Starting a Wholesale Ice Cream Business: Comprehensive Guide

September 26, 2023
< back to Guides
Table of Contents

Starting a wholesale ice cream business is a very lucrative and profitable idea for any business owner. However, it is important to know what you are doing before going into business.

Key Takeaway: The first place to start in this journey is to choose the right ice cream business idea. Ice cream equipment, wholesale food packaging, pricing strategies, and ice cream marketing ideas - these are some other things to consider when starting your ice cream business. 

In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about starting a wholesale ice cream business. Let’s get started!


Top 11 Unique Ice Cream Business Ideas

Here are some of the simple ice cream ideas you can adopt for your ice cream shop.

  1. Artisanal Gelato with Local Flavors

Consider opening an artisanal gelato shop that focuses on using locally sourced ingredients and unique flavor combinations. You can collaborate with nearby farms and producers for fresh fruits, herbs, and dairy. 

  1. Ice Cream Truck with a Twist

Instead of a traditional brick-and-mortar store, invest in an ice cream truck with a unique twist. You can connect with more customers by incorporating eye-catching designs that resonate with them. 

  1. Specialized Rolled Ice Cream

Ride the trend of rolled ice cream, a visually appealing and customizable frozen treat. Invest in specialized ice cream equipment to create rolls of ice cream on a frozen surface. Offer an array of flavors, mix-ins, and toppings. 

  1. Heritage-inspired Ice Creams

If you love history and culture, you can capture your passion in your ice cream shop ideas. Celebrate the culinary heritage of a specific culture or region by offering ice creams inspired by traditional recipes and ingredients. 

  1. Ice Cream and Coffee Fusion

Another unique ice cream store idea is to combine the popularity of ice cream with the evergreen demand for coffee by opening a shop that offers both. You can even craft specialty wholesale coffee drinks or matcha drinks, and pair them with unique ice cream creations. 

  1. Healthy and Protein-Packed Frozen Treats

You can cater to the fitness and health-conscious market by offering a range of protein-packed, low-sugar, and nutritious frozen treats. Experiment with ingredients like Greek yogurt, protein powder, and natural sweeteners. 

  1. International Flavor Showcase

Starting an international flavor showcase is another unique ice cream business idea to start. You can take customers on a culinary journey by offering a rotating menu of ice creams inspired by different international cuisines. Try to add exotic organic herbs and spices, fruits, and techniques to create unique flavor profiles. 

  1. Ice Cream Delivery Service

Capitalize on the convenience trend by starting an ice cream delivery service. One thing that will streamline your business process flow is developing an easy-to-use app or website for orders, and partnering with local delivery services for efficient wholesale distribution. 

  1. Cream Catering for Events

If you already have a catering business, you can add ice cream catering to your menu. You will need to get the necessary equipment and possibly an ice cream truck, but, it is a great idea for caterers and event planners.

  1. Ice Cream Subscription Boxes

You can tap into the subscription business trend by offering curated monthly ice cream boxes delivered to subscribers' doors. One way to go is to develop a selection of unique and seasonal flavors and package them attractively. 

  1. Ice Cream and Craft Beer Menu Pairings

If you are looking for something entirely different from the normal, then consider starting an ice cream and craft beer wholesale business. You can create a unique experience by pairing craft beers with complementary ice cream flavors. 


How to Start an Ice Cream Business

Now that you know the different ice cream business ideas, let’s look at a general outline for how to start your own ice cream business.

  1. Understand Ice Cream Market Trends

The first step to starting your ice cream business is to understand what is going on in the food and beverage industry and the ice cream market. No business owner, worth their salt, runs head-first into any business - researching the market comes first.

Take your time to do your research - what you find will definitely set your business up for success.

  1. Research Your Target Market

Yes, you guessed it – more research!

Start by identifying your ideal customers. Are you catering to families, health-conscious individuals, or perhaps a niche market, like restaurant businesses, bakery businesses, or catering businesses, interested in gourmet or exotic wholesale ice cream flavors? Knowing your target demographic will guide many aspects of your business, from menu creation to ice cream marketing strategies.

Once you know your target market, you can go ahead to the next step.

  1. Create a Business Plan

Now that you have your market research and enough information about your target market, it’s time to write your eCommerce business plan. This essential document will encapsulate your vision, strategies, and financial projections, guiding your ice cream business toward its sweet destination.

Your business plan should have the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Market analysis
  • Product or service description
  • Marketing and sales strategies
  • Competitive analysis
  • Management and organizational structure
  • Financial projections
  • Funding requirements
  1. Register Your Business

Registering your ice cream business is important. 

Obtaining the necessary food safety permits and wholesale licenses is another critical aspect of registration. These permits can include a general business license, health department permits (if you're serving food), and any specific licenses related to selling ice cream or operating a food establishment.

