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EPISODE 043 : 01/06/2022

Kenny Cho, Creamistry


Creamistry is a U.S. based nitrogen ice cream chain with many locations in California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. The company uses all-natural and organic ingredients with more than 60-plus flavors and toppings. Creamistry has been using SnowShoe’s Spark Loyalty solution for customer loyalty for some time, and we’re excited to have Kenny Cho here as a special guest to talk about Creamistry’s success in the retail market.

Hosts: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Kenny Cho

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Detailed insights about US based Creamistry and their liquid nitrogen ice cream   
  • Growth of a small business in California to a franchise of more than 30 stores
  • Loyalti’s (Spark Loyalty) role in rewarding customers and creating brand ambassadors
  • A look into loyalty and retail trends for the next five to ten years

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe your smarter loyalty leader, SparkPlug is happy to have Kenny Cho, VP of marketing at Creamistry with us today. The great U.S. based ice cream chain Creamistry was founded in 2013 after founder Jay Yem was first introduced to liquid nitrogen ice cream during a trip to South Korea in 2003. So the first shop opened in Irvine, California, and they began franchising and at its peak, Creamistry has had about 65 different locations in California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Creamistry has been using SnowShoe’s solution for customer loyalty for some time before SnowShoe actually took it over. So we’re excited to have Kenny Cho here today to talk about Creamistry’s success. Welcome, Kenny. 

Kenny Cho [00:01:00] Hello, thank you. 

Ashley Coates [00:01:01] Thank you so much for being here, Kenny. Let’s dive right in with learning about who you are. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and take us through your professional journey? 

Kenny Cho [00:01:11] Yeah, of course. So I actually joined Creamistry back in 2014, right around the time when they were just starting to franchise. And at the time, I was hired as a sole graphic designer within a year and I was quickly promoted to their marketing director, where I’ve since overseeing all of the company’s marketing efforts, everything from vendor partnerships to campaign concept to execution, pretty much the works, and we’ve been able to bring all of our marketing efforts in-house. So with that, you know, when I started, we had around three franchise locations and like I mentioned, at our peak we did have up to 65 and currently we are working with 31 locations. 

Ashley Coates [00:01:57] Very cool. And that gave a brief introduction to the kind of ice cream you offered. Can you tell us more about your product and what you offer to your customers? 

Kenny Cho [00:02:05] Oh, yes, absolutely. So our concept is based around liquid nitrogen ice cream, where the customers are able to pretty much craft their own ice cream from the ground up and we make it right in front of them using liquid nitrogen. So it’s actually the freshest ice cream you can have. The advantage of the liquid nitrogen process is that there is no air that’s being churned in during the freezing process and at the same time, because it’s being frozen so quickly the ice crystals don’t get a chance to form. So what you’re left with is a very dense, super-rich, and smooth ice cream that really is hard to mimic anywhere else. 

Ned Hayes [00:02:45] Fantastic. That sounds really delicious. Can you take us through how the company came to have multiple franchise locations throughout the country? 

Kenny Cho [00:02:55] Yeah, absolutely. So like I mentioned, we did start with their first corporate store in Irvine, California. And the concept just kind of spread and almost went viral. And we a lot of potential franchisees reached out to us even before we wanted to be, before we made a decision to start franchising out. So it was a little bit easier on us to find owners who really wanted to really spread the brand across other states. So right now, we do have locations in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia, as well as California. 

Ned Hayes [00:03:37] So what location do you go to if you want to visit a mystery store? 

Kenny Cho [00:03:44] Cerritos. Absolutely. 

Ashley Coates [00:03:47] And can you tell us about Creamistry’s customers and why they love your product? 

Kenny Cho [00:03:52] Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, we are an ice cream shop, but we are a novelty ice cream shop, so our product is a bit more expensive. So we noticed that our customers are people who are looking to really treat themselves. Ice cream is not a treat that you should be having too often. So we noticed that our customers, when they come to our shops, are looking for a more premium experience, not just with the flavor and texture, but the visual aspect as well. So they’re able to really see their ice cream being crafted in front of their eyes with the liquid nitrogen vapor and smoke show. So it’s an entire experience. I think that’s what our customers are looking for. 

