Nowhere was that more on display than at the annual International Franchise Expo being held in New York City, where 400 exhibitors are pitching their business model to prospective franchisees.
At ice cream chain Carvel, which was founded in 1934 and numbers over 400 locations, executives have spiced up the menu of frozen cakes and creamy sundaes and introduced new store designs. The goal is to compete against big, deep-pocketed rivals in Dunkin Brands' (DNKN) Baskin Robbins and Sonic (SONC). "The biggest trend for us is people looking for innovation and excitement," said Carvel President Scott Colwell in an interview at the trade show.
In March, Carvel reintroduced Nutella-based sundaes and shakes that, according to Colwell, were "extremely well received." On June 2, the 81-year old brand announced a partnership with Reese's, bringing peanut butter-flavored sundaes and shakes to stores. And come the fall, Carvel will bring back pumpkin-flavored soft service ice cream.
Carvel's evolution arrives as its competitors have been thriving. Baskin Robbin's sales rose 12.7% last year driven by sales of cups, cones, beverages, cakes, and take-home ice cream quarts. Sonic has launched real ice cream shakes and frozen "blasts" in an array of flavor combinations, and ice cream sales have risen 50% dating back to 2011.