|Industry||Ice cream manufacturer, food trucks, ice cream shops|
|Founders||Natasha Case and Freya Estreller|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, US|
Ice cream sandwiches|
ice cream bars
Ice cream floats
Coolhaus is a manufacturer and retailer of architecturally-inspired gourmet ice cream sandwiches—also known as "sammies"—and other frozen desserts using all-natural ingredients. Based in Los Angeles, California, the company was founded in 2009 by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller on the principle of using food to spark interest in architecture.
As of October 2014, the company operates two stores in Pasadena, California, and Culver City, California, as well as gourmet dessert trucks in multiple states. Coolhaus products are also sold in retail stores and partner restaurants, as well as on select websites.
Coolhaus and its entrepreneurial story have received coverage from Good Morning America, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other nationwide media outlets. With inventive flavors such as Fried Chicken & Waffles and Goat's Milk Caramel Mascarpone Rosemary, Vogue called Coolhaus sammies "the best ice cream sandwiches in culinary history".
While studying architecture at UC Berkeley and then in graduate school at UCLA, co-founder Natasha Case explored a concept she called "Farchitecture", or Food + Architecture. After graduation, she worked as a Disney Imagineer and continued toying with Farchitecture as a hobby—she made cookies and ice cream, and named the combinations after architects. Case met business partner Freya Estreller through friends, who told them they had "the same kind of brain". Estreller liked the idea of architecturally-themed ice cream sandwiches and together they turned the "art project" into a business. Having studied finance at Cornell and worked in real estate development, Estreller helped greatly with financial modeling and business operations.
Coolhaus was founded in April 2009 on the principle of using Farchitecture to "bring architecture to the people". By playfully naming Coolhaus creations after architects and architectural movements, Case hoped to inspire people to talk and learn more about architecture. "We think of ourselves as a marketing company for architects," Case told Architect Magazine. Flavors like "Mintimalism", "Frank Behry", and "Norman Bananas Foster" pay tribute to the Minimalist architectural movement and architects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. The company name, Coolhaus, is itself a triple entendre, playing off of:
1. Bauhaus, an influential modernist design movement of the 1920's and 30's.
2. Rem Koolhaas, a famous Dutch architect and theorist.
3. "Cool house," or what you're eating when you bite into an ice cream sandwich...right?
"There's definitely an architecture to the sandwich," Case told NPR. The bottom cookie is the foundation and must be pliable enough not to crumble, and the top cookie must be soft enough not to push the ice cream out when bitten.
The co-founders launched the company with a $10,000 initial investment: they bought a 20-year-old postal van off Craigslist, converted it into a food truck, and used it to sell ice cream sandwiches at the popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Although the truck had a faulty engine—it had to be towed to the festival and back—exposure to an audience of 160,000 made the outing a success. Coolhaus subsequently went viral with Twitter followers and inquiries from the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. Case left her job at Disney within a month and a half and committed full-time to Coolhaus.
After Coachella, Coolhaus fixed its silver and bubblegum-pink truck and continued to grow. Like Kogi Korean BBQ and other new-wave food trucks entering the scene, Coolhaus' "reinvention" of the ice cream truck was hip and social-media savvy, using Twitter to broadcast locations and engage customers. Coolhaus added trucks in Austin, Texas, in 2010 and New York City in 2011, and opened its first storefront in Culver City, California, in 2011. By 2012, Coolhaus' fleet of ten trucks and one food cart had expanded to Miami, Florida, and Fast Company described Coolhaus as "the first gourmet branded truck with a national reach".
Since then, Coolhaus has rapidly expanded its range of products and distribution channels, with an increased focus on retail distribution of prepackaged goods. In an interview with Entrepreneur, Case explained that retail distribution allows Coolhaus to reach as many consumers as possible, and gives the company a scalable business model in which "you grow the revenue tremendously without necessarily increasing overhead." Coolhaus went from 3 retail partner stores in spring 2011 to over 2,000 by June 2014 and 2,500 by September 2014. According to Case, Coolhaus stands apart from its competitors "because of our tri-fold approach in the marketplace: trucks, brick and mortar AND wholesale distribution. I haven’t seen any truck diversify like with [sic] have with channels in grocery stores, movie theaters, stadiums and fashion retailers." Estreller estimates that over one million Coolhaus sammies were consumed in 2013 and projects nearly $6 million in revenue for 2014.
