By Rebecca Heilweil
Nightfood, a dessert manufacturer that specializes in "sleep-friendly" ice cream, is expanding its distribution deal with Meijer, a popular supermarket chain in the Midwest. The news is a vote of confidence for the company, and a sign Nightfood could nab an even larger chunk of the ice cream industry, a market predicted to be worth nearly $75 billion dollars by 2024.
"This is a lifestyle hack for people who are already snacking at night," Nightfood founder Sean Folkson told Cheddar. According to Folkson, ice cream is the second-most popular nighttime snack, following salty snacks like popcorn, chips, and pretzels. Nightfood hopes to earn a name for itself in the category by offering a recipe that is optimized for a good night's sleep.
Importantly, Nightfood's claims are not medicinal, and the product does not contain any sleep aid substances. It also does not replace maintaining healthy sleeping practices.
"There's nothing in it that makes you fall asleep. It's formulated for better sleep and better sleep quality," explained Folkson. "In most of the full-fat ice creams, there's tons of fat, calories, and sugar that can all be very disruptive to your sleep. So we looked at those things, and we made sure to take out and keep out most of the stuff that could be sleep disruptive. And then our team of sleep experts worked with us to identity things that we could add to the ice cream to make better quality sleep." These additions include certain minerals, digestive enzymes, and amino acids.
There are currently eight flavors, which all boast sleep-inspired names like Cookies N' Dreams and Midnight Chocolate. The product doesn't use any artificial sweeteners, is also kosher, and five of its flavors are gluten-free.
"There are really two ice cream consumers. There's the ice cream consumer that's eating a full-fat Ben and Jerry's, or a Haagen-Daz. And then there's the ice cream consumer that, we believe, has been compromising on taste and texture," referring to more health-conscious products, Folkson said. To full-fat ice cream consumers, Folkson says Nightfood provides a healthier alternative with less fat and fewer calories. To the latter group ー who might currently be purchasing products like Halo Top or Breyers Delights ー he believes Nightfood offers a uniquely sleep-friendly product that uses natural sweeteners.
Nightfood ice cream sells for about $5 a print, a price on par with other big brand competitors.
The brand is already available in nearly 100 Meijer stores, and will soon be debuting in 13 new locations, an indication that initial sales are promising. Nightfood also has distribution deals with New England Ice Cream Corporation and Wonder Ice Cream Company, an ice cream distributor that services independent supermarkets and convenience stores in Northern California.
The company's already racked up a compelling line-up of professional athletes as brand ambassadors, such as pro golfer Angela Stanford and New York Jets running back Ty Montgomery, and prominent sleep experts as advisers, including Michael Breus (better known as the Sleep Doctor).
Folkson conceded that nothing inherently stops a bigger manufacturer from producing a similar night-friendly product, but "in the consumer goods space, when a company creates a category, and pioneers a category, and captures that category to growth, it's really hard, even for the big multinationals to come in and take market share."
Nightfood, however, isn't opposed to a potential acquisition. "We do think that by this time, next year, we're going to be in a position where we'll probably going to be fielding some phone calls," said Folkson. "And we're certainly going to listen."