[October 4, 2021: Emma Campbell]
If an on-demand, in-home ice cream machine sounds like it comes from the mind of an ambitious child, you're not too far off the mark. It was just a few years ago that Matthew Fonte and his daughters were writing in “invention journals” instead of reading traditional bedtime stories — that routine had become boring, Fonte said — when they came up with the idea for a machine that could create flash-frozen ice cream in under two minutes, and with minimal effort on the user's part.
In 2018, Fonte turned his daughters' dreams into reality when he founded ColdSnap, a Billerica-based startup that makes a Keurig-style machine for ice cream.
ColdSnap is a single-serve system, similar to a Keurig. Users simply select a single-use aluminum pod, insert it into the machine, follow the display prompts on the appliance, then wait 60 to 120 seconds for the frozen treat to dispense.
The technology underpinning ColdSnap was inspired by modern refrigeration systems. The startup uses a proprietary combination of churning and mixing ingredients, while flash-freezing allows the machine to create ice cream quickly.
“We are using compressor-condenser technology. We're just making it very strong," Fonte said. "We have a lot of power that we're using to pull heat out of the pods and effectively freeze ingredients. So as we're putting a lot of energy into that pod and pulling the heat out, we're also stirring and mixing the ice cream as we're freezing it."
Fonte says the ColdSnap machine is an improvement from traditional at-home ice cream makers. For example, ColdSnap machines don’t need to be cleaned, since ingredients are dispensed straight from the pod. Each single-use pod is shelf stable for nine to 12 months, depending on the product, and is recyclable.
Fonte noted that ColdSnap has made itself independent from the ice cream cold chain, another way it is committed to sustainability. ColdSnap expects to reduce carbon emissions associated with making and distributing ice cream by 25 to 50 percent.
“What happens today is ice cream is frozen in the factory, and then it's stored frozen before it's shipped. When the trucks come and pick it up, they keep it frozen during transit. They give it to a depot, keep it frozen, and then they bring it to a grocery store, frozen," Fonte said. "What we're doing is we're keeping it shelf-stable, room-temperature and then freezing on demand. You only put 60 to 90 seconds' worth of energy into the ice cream, versus keeping it frozen 24-seven, which has to keep the coolers going 24-seven. It's very expensive and very bad for the environment.”
In January, ColdSnap presented at the virtual 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The startup was chosen as an Innovation Award Honoree in the Home Appliances category, and within a couple weeks, it had received 20,000 emails from individuals asking for the machine for their homes. Originally, the company was focused on bringing ColdSnap to commercial settings like breakrooms or cafeterias, but the company pivoted based on demand and decided to make it available for homes as well.
Consumers shouldn't hold their breath, though. ColdSnap machines will be beta tested this summer and won’t launch commercially until 2022. When they do launch, each machine will cost around $1,000 until the company can increase volume and decrease the price point. Pods, however, will only cost around $2.99.
ColdSnap is currently developing a whole ice cream suite, including non-dairy ice cream, a line of healthy smoothies and possibly frozen coffee pods.
Along with generating buzz at CES, the company also recently raised $12.4 million in equity, per a securities filing. Fonte said ColdSnap plans to raise a funding round in 2022, but the company is “always looking for partners, for investors.” ColdSnap currently has 20 issued patents and 40 patent applications pending.
ColdSnap’s mission is simple: “to get these machines onto every countertop in the country,” Fonte said.
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