Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I received a response from Rita's Ice Corporate today:

Rita's is presently nut free. However, we are currently developing new menu items that do contain nuts. Prior to any new products containing nuts arriving in our locations we will be sure that our Guests are informed of any changes.

We apologize for any disappointment this may cause. Rita's has researched the topic carefully in order to feel confident with the decision to bring nuts into our locations.

Better go while the gettin's good!


C. August said...

That just seems strange. Is there really a large portion of the ice cream market that thirsts for nut-based product offerings? By not including nuts in their products are they losing a lot of business?

It would be interesting to know more about the market research they have done, and whether they compared the strategy of adding nuts to a strategy of loudly proclaiming and marketing that they are nut-free. Would the nut-free or allergy-friendly market be bigger than what they are trying to gain by adding nuts?

I wonder if being known as the nut-free ice cream place would hurt them in the general market, making it sound like they were some sort of specialty store (like a vegan restaurant or something).

Anyway, it's too bad they're doing this, whatever the reasoning.

Rational Jenn said...

I would love to see the market research. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that people love nut toppings on their ice cream/frozen custard.

But as I said to them in my letter, there is, I think, a real opportunity for a frozen treat company to position themselves in a niche market. Just not them, obviously!

In other words--and I am kind of being flippant here, but--why not make this allergy epidemic work for you? As Brendan pointed out, it's not as if they will lose the business of nut allergic people--they'll lose more business than that, because who goes to eat ice cream at a place like that all alone? So in our case, they're losing 5 customers--only one has the allergy. Will they make up those 5 customers with nut products? I don't know, but that's obviously what they're planning on. Again, I'd love to see the market research--I'm very curious.

When I wrote them, I was careful to name their competitor that we no longer patronize due to the allergy. I also pointed out that when it comes to frozen treat places, Rita's is our only choice, and one we were willing to travel for. And that word-of-mouth advertising was how we learned of their store and why we went there and left some money.

But really, I'm not surprised by their decision. Disappointed, of course, but not shocked. And how could one little letter persuade them, as reasoned as it was, as much as I tried to show them how it could help their business. And maybe our niche market is still too niche--but with peanut allergy on the rise, that niche will (unfortunately) widen. Maybe someone else will figure out how to do it profitably in time. I hope so. If I knew anything about ice cream and had just a little more time, I'd look into it myself!

Oh well. We can make our own ice cream anyway, and there are a few store-bought treats that are safe for us, too. We certainly won't be wasting away due to lack of cool treats. But still--it's too damn bad. You should have seen how excited they were to be there! And we'll definitely go there again until they get the nuts in.

Jennifer B said...

Wow. What a shame! We haven't been to one yet because they aren't very near, and I hate to spend the gas money on the drive. Disappointing to say the least! But, I appreciate your passing this info on.