Originated from Brooklyn, the brand was acquired by India-based Graviss Good Foods, a part of The Graviss Group, in late 2019.
It was then revamped into a better-for-you ice cream brand, establishing a sizeable online presence in India during the pandemic. Soon after borders reopened, the brand ventured into the Middle East, a region where the brand is now actively expanding in.
The Brooklyn Creamery’s line-up ranges from single-portion ice cream cups to 450ml pints, bonbons, chocolate-coated bars, fresh fruit popsicles, giant cookie sandwich, chocolate fudge sundae, and more.
“The interesting thing about the Middle East market is the diverse buying behaviours and product preferences. For example, there is a group of people who buy everything through their phones, without ever going to a supermarket. On quick commerce platforms, the tubs and bonbons perform best as they are good for sharing.
“In a high street store, products like ice cream cups and mini cones are common impulse buys because people want to eat them immediately. On the other hand, multi-packs do well in supermarkets and big-box stores, as people usually stock up on these during their grocery run. Therefore, locality and sales channels play a very important role in the SKUs that we sell,” Romil Ratra, CEO of Graviss Good Foods, told FoodNavigator-Asia.
In this region, the brand’s best-sellers are chocolate-coated bars and bonbons.
“As the bonbons are doing so well as a format, we will be creating a version just for this market and a Christmas special edition.”
The Brooklyn Creamery is currently available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Riyadh, with plans to enter at least three more markets in the Middle East by April.
“We have gone into Mauritius and Maldives. There are also massive opportunities in South East Asia (SEA), so we are in talks to set up a team in Singapore like how we did in the UAE. We hope to land in SEA by June,” Ratra shared.
Tailored to the market
When it comes to flavours, conventional ones like chocolate, strawberry and vanilla remain crowd favourites.
“Chocolate reigns supreme everywhere, so we do a fair amount of innovation with it. In fact, all our ranges have a chocolate product. At the same time, we found that Middle East consumers, especially those between 18 and 28 years, are very open to trying new flavours.
“Dubai, or the UAE in general, is a tourist destination and has a relatively large expat population. Global travellers tend to be more receptive to experimental or exotic flavours. We have seen that each time we launch new products like the bonbons and cookie sandwiches, they do exceedingly well,” said Ratra.
In addition, he cited the example of a mango sticky rice-flavoured ice cream that was a hit in the market, but did not perform as well in others because “Thai food was not as understood and popular”.
The sales and feedback have boosted the firm’s confidence to constantly expand the range of products offered in the Middle East.
“Previously, we launched Alphonso mango and mint fudge cookie flavours, both of which we underestimated the response. We brought in around 30 days of stock, but they sold out in six days. I think consumers who trust a brand are more than willing to try new flavours. We are seeing repeat orders, and that’s the best validation we can get.”
Ratra believes the key is in understanding the target audience and making sure that their needs are met.
“We spend a lot of time on product development because we don’t subscribe to one-size-fits-all. Our biggest advantage is that as a group, we have been making ice cream for almost 80 years. We have the ability to do smaller runs of special flavours and tweak our recipes for a specific market.
“We spare no effort in visiting stores, sitting at ice cream parlours, and talking to consumers to know what they are buying. It’s not possible to run a business without truly understanding what your customers want. You can’t sit in an office or a lab to figure that out.”
Healthy eating here to stay
Recognising a growing pool of health-conscious and gym-going consumers in the Middle East, The Brooklyn Creamery has introduced several keto, vegan, low-calorie and high-protein products to the market.
“Since the pandemic, there has been a large awakening that our health sits in the gut. Although consumers still like to indulge in sweets occasionally, there is definitely a shift towards cleaner, healthier food choices, as well as a demand for premium and gourmet options in this category.
“There is a common perception that taste and health are mutually exclusive. To break that myth, we spent about a year focusing on taste. Our products have no added sugar nor sugar substitutes, such as palm sugar or jaggery, which are typically assumed to be healthier.”
Ratra explained that while these sugar substitutes are “cleaner”, they are not exactly low-calorie and may not suit people who require a low-glycaemic index diet.
The firm is said to have delayed launches for three to six months due to products that do not align with its better-for-you promises.
“We had developed a waffle ice cream sandwich that tasted and looked great, but there was no way to make it without using sugar, so the idea was dropped.
“As the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Food is personal, and we believe eating with joy is essential to eating better. Our mission is to offer choices and create enjoyable food experiences for everyone, no matter what their dietary preference or health journey may be,” Ratra added.