Ned Hayes [00:04:32] So that experience, it’s really remarkable because we’ve talked to a number of retailers this year and increasingly the in-person brick and mortar store distinguishes itself by having a unique experience. So what kind of feeling do you want your customers to have while they’re inside a Creamistry store? 

Kenny Cho [00:04:53] I guess, I mean, initially, the feeling of, oh, there’s no move away from that even just from the social posts and videos that our customers share with those customers share with us. You see just people kind of frolicking in the smoke and kids just having fun and seeing smiles on their faces. So we definitely want to make sure that we retain that sense of awe for our customers. 

Ned Hayes [00:05:18] Fantastic. So can you tell us a little bit more about the technology the industry uses? 

Kenny Cho [00:05:23] Yeah. So we’ve been working with Loyalti for the past two, almost three years now. And we found that they’ve been very helpful to help reduce customer churn. So with all of our efforts. Once we bring the customer in and they’re able to have experience, we want to make sure to remind them to come back to experience that again. So using the Loyalti solution, we’re able to not only capture customer information but also be able to send out automated and custom campaigns to kind of remind them and say, “Hey, we haven’t seen you in, for example, 60 days. Why don’t you come back and we’ll give you a 20 percent offer?” So we feel that that technology was very helpful in helping us increase our customer base. 

Ashley Coates [00:06:09] Can you talk to us about some of the new opportunities that were formed during the pandemic? I’m sure that changed your business a lot, especially that you’re also going forward. What trends did Creamistry undertake and what do you think is here to stay and what might go away? 

Kenny Cho [00:06:25] Absolutely. So I mean, obviously one, the biggest or one of the biggest appeals of our concept is that in-store experience. And obviously because of the pandemic, our customers really weren’t able to experience that. So we did have to pivot our strategy a bit towards online ordering and working with third-party delivery service providers. So we kind of had to emphasize more on that work with our franchisees to try to increase the participation rate and at the same time, kind of informing our customers and saying, “Hey, that liquid nitrogen process is not just for show, it actually results in a much better ice cream period.” So we’ve been kind of, I guess, changing up our messaging a little bit to really help customers understand that they’re getting a much better ice cream product. So even if you’re getting it delivered or if you’re just getting it picked up, we’re seeing that ice cream tested in front of you. You will still have a much better ice cream experience than, for example, a pint from your local store. 

Ned Hayes [00:07:28] So you really specialize in direct-to-consumer ice cream. What about that relationship between a brand and a consumer? What kind of opportunities lie in that special kind of relationship? 

Kenny Cho [00:07:40] Yeah, I think it really gives us a chance to really directly communicate with our customers. So kind of going back to the pandemic, but using the Loyalti system, we were able to really be transparent and communicate with our customers and say, “Hey, these flavors might not be available, but we’re working on it.” And we noticed that being transparent with our customers is very helpful. They’re very appreciative and they’re and they understand. So Loyalti has been very helpful. 

Ashley Coates [00:08:10] So, OK, maybe you can elaborate on that a little bit. Why does loyalty matter to you and to Creamistry? And what difference does that make at the end of the day on your bottom line? 

Kenny Cho [00:08:20] Yeah, at the end of the day, we’re reducing churn. You know, again, we want to turn as many personal customers into regulars as possible. And we noticed that, you know, with some of our VIP customers who come in multiple times a year, they’re naturally our brand ambassadors among our friends and family. So we realize that there’s great value in having that type of customer. So we want to create that as much as possible and Loyalti is instrumental in helping us do that. 

Ned Hayes [00:08:52] OK, so how many stores Creamistry have the Loyalti, well, now the Spark Loyalty system deployed in? So how many campaigns do you run? How many stores actually use it, that type of thing? 

Kenny Cho [00:09:03] Yeah. So actually, all of our stores are onboarded with Loyalti so that will be 31 locations. We have automated campaigns running on all locations. So we make sure again to bring back any lapsed customers. And we tried to do at least one custom campaign per location per month on average.

