Snacks & Candy

It Worked for Tacos, So Why Not Hot Dogs?

Baseball fans popularize cool treat

SHIRLEY, Mass. -- In 1999, Peter Franklin dreamed up an icy creation called the Cool Dog. He had to work hard to drum up interest and to attract venture capital. Franklin and his wife, Tara, got their big break in 2002 when the Boston Red Sox and Aramark, the company that handles Fenway Park's concessions, agreed to sell the Cool Dog in the stadium.

The desserta slab of vanilla ice cream in the shape of a hot dog, nestled in a sponge-cake bunquickly caught on with fans and with Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, who enjoyed a Cool Dog on the air during a rain [image-nocss] delay.

Franklin has since parlayed that success into deals with other sports venues, convenience stores and amusement parks, reported the Lowell Sun. The Cool Dog is sold in the stadiums of the Cincinnati Reds and the minor league Toledo Mud Hens and Pawtucket Red Sox, in the Water Country and Story Land parks in New Hampshire, in Tedeschi and Li'l Peach c-stores, and at BJ's Wholesale Club. The Stop n' Shop and Shaw's grocery chains will begin carrying the product this month, Franklin told the newspaper.

Cool Dogs currently have 61 distributors and are sold by an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 retailers in 27 states, the report said.

When Franklin first came up with the idea, he asked two major ice-cream producers for equipment that could make ice cream in the shape of a hot dogcrinkled ends and all. "They said, 'That's impossible'," Franklin said.

Traditionally, ice cream ingredients are frozen into a stainless-steel container, which is then placed in hot water to allow the ice cream to slide out. This process inevitably results in a somewhat flattened hunk of ice cream, so making a rounded hot dog shape was out of the question.

Franklin was unsatisfied with that answer. He hired a consultant from the ice-cream industry. Franklin and the consultant decided that rather than asking an ice cream company to make a hot dog, they would ask a hot dog company to make ice cream. "We called manufacturers of hot dog equipment," Franklin told the paper. "They thought we were out of our minds."

Finally, Franklin found someone to test his idea. He fed milk, cream, sugar, eggs and other goodies into a hot dog-making device. "Within five minutes the machine was smoking," said Franklin said. But he was on the right track.

The ice cream companies had been right, said the reportyou cannot make ice cream shaped like a hot dog using stainless steel. So Franklin developed his own molding process. Instead of freezing the Cool Dogs in steel containers, he froze them inside lightweight, flexible, disposable cellulose casings, the same type of material that shapes meat into hot dogs.

In the process, he accidentally solved an age-old problem in the frozen-novelties market, the report said. "You never see a soft outer cake because the ice-cream industry has always integrated soft ice cream onto the cake," Franklin says. "It makes the cake a soggy mess." Somehow, Franklin's molding process produced ice cream that eliminated this "moisture migration."

"It's one of those accidental technology things," Franklin said.

He expects that when big manufacturers get wind of his fast, inexpensive technologyit can crank out 400 Cool Dogs per minute, as opposed to two using the old methodit will turn the ice cream industry on its ear. Franklin recently patented his molding process.

This year, the company will turn a profit for the first time, Franklin said. Cool Dogs sell for $4.75 apiece at Fenway, $4 each at amusement parks, $4.29 for a box of four in grocery stores, and $7.99 for a box of eight at BJ's, said the report.

The company recently contracted with Nutmeg Farms in West Hartford to make its ice cream, assemble the Cool Dogs using Franklin's molding process and ship them out to distributors, said the Sun.

Cool Dogs have been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and Forbes, and have appeared on the Food Network. Cool Dog Inc. has partnered with an international broker and will ship to the Middle East and Southeast Asia by the end of the year, Franklin said.

Franklin is also ready to use his molding process to create new products, according to the report. "I want to make a baseball," he said.

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