A Scoop Of Genius: Ice Cream Vending Machines

The world’s favorite dessert is now just a touch away thanks to cutting edge technology. Food Manufacturing spoke with MooBella, the creator of the ice cream vending machine.

Q: How did MooBella come up with the idea for an ice cream vending machine?

A:  MooBella is the result of inspiration, dedication and innovation. Bruce Ginsberg, a 20-year veteran of the ice cream industry, shared Boston business executive Paul Kateman’s vision for a revolutionary machine that would produce a wide variety of fresh, hard-scoop ice cream on-demand. In 2001, Ginsberg—the founder of New England Ice Cream Corporation—helped establish MooBella and lead the charge. Ginsberg secured funding, built a board of directors, recruited a top-notch staff, attracted strategic partners and helped advance upgrades in design and engineering.

Q; How long did it take to complete the design process for the machine, and how much did it cost?

A: Like any new concept, there were many iterations of the MooBella Ice Creamery, from the earliest prototypes through today’s commercial model. Developing disruptive technology within a small footprint (the Ice Creamery is the size of a household refrigerator) as well as new “recipes” required a significant investment of time, talent and financial resources. It has been many years since a machine that would produce fresh ice cream on the spot was first envisioned. Now, with MooBella, consumers can make one of 96 possible combinations of ice cream (from two varieties—Premium or Light—three mix-ins and 12 flavors, in just 40 seconds. 

To date, MooBella has invested more than $40 million in the design, engineering and manufacturing of the Ice Creamery. But this unique machine has the potential to radically change the $60 billion ice cream industry, one scoop at a time.

Q: What innovations went into the making of this machine?

A:  Numerous innovations were integrated into the MooBella machine:

  • The MooBella Ice Creamery is designed for ease of use by both consumers and food service operators. Consumers use interactive touch screens to select Premium or Light ice creams, one of 12 flavors and one of three mix-ins, and operators rely on these touch screens to monitor inventory.
  • Onboard computers track sales and wirelessly send data to MooBella headquarters. 
  • MooBella’s shelf-stable food products allow for non-refrigerated transport. This creates substantial savings and environmental benefits and eliminates the need for on-site freezer storage space, a huge advantage for clients. Because refrigeration is not required during transit and storage, there is tremendous international potential, especially in developing markets that don't have a frozen or refrigerated supply chain.
  • MooBella’s single-use packaging ensures safe handling by food service staff.  

Q: How does the machine’s ice cream making process work?

A: The MooBella Ice Creamery features multi-patented technology that allows for the instantaneous blending, aerating and freezing of all natural, real dairy ingredients, with delicious flavors and mix-ins. The finished product is formed into a scoop and served by the cup.  

Q: What are the differences between your machine’s ice cream making process and that of large ice cream manufacturing machines?

A: For the most part, the ice cream making process hasn’t changed much since the 1800s.  Cream, milk, sugar and flavorings still need to be blended, aerated and frozen. The difference between the ice cream manufactured at commercial ice cream plants and the MooBella ice cream is freshness. Ice cream produced in large-scale facilities is generally made many months prior to its arrival in grocery store freezers. Ice cream quality degrades in the time it takes to prepare, ship, and sell. In contrast, MooBella ice cream is produced on the spot, resulting in the creamy smooth taste of a super premium ice cream, but with less fat and calories. 

Q: How is your finished product different from other ice cream products?

A:  The ice cream available through vending machines are prepackaged, “novelty” products. The MooBella Ice Creamery produces ice cream made fresh to order on the spot. MooBella ice cream uses 100 percent all natural dairy ingredients and is certified kosher and is transfat- and rGBH-free. Because of our flash freezing process, MooBella’s rich, creamy taste is comparable to super premiums, but with 60 percent less fat than competitors. Equally important, MooBella premium is 90 percent fat free and only 230 calories per 4.5-ounce scoop, and our light ice cream is 95 percent fat free and only 200 calories per 4.5-ounce scoop.  

Q: What are the future plans for MooBella? Will you be expanding your machines across the country?

A: For the remainder of the year, MooBella will primarily focus on its expansion within the New England region. Today, MooBella Ice Creamery machines can be found at diverse locations including museums, hospitals, performing arts centers, airport terminals, colleges & universities, zoos, aquariums and corporate cafeterias. MooBella is currently in talks with a variety of new sites including train stations, casual restaurant chains, and visitor centers. And several MooBella machines are slated to make their debut in New York this fall. National interest in MooBella remains high and expansion is certainly on the horizon.

Interview by Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor

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