The co-founders of Sorbabes don’t particularly care what people call their product, be it sorbet, ice cream or non-dairy frozen dessert. The important thing is that potential customers don’t let the sorbet label get in the way of trying it.
“We created something that consumers don’t necessarily know how to approach,” said Nicole Cardone, co-founder of Sorbabes. “Getting people to understand what sorbet can be and how we’re making it different continues to be a challenge.”
Sorbet, of course, is a frozen treat made of fruit and sugar. It doesn’t contain dairy (unlike sherbet), which makes it, yes, plant-based. Typically, it’s not creamy, but the Sorbabes — Cardone and co-founder Deborah Gorman — have introduced nut butter-based sorbets that customers have said is more like ice cream. And that’s just fine with the former New Yorkers, who even made a fun ad around the “misconception.”
“People have had negative experiences with sorbet, that it’s too icy or it tastes too sweet,” Gorman said. “That exists in every category, but I think because sorbet is such a small category, we have to keep educating so people understand what it can be and what is out there.”
They’ve been educating both consumers and retail partners since kicking off the bootstrapped business by selling their sorbet at farmer’s markets and into small shops in the Hamptons and New York City, and it’s paid off. Sorbabes brought in $1.7 million in revenues last year, and expects at least $5 million this year. Its products can be found in 5,600 stores, and the company expects to be sold nationally soon. Sorbabes — whose best-selling flavors are Raz’n Berry, Peanut Butta Luva and Jam’n Lemon — plans to introduce novelties next year. The company is in a good place, since trends have shifted in its favor, with consumers increasingly seeking out natural and dairy-free products.
“We’ve always been non-dairy and plant-based — it’s just been a happy accident all along,” Gorman said. “But we’ve stayed true to that. We think we really own that space in a way where our identity as a brand is built in this better-for-you experience that does not sacrifice flavor. Flavor is the reason we exist.”