Ashley Coates [00:09:23] Well, we’re excited to have you as a new customer, and maybe we can use this opportunity to ask you what updates to the system would you like to see in the future as we rebrand Spark Loyalty and I want you to dream big. We’ll see if we can make it happen. 

Kenny Cho [00:09:37] Well, the first thing that comes to mind, especially considering the pandemic, would just be a way for our customers to connect with us and sign up for a loyalty program away from the store physically. So being able to sign up either through a website or maybe a web widget. Or maybe even integration with Messenger or something like that. That’ll be fantastic, I think. 

Ned Hayes [00:09:59] Great thinking Kenny. We’ll do our best to make that happen in the updated Spark Loyalty system. 

Ashley Coates [00:10:04] Right. Well, we are solidly in the holiday season. And so do you have any seasonal specialties that Creamistry is offering right now?

Kenny Cho [00:10:13] Yeah, we have a line of peppermint bark, ice cream, and nitro shakes currently being offered. Yeah, I mean, it’s a classic. There’s no moving away from it, so we decided, “Hey, why not this year.”

Ned Hayes [00:10:27] Well, what’s next for Creamistry as a brand and as a company? Any exciting new projects in the works? 

Kenny Cho [00:10:33] Yeah. So we are currently looking to redo our website, so that’s very exciting. Hopefully, we get a little refreshed and a little visual refresh. We are also working with a new partner to really help bring our digital presence a bit more forward for our customers. So working with listings management solutions, working with reputation management as well to, at the end of the day, bring our digital visibility of bit higher and at the end of the day, increase foot traffic. 

Ashley Coates [00:11:04] It’s exciting. Also, the most important question of this interview, so Creamistry offers more than 60 different flavors and toppings, so we want to know what is the best combination that you would encourage people to order when they come into your stores? 

Kenny Cho [00:11:20] Oh man. Well, for me personally, some people might say this is a bit boring, but my favorite flavor of all time is just plain strawberry. But I will say strawberry ice cream mixed in with cookies and cream. It’s fantastic. And yeah, but I would say, among the offerings that we have had at Creamistry, my favorite LTO has probably been the orange creamsicle. Something about that tart and creamy combo is just amazing to me. 

Ned Hayes [00:11:53] Fantastic. Well, I’m curious if we can turn attention to kind of the future of retail. We talked to a lot of experts in retail this year, some of whom don’t actually run a retail store. And your team in Creamistry does. So do you have any prognostications for the future of retail? What do you think is going to happen with things like live stream or with like digital signage or, you know, if you could think of Creamistry five to ten years from now, where do you think Creamistry is going to be and where do you think retail will be? 

Kenny Cho [00:12:24] I think I mean, I think we’re already seeing this now, but I think retail is definitely moving more towards digital sales and online sales in tandem with any brick and mortar locations that we may have. Especially, you know, with the rise in popularity of VR and the Metaverse is, I think that’s definitely something we could potentially see within 10 years. It’s an exciting time. 

Ashley Coates [00:12:50] It definitely is. Also, we have one last question for you, Kenny, which is what do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be? 

Kenny Cho [00:12:58] Very good question. I mean, already to this point, a lot of my friends just affectionately call me the ice cream man. But I guess the legacy I want to leave behind is just letting customers know that there are other ways to make ice cream, not just by using a freezer. You know, the liquid nitrogen process really does result in a much better ice cream. It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a marketing gimmick. It just happens to come with a great visual experience as well. So I definitely do want to leave that with our customers. 

Ned Hayes [00:13:26] Well, I really appreciate your time today, Kenny, and I’m going to have to get into your Creamistry store to enjoy some of those winter flavors that you promoted. 

Kenny Cho [00:13:34] Yeah, absolutely. Let me know how it tastes. 

Ned Hayes [00:13:37] Will do. 

Ashley Coates [00:13:39] Thanks Kenny. That was really enjoyable talking with you. 

Kenny Cho [00:13:41] Yeah, thank you so much. 

Ned Hayes [00:13:55] Thanks for listening today to the SparkPlug podcast. Your smarter loyalty leader. SparkPlug is a wholly-owned property of SnowShoe. All content Copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.