  1. Secure Your Operating Licenses and Regulatory Permits

If you plan to start a mobile ice cream business instead of a brick-and-mortar store, there are specified guidelines that you must adhere to for operating an ice cream truck. Likewise, you must obtain all necessary permits. It is important for you to consult all the local agencies that are involved in licensing and permit issuance for operating a wholesale distribution business in your area.

  1. Buy the Right Truck or Van

It is important that you make the right truck selection for your ice cream truck business. You'll want a reliable vehicle with enough space to store your ice cream and equipment. 

You have to decide whether you're going for a used or a new truck. Additionally, you'll have to factor the need for custom modifications in your truck selection determining factor. Such modifications often include freezer space, serving platform, and power supply source among many others. 

  1. Craft an Irresistible Ice Cream Menu

Your menu is your ticket to attracting and retaining customers. Create a peculiar ice cream menu list that appeals to a wide range of customers. Be very creative with your menu list. 

Include classic flavors alongside unique and seasonal menu offerings. Think about incorporating fun and visually appealing dessert options that will catch the eye of passersby. 

  1. Select a Strategic Location

As an ice cream business owner, the location you select will affect your table turnover. It is a critical factor. If you own a mobile ice cream truck business, then before finalizing a location, ensure that you research high-traffic areas, parks, events, and other eyebrow places. 

  1. Pricing

Your prices must compete favorably with other operators in the industry. And your prices must reflect the uniqueness and quality of your ice cream brand. Monitor your expenses closely to maintain a healthy profit margin. 

  1. Exceptional Customer Service

As an ice cream van operator, it is important that you give your customers a warm and friendly reception. Exceptional customer hospitality can make your brand the most sought-after.

  1. Find Wholesale Food Distributors

Finding a reliable wholesale ice cream distributor will ensure that you get a consistent and steady supply of wholesale ice cream supplies. To begin, look for wholesale distributors that specialize in supplying bulk ice cream supplies, depending on the type of ice cream business you want to launch.

  1. Promote Your Ice Cream Business

Finally, once you’ve put everything together, it’s time to launch and promote your ice cream business. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, then you can host a grand opening event. This will allow potential customers to get a taste of your offerings, drop feedback about your decor and setup, and spread the word about your business.

29 Ice Cream Truck Business Requirements

Here is a list of ice cream truck requirements before you can begin your ice cream business:

  1. Business License
  2. Health Permit
  3. Mobile Food Vendor License
  4. Vehicle Registration and Insurance
  5. Vehicle Inspection
  6. Food Handlers Permits (for employees)
  7. Refrigeration and Freezer Equipment
  8. Handwashing Facilities
  9. First Aid Kit
  10. Fire Extinguisher
  11. Menu and Price List
  12. Signage (menu, business name, contact information)
  13. Commissary Agreement (a location to store and prepare food)
  14. Waste Disposal Plan
  15. Cleanliness and Sanitation Protocols
  16. Permitted Locations or Routes
  17. Sales Tax Permit (if applicable in your area)
  18. Liability Insurance
  19. Music License (if playing music from your truck)
  20. Safety Equipment (cones, traffic cones, reflective vests)
  21. Marketing Materials (business cards, flyers, social media presence)
  22. Customer Service Training (for employees)
  23. Inventory Management System
  24. Financial Records and Reporting
  25. Environmental Compliance (if using eco-friendly materials)
  26. Compliance with Local Noise Regulations (for music and jingles)
  27. Compliance with Local Parking Regulations
  28. Compliance with COVID-19 Regulations (if applicable)
  29. Compliance with Accessibility Standards (if required)

Startup Cost for Ice Cream Shop: Ice Cream Shop Startup Cost

Let’s look at the different items and ice cream supplies that make up the cost of your ice cream shop. We’ll also look at how much an ice cream shop makes in a day. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of startup cost for an ice cream shop:

  1. Location: Average cost of getting a shop - $20,000 - $150,000
  2. Ice Cream Equipment: Average cost of buying machines needed - $35,000 - $55,000
  3. Ice Cream Supplies: Average cost of initial ingredient cost - $3000 - $5000
  4. Wholesale Licenses: Average cost of getting Licenses - $500 - $5,000
  5. Branding and Ice Cream Marketing: Average cost of branding and marketing - $1500 - $7000
  6. Utilities: Average cost of utilities - $1000 - $3000  
  7. Staff Recruitment: Average cost of recruitment - $2,000 - $10,000
  8. Initial Running Costs: Average Initial running costs - $7000 - $ 25,000
  9. Legal Consultation Fees: Average legal consultation fees - $2,000 - $8,000 
  10. Payment Software (POS): Average cost for a POS system and software - $2000 - $4000

What Permits Do I Need to Open an Ice Cream Shop

If you are hoping to start an ice cream business anytime soon, below are the licenses and permits you must have before you can start operations.

