A bowl of Chloe's frozen fruit pops on a checkered tablecloth.
A relatable startup story and the use of high-quality ingredients are two of the top traits that the co-founders of Chloe's credit to its success. — Chloe's

How startup Chloe’s gained market share in the frozen treat aisle:

  • Nondairy frozen desserts are a booming category, with 8.7% compound annual growth forecast in the next eight years.
  • Leaning into that growth, Chloe’s filled a need in the market for great-tasting, better-for-you nondairy treats for the whole family.
  • Strong relationships with manufacturing partners helped the company thrive during the pandemic, fueling 28% year-over-year growth.

Consumers want it both ways when it comes to their diets. They want to indulge in great-tasting treats, while at the same time they are seeking out better-for-you foods, such as organic fare and clean-eating designations, like “nothing artificial” and Non-GMO Project Verified.

That’s the literal “sweet spot” in consumer demand that Chloe’s is seeking to tap into with its signature dairy-free frozen fruit pops.

“Gone are the days that people will sacrifice taste just to get something healthy, or better-for-you,” said Michael Sloan, CEO and Co-founder of Chloe’s.

He and Chloe Epstein founded the company in 2010 as a soft-serve frozen fruit store in Manhattan, offering an alternative to frozen yogurt made with high-quality, all-natural, clean-label ingredients.

“The idea stemmed from the fact that I was a big frozen yogurt addict, and had an intense sweet tooth, but really was committed to a healthy lifestyle,” said Epstein. “I was trying to find something that could satisfy that frozen treat craving without all the artificial stuff.”

The company soon began experimenting with pouring its simple fruit blends — made with just fruit, water, and cane sugar — into molds, and came up with a line of frozen pops that are now sold in more than 10,000 retail stores nationwide, from Walmart to Wegmans. The brand has since expanded to include a range of nondairy varieties made with oat milk, as well as pops dipped in chocolate and no-sugar-added pops.

[Read: Food Companies Tap the Sales Potential of ‘Vegan-Curious’ Consumers]

Chloe’s relatable backstory — and an assist from Chobani’s food incubator — fuel growth

Epstein credits the company’s success not only to the additive-free labels and high-quality ingredients used in her namesake brand, but also the fact that her story is relatable.

“I’m a mom of three, and I had a sweet tooth, but I'm very committed to healthy living, and I just wanted to feel great about what I was feeding my family,” she said. “I think that's something that a lot of consumers really connect with.”

The company has also leveraged licensing agreements with family-friendly brands, including Nickelodeon’s Thomas the Train, which appeals to young children, and Disney’s Marvel, which resonates with both children and adults. Chloe’s has rolled out frozen pops themed around Spider-Man and the Avengers, for example.

Although neither Epstein nor Sloan came from a food background — Epstein was an assistant district attorney in New York City, and Sloan worked in finance — they learned the industry from scratch and benefited from a relationship with Greek-style yogurt juggernaut Chobani. Chloe’s was chosen for the Chobani Food Incubator program in 2017, and has continued to lean on that relationship as the company has expanded its product offerings and scaled its distribution.

Last year, Chloe’s saw its retail sales rise 28% over prior-year results, compared with 5% growth for frozen novelties overall, according to data from data-tracking firm IRI.

Taking market share in the frozen-treat aisle with a nondairy twist: Chloe’s 2021 sales jump 28%

Last year, Chloe’s saw its retail sales rise 28% over prior-year results, compared with 5% growth for frozen novelties overall, according to data from data-tracking firm IRI.

Meanwhile, the global nondairy frozen dessert market was valued at $5.43 billion in 2021, according to Grandview Research, which projected compound annual growth of 8.7% in the category from 2022-2030.

“The gradual shift of consumers from dairy-based to nondairy-based frozen products is propelling the product demand,” the research firm said, citing growing consumer interest in the health benefits of a plant-based diet, particularly among younger generations.

Chloe’s has grown by remaining true to its founding principles and relying on its core positioning as it has expanded, Sloan said. For example, any new products that the company considers must be frozen, which allows the company to leverage the logistics it already has in place.

“It's not just that we want to sell to the same buyer, it's that we want to ship on the same truck to create efficiencies on shipping, and we want to store at the same warehouse,” said Sloan.

The company has been at the vanguard of the nondairy dessert category throughout its history, including introducing the first frozen novelties made with oat milk, according to Epstein. “Nondairy is something that consumers are asking for,” she said.

The emergence of oat milk as a viable dairy substitute in recent years has enabled Chloe’s to create products that offer a creamy, indulgent taste and texture, while maintaining the company’s better-for-you positioning, Epstein said.

[Read: Big Brands’ Inventory Management Partners Share Top Tips to Slay Supply Chain Snarls]

 Michael Sloan and Chloe Epsein, founders of Chloe's Fruit.
Michael Sloan and Chloe Epstein, Co-founders of Chloe's, explain how their business idea stemmed from a personal need for a more natural option among frozen desserts. — Chloe's

Strong partner relationships buoy supply chain operations amid pandemic

Chloe’s also cites its strong relationships with its employees and manufacturing partners for helping drive its success. The company contracts out all of its manufacturing to ice cream co-packers (specialized production facilities that make products for multiple brands), which were critical to keeping the brand in stock during the pandemic while other brands struggled with their supply chains, Sloan said.

The company focuses on treating people with respect, and spending a lot of time listening, he said.

“We started this business as outsiders,” said Sloan. “We didn't know how to work with brokers. We didn't know how to work with buyers. We didn't know how to sell. We just knew how to listen.

"We ask them, ‘What can we do to be better? How do we work with you better?’ And we get them to care,” he said.

The company’s focus on continuously seeking to learn from its industry partners has engendered mutual respect, he said, which he feels led to a higher degree of cooperation and support during the pandemic. The result was that the company enjoyed high in-stock levels and thus higher sales, earning the respect of its retail partners as well.

Going forward, Chloe’s plans to continue to look for opportunities to innovate within the frozen treats category and to grow the brand’s presence at retail and expand its distribution to even more locations.

Epstein said the keys to Chloe’s future success include remaining true to its roots in authenticity and transparency.

“I think it’s really just being that brand that people rely on as one that they can trust for being what we say we are, which is just better-for-you with great taste,” she said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Apply for the CO—100!

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.