Dippin' Dots is an ice cream snack, invented by Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate Curt Jones in 1987. The confection is created by flash freezing ice cream mix in liquid nitrogen; consequently, Dippin' Dots contain less air than conventional ice cream. The resulting small spheres of ice cream are stored at temperatures ranging from -20 to -70 °F (from -29°C to -57°C). The marketing slogan is "Ice Cream of the Future"
The company, headquartered in Paducah, Kentucky, United States, does not sell its product in stores such as supermarkets in the United States. They are available in supermarkets in countries such as Mexico, although the product there often suffers from the warm temperatures of retail freezers. On its official website, the company notes that its product requires storage at temperatures below -20°F (about -29°C), which is considerably colder than standard home freezers. Dippin' Dots are sold in individual servings at franchised outlets, many in stadiums, shopping malls, and in vending machines. Many theme parks such as Six Flags, Cedar Fair, PARC Management, Kennywood, SeaWorld, stadiums and arenas also sell Dippin' Dots. The ice cream is also sold over the Internet for delivery to homes and businesses. Despite the slogan the "Ice Cream of the Future," Dippin' Dots has yet to make a significant dent in the market share of standard ice cream companies.
Several competing beaded ice-cream lines have been introduced in recent years, including Mini Melts (sold at their stores), SHOTS (sold nationwide in supermarkets) and Molli-Coolz Incredible Ice Cream Beads (available through retail stores, such as Costco, and as "Z-Bops" through Schwan's delivery service). Some of these competing brands are similar to Dippin' Dots in shape or size, and differ in that they use specific ingredients to keep the beads from adhering to one another, in contrast to Dippin' Dots, which are kept at sub-zero temperatures to keep the beads separate and free-flowing.
The company has a line of novelties called Dot Delicacies made by combining the Dippin' Dots ice cream with other snack foods. A dotwich is an ice cream sandwich made by combining Dippin' Dots and fudge and placing between two cookies. Milk shakes, sundaes and ice cream floats are also sold at many locations. The company also has a line of ice cream cakes sold only at its franchised retail stores.
Dippin' Dots Franchising, Inc. is the franchise division of the company. The company sells franchise rights to sell Dippin' Dots ice cream at retail stores in the U.S.
Dippin' Dots Global, Inc. represents the company in markets outside the U.S. and its territories. Dippin' Dots are produced in Seoul, South Korea, for distribution throughout the Pacific Rim. The company maintains a distribution center in Melbourne, Australia as well.
Dippin' Dots were patented, but the patent was found to be fraudulent in February of 2007. Dippin' Dots had sued other competitors (most former Dippin' Dots dealers) alleging trade dress infringement on the shape of the multicolored ice cream bits, and that lawsuit, Dippin' Dots, Inc. v. Frosty Bites Distribution, LLC aka Mini Melts, was also unsuccessful. The jury found for the defendants more on the validity of the original patent than on the actual infringement accusations. The jury's decision was primarily based on a finer point of patent law. The defense alleged that Jones attempted patent fraud by not disclosing that he sold the ice cream prior to a year before applying for the patent, despite IRS instruction that Jones' sales were done for research purposes only. The litigation continues to be in the appeals process.
Dippin' Dots, as the originators of the beaded ice cream concept, are featured quite often in the media. The ice cream has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey show, Food TV, and The Travel Channel. It was most recently featured on Gene Simmons Family Jewels on A&E Network. Dippin' Dots was recently the title sponsor for the "Celebrity Grand Slam Paddle Jam" celebrity ping pong tournament in Hollywood. Proceeds went to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The company is also a contributor to the charity Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Florida. Dippin' Dots is most recently collaborating with the newest adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth to offer a chance to win a trip to Iceland, the location of the film.