Forbes magazine named Case to its "30 Under 30" for Food & Wine, a list of "the field's brightest stars under the age of 30", in 2012. That same year, restaurant surveyor Zagat also recognized Case on its "30 Under 30" list of "rising stars" in New York City's food scene. Co-founders Case and Estreller became engaged in 2011, married in 2012, and made Zagat's Valentine's Day list of "LA's 10 Sweetest Culinary Power Couples" in 2014.
Products and services
Coolhaus produces gourmet ice cream sandwiches, ice cream pints, ice cream bars, and other all-natural desserts. Sammies are built with all-natural handmade ice cream, packed between two cookies and wrapped in edible, calorie-free wrappers.
The company is known for its innovative flavors and unconventional pairings, with a rotating selection of 90 ice creams running the gamut from sweet, to savory, to smoky, to cheesy, to alcoholic. Example flavors include Avocado Sriracha; Beer & Pretzels; Gin & Tonic; Cuban Cigar; Peking Duck; and Fried Chicken & Waffles, made of "brown butter maple ice cream with maple candied chicken skins and carmelized waffles". Other flavors incorporate ingredients such as shaved Italian truffle, Lambrusco wine, Guinness beer, and mascarpone cheese. Customers can design sammies with their favorite ice cream flavors and cookies, or choose a "prefab" combination like Louis Ba-Kahn, named after American architect Louis Kahn and consisting of chocolate chip cookies and Brown Butter Candied Bacon ice cream.
Besides sammies, Coolhaus also produces and sells ice cream cakes, ice cream floats, hand-dipped ice cream bars, beverages, fried chicken caramel, and handmade candy bars. Coolhaus ice cream bars are sold in packs of three with flavors such as Chocolate Hazelnut Aalto-mond, named for Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and made of chocolate hazelnut ice cream, dipped in salted milk chocolate and then rolled in crushed almonds.
Coolhaus ice cream trucks attend events such as Coachella and SXSW. Upon request, they have also catered weddings, film sets, and many other functions, such as the Forbes "30 Under 30" party and events for Disney and Frank Gehry. The trucks can be hired for branded marketing campaigns and cross-promotional events, complete with custom ice cream flavors and full-scale vinyl truck wraps.
In 2011, Coolhaus trucks gave away Mozilla-themed sammies in custom edible wrappers as part of a Mozilla-sponsored promotion for its new Firefox for Android browser. Coolhaus has also helped promote Facebook, Google, Guess, Estée Lauder, MasterCard, Pepsi, and others. For the premium television network Showtime, Coolhaus created a Dexter-themed "killer combo" sammy with Tahitian vanilla bean and "bloody" cherry swirl ice cream. Film studios have hired Coolhaus for Emmy campaigns and movie premieres, with custom menus and truck branding.
Coolhaus has received widespread attention in newspapers, magazines, television, and social media. Vogue's 2010 Road Food article called Coolhaus sammies "the best ice cream sandwiches in culinary history. Full stop." Every Day with Rachael Ray conducted a taste test of frozen chocolate desserts, and selected Coolhaus' IM Pei-Nut Butter (named after architect I. M. Pei) as the Best Sandwich. Coolhaus has earned recognition in various Zagat features, and placed second in Zagat editors' 2012 ranking of New York's 8 Best Food Trucks.
ABC's morning television show Good Morning America posted Coolhaus recipes on its website and teamed with the company to create its own, exclusive ice cream flavor, chosen by audience votes. Coolhaus also garnered attention from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which hosted co-founders Case and Estreller on Everyday Food, and picked the pair as finalists for Martha Stewart's 2014 American Made awards. The Food Network show Kid in a Candy Store also followed Case behind the scenes to show Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone ice cream in the making.
