Dippin' Dots are made by flash freezing drops of ice cream using liquid… (Dippin' Dots )
The ice cream of the future may not get there — at least not without some restructuring.
Dippin' Dots Inc., which sells ice cream in masses of colorful beads in malls, theme parks, movie theaters and other venues, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Kentucky company owes nearly $11 million to Regions Bank, according to court documents.
Problems at the ice cream company had been mounting over the last few years, Dippin' Dots spokesman Steve Heisner said.
"Back in 2008, during the turn in the economy, there was a slump in our company," he said. "We couldn't meet all the obligations, which put us in technical defaults."
The bank, which declined comment, sued Dippin' Dots in February, saying the ice cream manufacturer had defaulted on its debt.
Heisner said Dippin' Dots plans to continue operations while going through bankruptcy proceedings.
"We have operated this business without a line of credit for the last four years," he said. "We've operated on a cash basis, and in doing so, we have managed to grow the business.
"At the end of October this year, our business was up 6.6% from last year."
The company scaled back from 210 to 170 employees over the last three years. Michael Milner, Dippin' Dots' controller, said that sales are expected to exceed $31 million this year but that the company will post a loss.
Dippin' Dots, which calls itself the "ice cream of the future" in advertising, was founded by microbiologist Curt Jones in 1988. Jones, now president of the company, created a process to flash freeze drops of ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
Food industry consultant Bob Goldin, who is executive vice president at Technomic Inc., said Dippin' Dots might not have staying power.
"When it first came out, everyone thought it was so cool," he said. "Honestly, though, I had almost forgotten about it.
"I think I saw it in a ballpark this year and thought, 'Oh, I didn't know they were still around.'"