Ice cream trucks get a high-tech upgrade

Going digital leaves no aspect of the food business untouched, even the ice cream truck is seeing technological updates to the century-old model we all know and love.

Consumers no longer have to wait for distorted tunes from music boxes passing through their neighborhood to know when ice cream will be delivered to them. In addition to all the ice cream available on third-party delivery platforms, British consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant Unilever is redesigning the ice cream truck with multiple robotic upgrades.

In early May, the company announced a partnership with Robomart, which creates mobile stores that can be spindly in the style of Uber or Lyft, to offer on-demand ice cream from Unilever brands – including Ben & Jerry’s, Talenti and Breyers – in an initiative called The Ice Cream Shop.

On Wednesday, May 25, Unilever announced an expansion of this digital storefront in partnership with drone delivery company Flytrex to offer ice cream delivery via skyway in all markets in which Flytrex operates (Holly Springs, Fayetteville and Raeford, North Carolina , and Granbury, TX).

In an interview with PYMNTS, Russel Lilly, general manager of Unilever North American Ice Cream, noted that both partnerships aim to give customers “ease of access, a seamless experience and a new way to enjoy frozen treats.” . With this drone delivery partnership, the company aims to get a sense of how consumers behave when the technology is available.

“We are excited to work with Flytrex to find out how consumers are using drone delivery for their ice cream needs,” Lilly said. “We will continue to seek opportunities to expand our assortment of products offered through The Ice Cream Shop, and opportunities for geographic expansion as Flytrex expands its footprint in the United States”

He added that the company is considering other types of automated execution and is considering the possibility of using virtual reality (VR) to enhance the experience.

Unilever isn’t the only company reimagining the ice cream truck for today’s smartphone-dependent consumers. In a few dozen towns in New Jersey, for example, consumers can get an on-demand ice cream truck, the so-called Scream Truck, to come home by signing up for alerts and texting a designated number. to reserve a place.

Additionally, snack company KIND on Wednesday announced a promotion offering its “FROZEN Treat Bars” via an ice cream truck-style vehicle – but rather than relying on consumers stumbling across the vehicle, the company is taking advantage social media to provide regular updates on the location of the truck.

Overall, the way consumers meet their summer dietary needs is changing. Outdoor dining areas established in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which proved popular with diners, remain available more than they were before the outbreak, with many municipalities granting legal permits for their maintenance.

“Restaurant owners are really nimble, and they like to be creative and experiment,” Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO of Paytronix, said Karen Webster of PYMNTS in an interview last spring. “If someone learned that they can set up a Tiki bar in their parking lot on a Friday night and pack more people than they can fit inside, then they’re going to set up a Tiki bar in the parking lot every Friday night. This creativity will stay.

See more: Paytronix CEO says restaurants are reopening but digital ordering is here to stay

When it comes to the ice cream truck, it’s likely that more technological variations of the classic will emerge in the near future.

“It’s really amazing when I think about how delivery services and automated technologies have evolved in recent years, especially when it comes to on-demand delivery,” Lilly said. “If we could have ice cream delivered from the sky in 2022, I can only imagine what’s possible in 5, 10 or 15 years.”



About: PYMNTS’ survey of 2,094 consumers for The Tailored Shopping Experience report, a collaboration with Elastic Path, shows where merchants are succeeding and where they need to up their game to deliver a personalized shopping experience.

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