Coolhaus' public recognition can be attributed in part to its active participation on social media to engage its customers and cultivate a following. Case explained to Entrepreneur that Instagram is helpful for "sell[ing] people on well-styled images of artfully-prepared food", while Facebook is a great way to address the "clubhouse" of loyal fans. The company's national and local Twitter accounts are used to draw customers to Coolhaus food truck locations and alert them to special flavors of the day. The company also posts videos to its official YouTube channel, and engages customers on Pinterest and Tumblr with product, event, and architectural photos.
Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Zooey Deschanel, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp have enlisted Coolhaus to cater events and have followed the company on social media. On Live! with Kelly, repeat customer Will Ferrell recounted how instead of having a birthday cake, the Coolhaus truck catered his birthday party and "it was really great".
As of October 2014, Coolhaus runs two Los Angeles-area storefronts in Old Town Pasadena and the Culver City Arts District, and operates a fleet of eleven mobile ice cream trucks and carts in Southern California, New York City, Austin, and Dallas.
Prepackaged Coolhaus ice cream sammies, ice cream pints, and ice cream bars are sold in more than 2,500 retail stores and gourmet markets in over 45 states, including Whole Foods, Gelson's Markets, Sprouts Farmers Market, Earth Fare, Fairway Market, Safeway, and Smart & Final. Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches are also available on the dessert menu at all Umami Burger restaurants in California, and prepackaged products are sold in select Urban Outfitters and Quiksilver stores.
Customers can also order Coolhaus products and services online, directly from Coolhaus' official website or via third-party websites such as FreshDirect and Goldbely, which allows ordering of customized sammies. Coolhaus ships frozen desserts by FedEx overnight, packed inside insulated shipping boxes with dry ice.
Ice cream with a cause
Coolhaus prides itself on being environmentally and socially conscious. According to the company, every treat is all natural, handmade, and organic whenever possible. Coolhaus uses sustainably produced, hormone-free dairy and fresh, local ingredients, which means some flavors and ingredients are seasonal to promote peak flavor and responsible sourcing. Hand-scooped sammies come in all-natural, calorie-free wrappers that can be eaten instead of discarded.
The company also supports social causes. In 2013, Coolhaus partnered with Canadian indie pop band Tegan and Sara—composed of openly gay twin sisters Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin—to create an ice cream sammie in favor of marriage equality, named "Til Death Do Us Part". The sammie featured Double Chocolate cookies and Salted Caramel ice cream.
Coolhaus Ice Cream Book
The Coolhaus co-founders wrote Coolhaus Ice Cream Book with the help of Kathleen Squires, an established food writer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in May 2014, it features easy recipes for recreating Coolhaus desserts at home, as well as the story of the company and biographies of famous architects who inspired some creations.
In reviewing the book, the recipe editor for The Kitchn wrote:
These ladies have hit that sweet spot of ice creams that are clever, whimsical, and crave-inducing (which, yes, is the M.O. for most artisan ice cream makers these days), but that are also quite easy to make. You won't spend hours making a cake only to then crumble it up ... No, most of these recipes involve just a few clever mix-ins that pair flavors for surprising creations.
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A sweet (pun intended) gallery of the unique, cross-promotional events we've done for the clients that <3 us: Showtime, Guess, Bon Appetit Magazine, Mozilla, Tumblr, Pepsi, Estee Lauder, Google, Mastercard, Bushmills, Hanazuki, Allegiant Airlines, Helmut Lang, Yodle, Maker's Mark, AOL and HoodieBuddie (amongst many, many others).
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For daily menus and up-to-the-minute details on truck locations, check out our local feeds @CoolhausLA, @CoolhausNY, @CoolhausATX and @CoolhausDFW
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- Official website
- Coolhaus YouTube channel, eatcoolhaus: Features videos on how to make Coolhaus ice cream, as well as a Food Network segment on early Coolhaus