  1. Business license
  2. Food service permit
  3. Sign permit
  4. Building permits
  5. Health department permit
  6. Sales tax permit
  7. Employee Identification Number (EIN)
  8. Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)

How to Design an Ice Cream Shop Menu

Now that you know how to start your ice cream business, the next step is knowing the types of ice cream to sell and how to design an ice cream shop menu. One way to boost your unique selling proposition is to design your ice cream menu list in the right way.

There are different types of ice cream. In fact, your ice cream shop sales can be directly impacted by the types of ice cream on your menu. 

So, how should you design your ice cream menu list? What types of ice cream should be on it? Let’s find out!


11 Types of Ice Cream

Here are the top 11 types of wholesale ice cream.

  1. Gelato
  2. Sorbet
  3. Frozen Yogurt
  4. Sherbet
  5. Custard
  6. Soft Serve
  7. Low-Fat and Sugar-Free
  8. Artisanal/Handcrafted
  9. Sundae Cones
  10. Novelties  
  11. Exotic/Global Flavors

How to Design a Ice Cream Menu

Here's how to create an enticing ice cream digital menu that's not only visually appealing but also user-friendly:

  • Clear Organization: Start with a well-organized structure. Group your ice cream types (gelato, sorbet, Froyo, etc.) together, and within each category, list the flavors in a logical order. For example, you might begin with classic flavors and then progress to more exotic or specialty options.
  • Descriptive Titles: Use concise, mouthwatering titles for each ice cream flavor. Customers should be able to understand the essence of the flavor from its name alone. For instance, "Velvet Chocolate Delight" is more enticing than simply "Chocolate."
  • Vibrant Imagery: Incorporate high-quality images of your ice cream offerings. Visuals play a significant role in enticing customers. Showcase scoops or cones of each flavor with enticing garnishes and toppings.
  • Color Palette: Choose a color scheme that aligns with your brand and the overall ambiance of your ice cream shop. Colors should be visually appealing but also easy to read.
  • Font Selection: Opt for legible fonts that are easy to read from a distance. Avoid overly decorative fonts that might confuse customers. Make sure the font size is large enough for effortless reading.
  • Pricing Clarity: Clearly display the price of each item. Use a consistent format, such as placing prices on the right-hand side or below each flavor description. Avoid using overly small or hidden font sizes for prices.
  • Customization Options: If your ice cream shop allows customers to customize their treats with toppings, syrups, or mix-ins, create a section explaining these options. Use clear icons or symbols to indicate the choices available.
  • Contact Information: Include your shop's contact information and social media handles at the bottom or on a separate page of the menu. Encourage customers to connect with your brand online.

Ice Cream Shop Equipment List

Let’s look at the equipment needed to start an ice cream shop.

  • Ice Cream Machines
  • Storage Freezers
  • Refrigeration Units
  • Mixing and Blending Equipment
  • Scooping Tools
  • Topping Dispensers
  • Storage Containers
  • Dipping Cabinets
  • Cones and Cups
  • Point-of-Sale System (POS Software)
  • Sinks and Dishwashing Equipment
  • Utensils and Tools
  • Display Cases
  • Seating and Serving Area Furniture
  • Storage Shelving
  • Ventilation and Exhaust Systems
  • Food Safety Equipment
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Menu Boards and Signage
  • Ice Cream Maker Uniforms
  • Security System

Ice Cream Packaging Ideas: How to Package Ice Cream

What is the best packaging for ice cream? Great question!

It doesn’t matter if you're running an ice cream truck business or selling wholesale ice cream to retailers, the right ice cream packaging will keep your wholesale products fresh and, at the same time, captivate your audience. So, how do you package ice cream for sale?

There are several ice cream packaging ideas, from plastic to cones. However, which is the right ice cream packaging for you?

Here are some innovative ice cream packaging ideas:

  1. Eco-Friendly Packaging
  2. Vintage-Inspired Packaging
  3. Seasonal Themes
  4. Texture-Inspired Design
  5. Themed Collections

Innovative Ice Cream Packaging Materials

Here are some examples of innovative packaging materials for ice cream:

  1. Edible Packaging
  2. Popsicle Sticks with Plantable Seeds
  3. Reusable Containers
  4. Thermochromic Ink
  5. Sustainable Wood or Bamboo Containers
  6. Light-Blocking Packaging

Ice Cream Packaging Types

What kind of packaging is used for ice cream?

  1. Cartons and Boxes
  2. Tubs or Containers
  3. Cones
  4. Popsicles and Ice Cream Bars
  5. Wrappers for Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Wholesale: How to Buy Ice Cream Wholesale

As an ice cream shop owner, buying wholesale ice cream supplies is the most economical option you can explore to make maximum profit. Knowing fully well that the success of your ice cream shop depends on your wholesale ice cream distributor. 

