Friazos’ flavor lineup includes: Caramel Pecan Passion, Cookie Craze, Double Fudge Frenzy, Key Lime Melt Down, and Peanut Butter Panic.
In developing its Friazos product line for foodservice, Wells' Dairy (Le Mars, Iowa) pushed the boundaries of the company's development teams and its equipment. The goal for the teams involved was by no means simple: Combine the ease of a dessert cup with the quality and presentation of a center-of-the-plate dessert. Demonstrating the value of bringing suppliers into the development team, two supplier partners worked closely with Wells' Dairy on the products. The result was Friazos, fully prepared desserts combining premium Blue Bunny® ice cream with layers of rich mousses, decadent sauces and crunchy candy or cookie toppings, all in a customer-designed false-bottom cup.

The result is a quick and easy-to-prepare product. Wait staff need only to remove the sealed cover, warm the cup in their hands for a few seconds, then invert the cup and press the center of the bottom panel. The cup slides off, and after the paper disk is removed, consumers are left with a dessert that appears as if it was prepared by a pastry chef. As Denise Gengler, marketing manager - Foodservice Division of Wells' Dairy Inc., explains, the Friazos is a “low-labor, high-margin, fully prepared custom dessert that looks like it was produced in the back of the house, fully contained in a cup.”

Proving one of the more challenging aspects of the new product, the Friazos container and its false bottom would require unique equipment.

Winning the Cup

That cup would prove one of the more-difficult aspects of the product, one that would require Wells' Dairy to work closely with its supplier, particularly since early communications led to a slight misunderstanding.

When the original cost was quoted, Gengler recalls, Wells' Dairy was unaware that the cup would require modifications to the supplier's equipment. As a result, when Wells was ready to order the cup, they faced a 13-week delay, due to the supplier's lead-time on parts for the equipment.

New equipment was required to cut the hole and remove the cup from the equipment. In other cups, a shot of air blows the package off the forming equipment. With the false-bottom cup required by the Friazos, the supplier required a new mechanism to dispense its cups out of the forming machine. Furthermore, they had to cut the disks that would serve as the false bottom in the Friazos package.

Melting, Melting

Unique to the product is the “melting point” of the sauce that tops the ice cream. The sauce has a lower melting point, and as such, the viscosity of the sauce decreases well before the ice cream, with the result that the sauce drizzles down over the ice cream portion.

As Gengler explains, “Our supplier partner actually developed the product so it would do that. The sauces were supposed to stay frozen, but then at 10º F, they would start to melt down the sides of the product.” The goal is simply for the sauce to melt before the ice cream (instantaneously, notes Gengler), “so that by the time it is served to the consumer at the table, the sauce is drizzling down the side of the dessert.”

Such a concept, particularly considering the inclusions and different textures of components, presented quite a challenge for Wells' Dairy product developers. As Gengler recalls, pumping the product through the company's equipment led to its own hurdles.

The mousse component, which serves as the layer between the sauce and the ice cream, would not pump through the ice cream pumps, resulting in a reformulation of the mousse. Wells' R&D, manufacturing and purchasing teams worked together to modify the mousse. Incorporating a little ice cream and some air into the mousse created a slightly different consistency and resulted in a “pumpable” component that still performed as needed in the product.

“It was very much a team effort from Wells and its suppliers all the way through,” recalls Gengler.

Relatively speaking, the time spent realizing the concept was short, largely the result of Wells' Dairy's working closely with its own teams and strong relationships with outside suppliers, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the Friazos products. The concept was first introduced in late summer of 2002, recalls Gengler, and the original plan called for debuting the products at that year's National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in May. However, issues with the container, one of the more innovative aspects of the product, delayed launch and resulted in a postponement until September of 2002.

Saving Labor

The Friazos products demonstrate not only the benefits of teamwork, they also serve as a shining example of a product tailor-made to meet the needs of a labor-pressed foodservice industry.

Described as being “as profitable as they are tasty,” the Friazos products have exceeded the company's sales objectives for this year. By the end of this year, the company will have sold more than $2 million worth of the product. Further demonstrating the success, Wells' Dairy plans line extensions for next year, as well as a push into national accounts. The success to date has all been street sales, and the company currently is showing it to 15 different national chains—different concepts, all custom.

As Gengler notes, customization is really key to the Friazos concept and has been augmented by Wells' hiring of a corporate chef this year. In addition, by the first of the year, the company expects to introduce more ethnic-themed extensions.

Wells' Dairy's internal Friazos team: Wendy Tabbert (Buyer - Purchasing), Pete Zenk (lead person — Production), Dan Ahrendsen (supervisor — Production), Miles Brown (product development technician — R&D), Doug Schleis (lead person — Production), Lyle Loutsch (plant manager — Production), Denise Gengler (marketing manager — Foodservice Division).

Inside and Outside Teamwork

Gengler was the project coordinator for Wells' Dairy's Friazos project and worked with manufacturing, purchasing, costing, production, engineering and R&D departments to get this product to market.

“The concept was really brought to [Wells' Dairy] by a supplier partner,” she says. “It was a great concept, but [Wells'] had to figure out how to deliver it to restaurants in a format that they could serve easily, reducing labor.”

“We worked with engineering and purchasing to come up with the unique package that would actually dispense the product. It's actually a package that no one else had, and we have a multi-year exclusive agreement with the cup supplier partner.”