A newly developed vending machine in the US makes ice cream from scratch while you wait, shows how dairy firms are finding new ways to target consumer demand for convenience.
The MooBella Ice Cream System, recently unveiled in the US, is a three-square-metre vending machine that takes an average 45 seconds to deliver any one of 90 different combinations of real ice cream, according to its inventor, MooBella.
The development is another example of how dairy firms on both sides of the Atlantic are striving to reach on-the-go consumers.
MooBella said its machine, which has already gathered 12 US and six foreign patents, worked by instantaneously aerating, flavouring, mixing and flash freezing ingredients on demand.
Bruce Ginsburg, MooBella president, said the vending machine could transform the frozen dessert industry.
"Ice cream has traditionally been a multi-step, batch process. Besides needing myriad pieces of processing equipment, distribution to consumers is difficult and costly, requiring storage and shipping in sub-zero temperatures."
The firm said its ice cream mix was produced aseptically so did not need refrigerating, while all ingredients were packed in shelf-stable, disposable bags for transportation at room temperature.
Ginsburg said MooBella was also a more convenient way for consumers to get their ice cream fix.
Consumers punch in the code for their chosen 4.5oz (128g) scoop of ice cream, which then emerges in a cup in under a minute. A 'premium mix' using natural ingredients and a 'light' option with half the fat and 25 per cent less calories is also available.
Moobella said it would target colleges, hospitals, cafeterias and foodservice operators with its new vending invention.
A major challenge to the group may, however, emerge from consumer health trends and growing pressure in the US to offer healthy food and drink options in places of work and study.
The US ice cream market has also become much more consolidated in recent years, making it more difficult for small companies to get a foot in by themselves.
Nestlé subsidiary Dreyer's now has a 23 per cent share of the sector, according to the latest figures from ACNielsen, while Dreyer's and Unilever together control more than 40 per cent of the market.
Dreyer's, like MooBella, has also been attempting to capture more sales through convenience trends, and recently developed bite-sized pieces of ice cream called Dreyer's Dibs.