So, where can you buy bulk ice cream?

  1. Choose Your Wholesale Ice Cream Distributors

First, you'll need to decide whether to go local or opt for a national distributor. Local suppliers often offer that personal touch and may have unique flavors that cater to your local clientele. On the other hand, national wholesale distributors may provide a broader range of options and potentially better pricing due to their scale.

  1. Supplier Reputation and Reliability

Consider a supplier's reputation and track record in the industry. Do some digging and talk to other shop owners or restaurant managers who have worked with them. A reliable supplier will consistently deliver on time and maintain product quality. Look for reviews and testimonials to gauge customer satisfaction.

  1. Product Variety and Quality

Ice cream lovers are a diverse bunch, and your menu should reflect that. Evaluate your potential supplier's product variety. Do they offer a range of flavors, dietary options (like wholesale dairy-free or low-fat), and various forms (e.g., pints, gallons, soft-serve mix)? Assess the quality of their products by sampling them yourself or seeking feedback from customers.

  1. Pricing and Terms

Pricing is a significant factor. While competitive pricing is crucial, don't make it the sole basis for your decision. Delivery timelines, vendor payment schedules, and bulk order discounts, among many other options, are factors that should be considered before finalizing your choice. A slightly higher price might be worth it if it comes with better service and support.

  1. Building Strong Relationships with Suppliers

Cementing your place in the heart of any wholesale food distributor is a function of the relationship you have with them. You should look beyond transactions, and focus more on your collaborations because they'll benefit your brand in retrospect.

  1. Effective Communication

Maintaining open and effective lines of communication with your supplier is key. Discuss your needs, expectations, and any special requirements. Whether it's seasonal promotions or specific delivery times, clarity is essential.

  1. Negotiating Favorable Terms

Do well to negotiate terms that work for both you and your supplier. This might include payment schedules, minimum order quantities (MOQ), or even exclusive arrangements for certain flavors or products.

  1. Consistency in Orders

In the food and beverage industry, it is important that you're consistent. Stick to your order patterns as closely as possible to help your supplier plan and avoid any disruptions in your food supply chain.

  1. Ensuring Compliance with Legal and Food Safety Standards

Always check if your wholesale ice cream distributor has the necessary wholesale licenses to operate. The wholesale business has to comply and adhere to all food safety and legal precepts. 

Where to Buy Wholesale Ice Cream Bars

Here are some places where you can source wholesale ice cream:

  • Ice Cream Distributors
  • Ice Cream Manufacturers
  • Wholesale Food Distributors
  • Online Wholesale Marketplaces
  • Local Distributors and Cash-and-Carry Outlets
  • Trade Shows and Industry Events
  • Local Ice Cream Brands
  • Cold Storage Warehouses
  • Wholesale Clubs

How to Find The Best Wholesale Ice Cream Distributors

To find an ice cream wholesale food distributor you have to follow some steps. Here’s how to find wholesale ice cream distributors for your ice cream business:

  1. Define Your Business Needs 
  2. Explore Digital and Online Wholesale Directories
  3. Try Networking opportunities
  4. Seek Recommendations
  5. Evaluate Distributors

How to Sell Ice Cream Online: How to Promote Ice Cream Shop

There are several ways to improve ice cream business and you can combine a few different ones together. The most important thing is getting results and making profits.

Here is a guide that will help you to sell your ice cream online without any hassle. 

  1. Create an Irresistible Online Store
  1. Leverage Social Media Marketing
  1. Optimize for Search Engines (SEO)
  1. Embrace eCommerce Email Marketing
  1. Offer Online Exclusive Promotions
  1. Upsell with Irresistible Add-Ons
  1. Introduce a Mouthwatering Subscription Business Model
  1. Leverage the Power of Influencer Partnerships

How BlueCart Can Help Your Wholesale Ice Cream Business

Navigating the complexities of running a ice cream business can be challenging without the right tools. That's where BlueCart comes in. 

From providing the perfect eCommerce marketplace online and wholesale directory to helping you accept payments online and process vendor billing, BlueCart simplifies your operations, enhances collaboration with suppliers, and streamlines your online ordering processes. 

Whether it’s BlueCart payment processing software solution - BlueCart Pay, or its wholesale inventory management features, you are covered. BlueCart offers wholesale businesses and food distributors an all-in-one eCommerce and wholesale software solution that makes it easy to implement efficient business systems. You can streamline your ice cream wholesale business, vendor payments, vendor billing, online ordering, warehouse management, and wholesale inventory management processes.

Running your wholesale ice cream business does not have to be a daunting or stressful process. BlueCart sales rep app and digital selling tools can automate your sales management process and help you maximize profit.

Streamline order management, grow your bottom line, and get back hours of your time with BlueCart. Schedule a demo now:
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Book a Demo