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Prices haven't hurt sales



Published: Sun, August 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

One Valley ice cream franchise pays nearly double what it paid last yearfor certain products.

By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Many Mahoning Valley customers are still screaming for ice cream, even if the tasty treat costs a little more.

Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & amp; Yogurt customers are paying slightly more this year for an ice cream cone topped with their favorite flavor. Nevertheless, long lines continue to fan out from the 56-year-old business on Youngstown's South Side, as well as its three other company-owned stores and eight franchises.

Most people have accepted paying an additional 15 cents for that single scoop of Rocky Road, according to Jim Brown, chief operating officer.

Hasn't hurt sales: "There's been no negativism at the window. It has not detracted from sales at the window," Brown said.

A cone and single scoop of one of Handel's 50 flavors of ice cream, yogurt or Italian ice is now $1.50; it's the company's first price increase in four years.

Brown cited several reasons for the higher prices, such as fewer locally owned dairies, leading to less competition. Also, milk fat, a primary ingredient in ice cream, has gone up 71 percent over the last six months -- to $2.22 per pound, he added.

Last summer, Handel's paid about $1.20 per pound for butterfat, compared to $2.25 this year.

"I've never seen anything like this since I've been in the ice cream business," said Brown, who's been in the trade more than 12 years.

He also said cows produce less milk during the summer, the same time that demand for ice cream peaks. This summer's unusually hot weather has contributed to a further reduction in cows' milk, Brown pointed out.

At Bruster's: The "astronomical" cost of cream and butterfat has impacted Bruster's Ice Cream, said the owner of the chain's Poland stand, Jerry Morell Sr. Morell said he is paying 25 percent to 35 percent more for raw materials, compared to when his store opened last year.

"All other products go up accordingly, across the board," Morell said, adding he doesn't think cream prices will come down soon.

Bruster's hasn't raised its ice cream prices yet, but Morell said he's worried that may have to change.

The store's ice cream, yogurt and ices, as well as its waffle cones, are handmade on site, Morell said.

At Scoopers in Austintown, owner John Deshance said he's also felt the pinch. Deshance said he is paying $3 more for each case of product than he paid when he opened his store in April.

Increase: Last April, Deshance paid $30.25 per case of ice cream mix, compared to $33.74 now. Each five-gallon case of the liquid contains 12 percent butterfat and other ingredients he uses to make his ice cream.

So far, however, Deshance has been able to avoid raising his prices, which are $1.44 for a single scoop and $2.25 for a double.

Higher cheese prices, coupled with greater demand, have contributed to the higher prices he now pays, Deshance said.

Deshance, who makes all 44 of his flavors daily, predicted cheese and other dairy products' prices will drop this fall when demand decreases.

Prices at Katie's Korner Homemade Ice Cream & amp; Yogurt are the same as they were two years ago, according to Keith Martin, president of Katie's Korner Inc.

The 18-year-old chain buys its cream and butterfat in mass quantity, but makes the ice cream at the company's Hubbard plant before distributing the product to its 38 franchises, he said.

Martin added he pays about the same for cream as he did last year, a factor he thinks has enabled him to keep his prices fixed.

Katie's Korner sells about 60 flavors, Martin said.

barron@vindy.com




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