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Make Your Own Ice Cream or Buy 3 Gallon Containers from a Distributor?

Make Your Own Ice Cream or Buy 3 Gallon Containers from a Distributor?

17 January, 2011 10:51 am67 comments

Make Your Own Ice CreamWhat’s the better option, making your own ice cream or buying and reselling 3 gallon tubs of  a recognized brand? Truthfully, there is no right answer. Both could be great options. This  post will simply to outline reasons why you would go in one direction vs. the other depending on your specific situation and your specific goals.

This question is frequently debated and asked by almost everyone planning to enter the ice cream store business. In my opinion, it depends on many factors.  I encourage those of you who make your own or buy a national brand in 3 gallon cans to post what led you to your specific strategy.

I’ll start with the benefits of buying a national or strong regional ice cream brand that is pre-packaged in 3 or 2.5 gallon round tubs:

  • People like to buy what they are familiar with
  • Initial investment is lower – you only have to buy dipping cabinets and storage cabinets vs. a batch freezer, hardening cabinet, dipping cabinets, etc.
  • Less machinery means less utilities expense
  • Product consistency – making your own can also be consistent if you are the only one doing it, but once you have employees start making ice cream too, it can get tricky to maintain that consistency
  • Simplicity – no manufacturing labor – you buy 3 gallon tubs from an ice cream distributor, you drop them in the dipping cabinet and scoop away

Ok, now we move on to why making your own ice cream  might be the best choice:

  • Cost – normal markup on ice cream you purchase from a distributor allows you to make around 70% gross profit when charging what the market will bear.  In other words, if you charge $2 for a scoop, your cost is about $.60 for that scoop. When you make your own, the materials cost is much lower. That $2 scoop should cost you more  like $.30-$.40. If you make Italian Ices, your cost is even less
  • Exclusivity – Only YOU can sell your ice cream. Customers can buy national brands in many parlors and can also pick them up at the local grocery store
  • Variety – With an Emery-Thompson Batch Freezer, you can make not only ice cream, but you can also make your own Italian Ice and Gelato.
  • Homemade - People love homemade ice cream. Customers like the idea that the ice cream is made fresh and with a local twist to it. Customers like to see and know the owner of the business
  • Creativity – You can invent new flavors. You can make changes to the product suit your region’s tastes. You can hold contests for new flavors using social media tools. The options are limitless

As you can see, the decision to make your own or purchase a pre-made product depends on many factors. You can make good money with both options.  For those who are on a tighter budget, the best option might be to start with a pre-packaged product.  For those of you who are creative and have the necessary start-up financing, you might want to consider making your own.

Look forward to hearing the comments and stories of those who have made the decision one way or another.

Interested in attending a FREE, live webcast on how to make ice cream, gelato and italian ice? Click the link below to read more and to sign up if you’re up for it. Don’t forget to come back here and post your comments!

Thanks again for reading this post!




  • Lee Wang

    I’m looking at starting my own ice cream store here in Hawaii where I make the ice cream myself. I’m trying to figure out ways to reduce my cost per scoop but I’m running into problems between using a premade dairy ice cream mix of cutting my own mixture because prices of dairy here are so expensive. Would someone who has some experience with this be willing to help me through a few questions? Please let me know!

    Thanks in advance

  • I have two questions in regards to premade ice cream bases.

    1. with one gallon of base how many gallons of ice cream will i get from that?

    2. with ice cream base, since you can’t heat it again to infuse flavors, how does one cold infuse flavors?

    Thank you so much for your help,,

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