“The more bizarre, the better” is one magical mantra that’s almost a guarantor of instant social media success and ensuing virality. No great surprise then, that, one of the greatest internet sensations of the year 2021 was the bonkers sounding mac and cheese flavoured ice cream. And no, this wasn’t some by chance basement kitchen invention by a bored teenager. It was the “love child” of a fully fledged conscious coupling of two major American F&B giants.
Two summers ago, Van Leeuwen, the popular US ice cream brand, teamed up with worldwide packaged food products giant Kraft’s famous Macaroni & Cheese sub brand to create a unique flavour. One that combined creamy mac and cheese with ice cream. And though the production of this limited edition flavour has since been discontinued, fans of interesting food combos need not fret! For, Van Leeuwen most recently teamed up with the Hidden Valley salad dressing company for an even crazier sounding ranch-flavoured ice cream.
Interestingly, this wave of brand collaborations has swept across India too. Garnering immense popularity along the way. With several F&B players teaming up to create unique ice cream flavours and limited-edition frozen dessert products that combine their individual strengths. This, also in recognition of the fact that such collaborations are a smart way to tap into new markets, reach new consumers and generate a general buzz around both brands.
A recent such collaboration is the one between The Brooklyn Creamery and Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters. A partnership that saw the limited edition run of their joint The Brooklyn Creamery X Blue Tokai Expresso Cookie Crumble 500ml ice cream tubs. One that was the result of sheer demand, say the partners. “One of the things that came out quite strongly a few months ago was that our patrons wanted us to bring back a coffee ice cream into the range. It was slightly before this time that we had initiated a discussion with the Blue Tokai team for something completely different,” says Shivaan Ghai, founder and director, The Brooklyn Creamery. The result of almost a 100 days of trials, tasting sessions, reformulations and discussions over of tonnes of ice cream and gallons of coffee between both the teams resulted in the current collaborative product.
But besides the aforementioned demand, what are some of the other deciding factors that fuel such collaborations? “At Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters, partnerships are an extension of our aim of making great quality coffee accessible and exploring endless possibilities of specialty coffee with unique form factors, new products and meaningful collaborations. This one brings together some of our favourite things – Indian specialty coffee, cookies and ice cream!” believes Namrata Asthana, co-founder, Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters.
Ever the lovers of all things Asian, it is no great surprise that flavours of the Far East have been the raison d’etre for two more ice cream brand collaborations. The first one showing us that it’s not just F&B players that are entering this collaborative fray.
Earlier this month, the Singapore Tourism Board partnered with artisanal ice cream parlour, Naturals Now, to launch a limited-edition pandanus leaf-infused ice cream sundae. Available only at their Juhu, Mumbai outlet till December 31, 2023, this sundae combines pandanus (also called Asian vanilla) with jaggery, a layer of coconut, and a sprinkling of thyme waffle crumbs. Additionally, a topping sauce infused with gula melaka (a smoky Southeast Asian coconut palm jaggery) ties in a typically Singaporean taste experience.
Taking us a little further north of Singapore, to Thailand to be more precise, is the also recent collaboration of Bono Boutique Ice-Cream with Mumbai’s Nara Thai restaurants at Colaba and BKC. This one has resulted in three unique Thai flavoured ice creams that will be available for three months at both businesses. These take the form of the dark chocolate and Thai chilli, the kaffir lime, and the Thai tea and peanut flavoured ice creams.
The main reason for this collab, say the partners is that it beautifully merges culinary creativity and the spirit of empowered women. “What makes this collaboration truly special is that Bono Boutique Ice-Cream is a women-led brand founded by the sister duo, Alyssa and Simone Chesson. It harmoniously coincides with “Nara,” a Sanskrit word that means “women”,” says Udai Pinnali, CEO, Aditya Birla New Age Hospitality for Nara Thai.
“Simone and I love Thailand and have been visiting the beautiful country since we were kids, so naturally when Nara Thai approached us to create three Thai inspired flavours we were more than excited,” says Alyssa Chesson, co-owner and chef of Bono Boutique Ice-Cream on the genesis of the collaboration. One that she says took three months of trails and flavour matching before perfecting and finally rolling them out. “These flavours truly reflect the love and effort we poured into this project with the help of the Nara team.”
One of the many projects that we hope will serve as an impetus for many more such partnerships in this cool (pun intended), collaborative space.
Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.