Mochi ice cream is quickly becoming America’s fastest growing frozen novelty item.
Although the Japanese rice dough dessert has existed for centuries, it's now one of the top-selling frozen treats in grocery stores in the U.S. My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream has taken advantage of that expanding market. Since starting in spring 2017, the brand's mochi — portable 110-calorie ice cream bites held in small balls of Japanese rice dough — are now in more than 12,000 stores nationwide, including Walmart, Safeway, Wegmans and Kroger.
As the market for the product continues to grow, My/Mo has built a snacking platform that is focused on product development. The company has launched three new types of mochi, including non-dairy, vegan and ice cream pints with mochi bits. But to keep up with the competition, the company continues to launch even more new products.
On Wednesday, the brand announced its latest product innovation, a new triple layer mochi coming to grocery stores nationwide in early 2019. The new product contains the traditional mochi dough exterior wrapped around ice cream with a new center layer. The new triple layer mochi comes in four flavors: chocolate sundae, vanilla blueberry, chocolate peanut butter and dulce de leche.
Craig Berger, CEO of My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, spoke with Food Dive about the company's latest triple layer innovation, the frozen treat's continued growth in the market and what's next for the brand.
This Q&A has been edited for brevity.
FOOD DIVE: Why did you decide to launch this new triple layer innovation?
CRAIG BERGER: My/Mo continues to grow at an extraordinary pace and the consumer adaption is truly unparalleled and our fans are actually hungry for more. So we like to wow our consumers and thought that between the texture, the flavors and the colors ... this would be something that would definitely wow the consumer. This is very much different from anything else that's in the marketplace also, so it really is true innovation in the frozen novelty category. So we'll be first to market around January of 2019.
Why do you think it will be popular among consumers?
BERGER: Between the texture of the product, the colorful look of the product and the unique flavors, it's going to be a grand slam. It's something that the consumers have never seen before and they're looking for something very unique and we believe this is it. We did actually put out some of the flavor potential offerings to consumers and got some feedback from consumers and that's how we wound up with the four flavors that will launch in January.
How did you come up with the idea for the three layers?
BERGER: This is something that we had seen over in Japan a number of years back. And when we look at our innovation, we want to look to see what would be a very, very unique, what would meet the taste profiles of the North American consumer and what would give us a technological advance versus any competition. And when you put all that together... the ideal choice is the third layer.
Do you have any other innovations planned?
BERGER: We do have several innovation items that we're looking at right now. ...The My/Mo brand is about a year and a half old, and within that short period of time, we've developed the dairy items and then the non-dairy. Vegan came out shortly after that, along with the mochi bits in pints of ice cream. So we'll continue to innovate every year and really give the consumers different items in the mochi space.
According to new research from IRI, mochi ice cream is now one of the fastest growing segments of the frozen novelty market. Why did you think now is the right time for mochi ice cream?
BERGER: So we know that the frozen novelty category, which mochi falls into, is basically a flat category and ... the millennial consumer is really looking for something different. So with our product, you have this weird snack, which is handheld and portable and it's portion control. So there's 110 calories in each serving and it satisfies their craving for indulgence. So it really checks all the boxes as far as the consumers that we target and is a perfect snack for those folks.
"It really checks all the boxes as far as the consumers that we target and is a perfect snack for those folks."
CEO, My/Mo Mochi
Since My/Mo is the category leader in mochi across the U.S. and Canada, how do you plan to hold onto that lead as competition grows?
BERGER: The team is hyperfocused on innovation and we're constantly talking about ways that we can continue to actually build the brand awareness, build the mochi category and build our market share. And our market share continues to actually increase. In fact, we just got the Oct. 7, 2018 IRI data, and we have now increased to an 82% market share. So just a couple months back we were at 80%, now we're at 82%. So we continue to offer a very different mochi ice cream. Our mochi ice cream, it looks different, it tastes different. We've got the highest ice cream to dough ratio. Actually our product, each ball is one and a half ounces, which is, for the most part, heavier than the competitor's items. ... My/Mo is the brand of choice by the consumers. They're asking for more innovation, and we're getting them just that.
More ice cream brands have swapped in healthier alternatives for classic recipes. Do you think mochi ice cream will need to adjust to new consumer demands in the better-for-you market?
BERGER: So we think we're in that space, right? We're trying to go after the consumers' indulgence. And we believe that by being handheld, people are limiting their indulgence, but they want that craving for that real ice cream, premium ice cream. And by limiting the calorie count for each ball, it's accomplishing the mission.
Would there be any other changes to the recipe with different types of ice cream, like low-calorie, low-sugar, high-protein or dairy-free?
BERGER: We're looking at everything and I don't want to rule anything out. We're constantly looking at different alternatives, but nothing specific to say at this point on that.
What do all of these "healthier" options say about the frozen confections space? Is this a fad, or do these products have staying power?
BERGER: The novelty category's been around forever. We play in the novelty category so we don't, ... for the most part, play in the pint category with like a Halo Top. But I'm a financial person and I'm very data driven and when I look at all of our data versus let's say a Magnum or a Ben & Jerry's, we're outselling those brands on a same store basis. So I think we're in the right area, and the consumers are obviously buying our product, and it's coming through in the data.
How will you be marketing the new triple innovation products?
BERGER: We're putting together the marketing plan as we speak. We're actually in the process of meeting with retailers now and I'm working with them on which flavors they will take for the resets that will happen in 2019. And we're putting together a full 360 degree integrated marketing plan to really roll these out in a big way.
Who is your target consumer?
BERGER: We really hyper target around the millennial, coastal consumer, but we are seeing the band of consumer increase over time. So as the awareness goes up and more people were trying the product, we are bringing different types of people into the fold. But the real hyper target is the millennial.