Food & Drink » Food News

July 6, 2005

Sweet deal • Dream to Dine In


Sweet deal

Idaho has recently been selected as the headquarters of a major ice cream maker, the Matterhorn Group, whose ice cream novelties are found coast-to-coast. The Group is the result of a merger between Matterhorn Ice Cream of Caldwell, Vitafreze Frozen Confections, Inc. of Sacramento and Deluxe Ice Cream of Salem, Oregon.

Matterhorn's products are bound to break into the Idaho Private 75 list in 2005 with revenues from $40 million to $100 million. This doesn't mean every mom 'n pop ice cream shack will be put to rest-the manufacturing of these national brands will simply be done in Caldwell.

"The merger is a case study in how to successfully bring together three companies," said Kris Ormseth, the Stoel Rives attorney in Boise who headed up the team to resolve merger issues. "Mergers are hard work, but they are satisfying when they result in a larger, stronger and more profitable company."

The national market for ice cream novelties (ice cream bars, fudge bars, orange cream bars, ice cream cones and ice cream sandwiches) accounts for nearly $2 billion in sales each year and was not diminished post-9/11 or post-Atkins. As temperatures soar this summer, it's no surprise people prefer a slab of ice cream to a slab of meat.

Producing these novelty treats requires sophisticated manufacturing equipment; Matterhorn uses an "extrusion process" in which semi-frozen ice cream is pushed through a die before being hardened in a sub-zero freezing tunnel. Hmm ... Apparently, this is an enviable trick of the trade which Vitafreze and Deluxe Ice Cream viewed as ideal to combine with their developed distribution finesse. "It's like combining a sports car and two family minivans to create a new hybrid SUV," says Mike Newell, the former owner of Vitafreze and the chairman of the new Matterhorn Group. "The transaction capitalizes on the strengths of three companies to create a significantly larger, stronger, efficient company."

Dream to Dine In

Tired of planning, preparing and serving up meals? Boiseans can cook like Mrs. Doubtfire from here on out, ordering in a variety of dinners for approximately $3 a serving. Dream Dinners eliminates the drudgery of dinner assembly on July 13 when the franchise officially opens.

To make the dream a reality, customers first preview a monthly menu online at and select 12 dinners. Then they visit the retail location to pick up the prepped ingredients prepared in freezer containers and take the uncooked dinners home to stash in the freezer. The whole process takes two hours and costs roughly $200. Not exactly a novel idea, as frozen dinners for over-stressed families have been the norm for decades, but the food isn't casserole-heavy or T.V. dinner flat. There are meatless and low-carb options, and the menu changes monthly. Dream Dinners promises "everyday gourmet"-high-quality food ready practically the moment you want it. So it is one more convenience-driven industry, but at least the quality is sure to beat our culture's typical fast food fix.

In true Oprah fashion galvanizing on the latest trend, O magazine was not about to let the innovative Dream Dinners escape without being touted as one of the top five "solid-gold ways to save money." The first in Idaho, Dream Dinners has 106 stores in 25 states. The business is the brainchild of a former caterer from the Seattle area, Stephanie Allen, who bowed to pressure from friends and agreed to teach them how to assemble freezer dinners. A girl's night out turned into friends inviting friends, and Allen ended up teaching 44 people her techniques. She attributes the success of Dream Dinners to the fact that "we all have to eat, and most of us would choose to eat at home, if possible." Unfortunately, "There are only so many hours in a day, and we can't do everything."

There's kitchen camaraderie as part of the whole package as well: A typical dinner assembly session is made up of working parents, empty nesters, college students, single dads and even couples looking for the latest unique "date night." Overachieving moms used to feigning Marie Calendar pies as their own (you know the clever lift, remove, replace in home pan trick) can now admit their ways and go whole hog with this latest addition coming to town.

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