Antonio Fins: Why Sloan’s Ice Cream is scooping up the Middle East


Terrorism, crashing oil prices, a corruption scandal with a World Cup soccer bid — seems businesses may want to run from the Middle East instead of toward it. Not Sloan’s Ice Cream.

The company just opened its first international franchise in Kuwait, and plans nine more stores there and in Bahrain within the next five years.

“The thing is, the news doesn’t tell you the whole story,” said David Wild, Sloan’s director of franchising. “The Middle East, for us, has a good population, good buying power and is a huge consumer of sweets.”

In other words, it’s just a good place for business.

Wild points out that people dine late in the evening in Kuwait, which fuels a taste for desserts. It’s a desert, too, so ice cream is a natural fit. And there is taste for international, particularly American, brands.

“The Middle East is just a terrific place for this type of concept,” said Wild, pointing to toys, cookies and ice cream at the company’s CityPlace store on a recent afternoon. “It makes more sense to sell ice cream there than on the northern rim of Russia.”

I’ll buy that. If the region were a bust for global ice cream brands, then why would competitors Häagen Dazs and Baskin-Robbins be there, too?

Still, it’s not a piece of cake to set up your company’s first overseas franchise operation on the other side of the planet.

Wild concedes they’ve had logistical challenges. One is that getting to Kuwait takes 19 hours of flight time, not including layovers. Unless he can get the non-stop from New York — still a 14-hour flight.

The U.S.-made ice cream and cookies have to be shipped by boat to the region — sending them by air would be really expensive. So, supplies have to be calculated way in advance to file and fill orders on time. And if something goes wrong — like miscalculating the appeal of banana cheesecake milkshakes — redirecting shipments isn’t as easy.

Wild, who’s been with Sloan’s for four years, said the company is interested in franchises in Europe and Australia as well. But it’s one continent at a time right now.

“You don’t want to go into all these places at once,” he said. “You focus on what you have and make sure everyone is strong before you expand to the rest of the world.”


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