By GREGORY ZELLER // Frosae Wine Sorbae might be one distribution deal away from inching into the black, but that doesn’t mean the people who make it aren’t already having a blast.
Ben Amato, cofounder and president of the East Patchogue-based company, acknowledges that turning East End wines, regional microbrews and even an imported Caribbean spiced rum into frozen desserts has its upside.
“The tasting is just so much fun,” Amato noted.
The next thing Amato and his partners plan to taste is success. Despite a relatively rosy 2015 – including a ShopRite distribution deal and making the menu at New York City’s Freedom Tower – the 2012 startup is, to date, just short of profitable.
That should change next year, Amato predicted, as the Frosae Four – including Joseph Gagliano, Neil Koenig and John Pastore – shift the distribution focus away from supermarkets.
Nothing against the grocery chains – and thank you, again, ShopRite – but food stores have proven to be an especially tough door to crack.
“They haven’t heard of Frosae, so they won’t take a chance,” Amato said. “We even got turned down by BJ’s.”
The firm has found faster friends at food expos and similar showcases, including the Jacob Javits International Restaurant and Foodservice Show. That’s where Frosae met Legends Hospitality Management, the NYC-based firm that operates the restaurants inside One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower.
Legends representatives were “blown away” by Frosae, according to Amato, and citing the months of applications and security clearances necessary to deliver goods to the Freedom Tower, pointed Frosae toward Ace Endico, a Brewster-based distributor that already had the necessary clearances.
And that partnership may carry Frosae well beyond downtown Manhattan. Ace Endico counts some 2,000 white-linen restaurants between Massachusetts and Maryland among its clients. Frosae was certainly a hit when Ace featured the desserts at its proprietary food show at the Intrepid Museum, docked off Midtown Manhattan.
“We gave out almost 1,500 samples and we did great,” Amato said. “Everybody loved it.”
Another potentially lucrative connection is Legends itself, which runs concessions for the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and several other top-tier professional sports franchises. You can’t get a cup of Frosae at Yankee Stadium yet, Amato noted, but stay tuned.
Also part of the 2016 strategy is a new focus on “beaches, country clubs and resorts,” Amato added, citing his product’s unqualified success this summer at Jones Beach, where concession manager J&B Food Services sold out a supply of nearly 7,000 Frosae cups.
The company is also considering a food truck, which can “generate media exposure” in the city and make personal appearances at vineyards across Long Island Wine Country, according to the president.
“We just need to find our niche,” the president said.
Either way, the company plans to continue to run its own production line.
“We basically didn’t want to be held hostage by anyone,” Amato noted. “People come up with a product and then go and co-pack it, meaning someone else actually makes it, and in terms of quality control you can never really guarantee the quality of someone else’s factory.”
Meanwhile, the startup continues tinkering with other alcoholic beverages from various sources, leading to perhaps its greatest advantage: a range of flavors rivaled by only the most creative ice creameries.
There’s the flagship chocolate merlot sorbet. A soft-serve created out of Gosling’s spiced rum, which they hope to start marketing soon, possibly, at Gosling’s cruise-ship ports throughout the Caribbean. There are also additional flavors borne of small-batch brews produced by Holbrook’s Spider Bite Beer Co. and the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.
In the wings: an egg cream parfait built off a chocolate stout produced by Bronx-based Metrocraft Beer Co.
“We’re hoping to work out a deal with them,” Amato noted. “What we made is just incredible: An initial chocolate taste followed by a hearty stout. Like a chocolate beer with the consistency of Carvel.”
This list goes on. Frosae has enough vino on hand from Peconic Bay Winery to continue production unabated through the spring, and has cut a new deal with Jamesport Vineyards, which will start delivering wine just as the Peconic Bay barrels run dry.
“We buy 600 gallons at a time,” Amato noted. “What a rush!”
The endless variations make Frosae not only a party to produce – “We experiment like crazy,” Amato admitted – but a potential retail blockbuster, even if “it’s rough getting people to try something they’ve never tried before.”
“When we first came up with the formula, even we were shocked that something could be low-calorie and no-fat and be so freaking delicious,” Amato said. “But individual consumers like it. They buy it. We just need one more major investment.
“I think 2016 is going to be our year.”