In 1861, using a mule-turned churn on his farm in Salem New Jersey, Lewis Dubois Bassett invented what would become America’s oldest ice cream – Bassetts. And it’s safe to say that Mr. Bassett was not thinking of selling his ice cream to South Korea or anywhere outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at that time.
By 1885, Bassetts Ice Cream was sold at 5th and Market Street and by 1892 moved to its current location inside Reading Terminal. Ice Cream production was also moved into the basement of the Reading Terminal location.
Bassetts Ice Cream has always been a homegrown Philly favorite and its now becoming a popular dessert treat in China and South Korea.
With the help of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP) trade specialist, Dale Foote, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development, Bassetts began exporting to China in 2008 and on June 7, 2017, opened its first store in South Korea.
“They don’t rush to enter a new market, “says Foote. “Bassetts uses many of the international trade services of the WTCGP and the PA in-country Authorized Trade Representatives (ATRs) to help them do market research, including government food/ice cream import rules, regulations, required certifications, partner searches and background due diligence, market entry strategies, consumer taste testing/preferences, new market trends, packaging, etc.”
Almost a year later, on May 15, 2018, Bassetts opened its 31st store in South Korea.
“We were confident that we would see rapid growth,” says Brian Bebee, Bassetts Vice President, Sales and Marketing, but we were still surprised at the rapid pace in adding new stores. We also had the luxury of having partners who fully embraced our brand, have extensive knowledge of franchising and are well versed in the culture of South Korea.”
I asked our South Korean Temple University student and WTCGP intern about Bassetts. “It’s a different style of ice cream,” said Yunjin Jo. “Some of my friends tried it and love it.”
“One of the reasons for our success in Asia is that our ice cream is less sweet than many of our competitors,” says Bebee. “From our experience it seems it’s something the Asian palate prefers. We also found that the milkshake is not yet as popular in Asia as it is in the United State – yet.”
“Bassetts ice cream is something new that we want,” adds Yunjin Jo. They offer numerous flavors, and they are even specialized only for ice cream. There are not many ice cream specialized brands. We were thirsty for a new style of ice cream.”
Fruit, nut and green tea flavors are all very popular in South Korea, “says Bebee. “But our best seller in South Korea is cookies and cream. And in both China and the United States our best seller is plain ole vanilla!”
Bassetts stores are called “Bassetts Ice Cream Café” in South Korea and unlike the Reading Terminal Market store; they serve sandwiches, beverages, coffee and desserts, such as ice cream cakes.
Bassetts Ice Cream cake became available in the United States in 2013.
“We were able to introduce ice cream cakes in late November 2017 in South Korea,” Bebee explains. “It went really well and was just in time for the Christmas season and the Korean Lunar New Year; despite the fact this winter was one of the coldest in Korean history.”
So what’s next for Bassetts in South Korea?
“While our Korea customer certainly has plans to sell Bassetts Ice Cream through foodservice and grocery channels, and is laying the groundwork for that now, the initial focus has been on opening the Bassetts Ice Cream Cafes in order to establish brand recognition, “says President Michael Strange. We expect that they will move into the new channels over the next several months.”
According to Dale Foote, whatever sales direction Bassetts decides to take internationally, will likely yield success. “Bassetts is very open, adaptable and flexible when it comes to considering new flavors, such as green tea for the Asian market, and/or introducing ice cream cakes for the South Korea market. Bassetts’ exporting experience(s) for both China and South Korea should prove to be very beneficial as we continue to work closely with Bassetts to expand into additional new markets and countries in Asia and/or the Middle East. “
And we think that Great Great Grandpa would be very proud!!!