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Unilever's taste for ice cream companies leads to acquisition of Canada's Dickie Dee.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant, has added Canada's Dickie Dee Ice Cream Ltd. to its lengthening list of North American frozen confectionery brands that includes the likes of Good Humor and Gold Bond. The transaction was consummated in September following several months of negotiations. No figures were disclosed.

"Unilever's management concluded the best way for it to achieve a Canadian presence was to acquire our company and distribution net-work," said Earl Barish, president. "From our point of view, the sale is highly beneficial. As big as we are in Canada, Dickie Dee is miniscule compared to the large players on the world stage. By becoming part of Unilever, our future growth potential becomes unlimited."

The company has come a long way since 1957, when it began peddling ice cream by bicycle through the streets of Winnipeg. By last summer it was successfully exporting jumbosize single-stick products to the USA through an arrangement with Kroger International's Jackson Ice Cream division.

Dickie Dee signed up the Kroger unit to develop vendor operations - beginning with trucks and convenience stores - south of the border.

Until then, distribution had been limited to Canada, with Earl and Sid Barish of the owning family responsible for operations in the West and East, respectively But the Barish brothers began shopping for suppliers in 1991, because Ault Dairies of Toronto - which supplied 90% of the items for the Space Fleet line of novelties - couldn't couldn't keep up with demand.

Two US suppliers, Nafzinger of Toledo, Ohio, and Richland Valley of Richland Centre, Wisconsin, were signed up. "We figured we might as well do some research into US sales as well," said Earl Barish. He remembered having talked to Rick Schupp, national sales manager for Jackson Ice Cream, in late 1990, about the possibility of Jackson's getting involved in sales to ice cream vendors.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a supermarket chain - but has a number of manufacturing operations, including Jackson, that supply its own stores and sell to other chains. But it has never had a vendor truck operation. Following up on his initial contact, Earl Barish sold what he called the One Stop Shoppe concept to the Kroger board of directors, and Kroger agreed to take on the Space Fleet novelty range as part of the new program.

The concept was launched over a year ago at the International Ice Cream Vendors Association convention. The Space Fleet's entry into the US market was coincidentally eased by the decision of a major American dairy in the jumbo-sized ice cream products category to shut down at about the same time. Working with Jackson Dairy, Dickie Dee has already been able to line up master distributorships in a number of states, including Texas, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Despite cool, rainy weather during the spring, American dairies producing the Space Fleet had to run 24 hours a day, five to seven days a week to keep up with demand. "We have barely scratched the surface," said Barish. "Right now, we are just selling to some vendors and convenience stores. There is still a very wide market out there, and there are other vendors like us who have realized they can add to their business through selling products wholesale. Then there are the supermarkets and the price clubs. We have to develop the kind of packaging and products they need. We will certainly need to find more American dairies to manufacture our products."
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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