall, Trinoma, and SM North Edsa The Block,” Mr. Carandang said. Sebastian’s also has a dine-in ice cream parlor, Cold Comfort, at the SM Mall of Asia.
The stalls, he said, are busiest during the summer months— from March to May— and throughout the US summer movie season, which runs from June to August. “That’s because a big part of our customer base are movie goers. Sales can go up by 25 to 40% more during this period,” he explained.
Ice cream sales are at their leanest from September until the country’s extended Christmas season ends in January. Mr. Carandang understands that ice cream is not a popular Christmas gift because of how it must be kept cold in transit.
But he also believes that ice cream consumption is influenced more by mall-going trends than by the change in weather. “During the summer months and holidays when school is out, sales go up. The same applies when a popular movie is in theaters and people flock to the malls,” he noted.
To keep itself profitable, Sebastian’s resorts to belt-tightening by producing less ice cream in the slow months. “Trying to stay efficient and reducing unnecessary expenses is a year-round priority, not just during the lean period. We also think of promos which attract attention and generate some buzz,” he said.
New products can also help. An example is Fro-Ya — ice cream made with frozen Yakult, a brand of probiotic drink popular among Filipinos. While Fro-Ya doesn’t contain milk or cream, Mr. Carandang claims it is as smooth as Sebastian’s regular ice cream. “It has that tangy-sweet flavor that Pinoys love from regular Yakult. It took me a while to perfect this one,” he said.
Other survival strategies include selling gift certificates and a “create-your-own flavor” contest, which would award the winner with free ice cream for an entire year, in addition to having the new flavor sold at Sebastian’s stalls.
Presentation also plays a role in piquing consumer interest. There’s Chilly Burger, an ice cream cookie sandwich that can be made with chocolate chip, dark chocolate, macaroon, or butter cookie ‘buns’, paired with homemade ice cream and combined with ‘roll-ins’ and fillings like fudge or caramel. Fudge Truffle Burger, a cocoa-rolled, vanilla ice cream, fudge and chocolate chip cookie treat, is the shop’s bestseller.
Sebastian’s also has the Dive Bar, found in Trinoma and SM Mall of Asia, which allows a customer to create his own ice cream novelty. One’s choice of ice cream-on-stick is dipped in chocolate, white chocolate or peanut butter, and coated with nuts, fruits, crushed Butterfinger, or Oreo cookies.
Cold Comfort, meanwhile, has the “Dessert for Breakfast,” a freshly baked Belgian waffle topped with a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream, powdered sugar, whipped cream and maple syrup; “Hot Pot and Dimsum,” ice cream ‘dumplings’ served with dark chocolate fondue; and “Cold Pizza,” a 12-inch chocolate chip cookie sliced and decked with vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, and nuts or candies.
Sebastian’s Ian Carandang may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Raul L. Locsin Building I
95 Balete Drive Extension,
New Manila, Quezon City,
Extensions: 706, 709-711
Direct Line: (632)535-9923
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