Most ice cream shops hibernate over the winter — even before COVID-19 set out to destroy the planet. But The Wright Scoop has not only persisted throughout this slow season, it has thrived, drawing in a large and enthusiastic following. The secret? The “Test Batch Club,” an exclusive membership club they launched in January 2020, limited to 50 participants (at least for this inaugural year). Each week for 13 weeks, The Wright Scoop released a new flavor, and test batch members got to sample it first and rate it; they could even earn cool swag and launch party tickets for the summer season if they completed each of the weekly feedback surveys.
“People were so into it!” said marketing manager Kelly Lemoine. “They took the surveys so seriously and gave such great feedback. We had a 90% to 96% response rate every week.”
As a former teacher and a research assistant — where my job was to convince people to fill out surveys — we never reached that rate of response. Clearly, ice cream is a great unifying incentive. Or perhaps people were motivated by the opportunity to name the flavor, which was the final question of each survey.
“They loved naming the flavor. Some of the names were so funny. The first week when we launched Peppermint Mocha with Oreo, one person did not like mint — they wrote that in all caps on their survey: ‘I HATE MINT!’ and they followed it by saying, ‘If you want me to name this flavor, I’m going to name it, “Santa’s Minty Butthole.”’ We were dying laughing. That part alone — reading the feedback — was just so funny.”
Part of the reason the Test Batch Club was created was to garner feedback from the public. “In the past, we would make a small batch of ice cream and our team would try it and give their input. But when we did the math, we were spending hundreds of dollars just to make one batch of ice cream. Heavy cream is like liquid gold here. It’s very expensive, so wasting it is not good. Not to mention, eating ice cream fresh out of the machine is a totally difference experience than eating it after it’s been frozen for a week. So we tasked one of our ice cream team members, Kaylee Giron, with creating ice cream test batches in the off season without it being a huge waste. We wanted to do it in a fun way, but one in which we could at least break even. She came up with this idea of making a full batch, and offering it to customers as a special thing, and it evolved into being a special club, with a weekly release.”
From Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake to Spiced Chai Chip, each flavor was unique and creative and oh-so-dreamy. Part of The Wright Scoop’s social media engagement included posting photo hints for upcoming flavors and offering a free pint to the first person to guess the flavor correctly. Within an hour of posting, there would be 75 comments. “I had to watch to see who guessed first – it was hard to keep track of, but so much fun to watch all the guesses. I had staff who were guessing the flavors, but they already knew what it was. I was like, ‘That’s not how this works!’ The Test Batch Club got to try it even before staff — it was exclusive to the test batch members. Everyone’s been like, ‘How can I be in this club? I need to participate!’ At first I wasn’t sure how we would keep people engaged online in the off-season, but this has been great because it increased our following organically and it kept ice cream on everyone’s mind all winter long.”
The Wright Scoop, which is connected to Wright’s Dairy Farm & Bakery, debuted last June as its own separate scoop shop. “We were just kind of improvising as we went. The Black Raspberry Chip was so popular that we added a Black Raspberry Oreo. We made a unicorn flavor because unicorn cookies and cakes were selling like crazy in the bakery. It was multicolored play on crazy vanilla — it had sprinkles and cake and was just a swirly, colorful, magical flavor. The kids loved it.”
Since they didn’t know what to expect when they launched, it was “crazy busy” with customers, so this year they wanted to plan ahead and think about the menu and what the seasonal flavors would be and the sundaes specials. “Of course, now with COVID, we did all this planning and now we can’t use any of it,” Lemoine laughs.
But the show will go on. The Wright Scoop’s Grand opening is still set for May 20 from noon to 7pm, and they’ll be experimenting with an ice cream carhop. “I don’t know if people will want a cone…? We’ll see what happens!” Lemoine said, sounding hopeful. They’re also currently open for curbside pick-up, selling quarts and half-pints of classic flavors, which you can order ahead by using an online form or from the parking lot on a smart phone.
And yes, the Test Batch Club will return next winter. “Next year we want to do a minimum of 100 participants and expand to 15 weeks. There will also be added perks, like a sorbet we want to try or an ice cream sandwich.” Lemoine couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. “It sold out right away, it drummed up so much interest, it kept people engaged. The whole thing just worked out perfectly, from start to finish.”