Reuben Mattus (1912 - 1994)
This is the founder of Haagen-Dazs musing. What is he talking about?
In the 1950s Mattus found himself, his small horse-drawn company, his product, and his ice cream, in a price war with large manufacturers. They were able to compete with each other based on size and economies of scale. His company was caught in the middle.
What did the large producers have that Reuben Mattus didn't? Low prices.
What did Reuben Mattus have that the large producers didn't? Great quality.
Let's back up. Reuben Mattus came to this country from Poland in 1921, with his widowed mother. As a child only ten years old he joined his uncle in a lemon ice business in Brooklyn NY. His job was to squeeze the lemons for the ices. They branched out into the production of ice pops, chocolate-covered ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches, all sold under the label Senator Frozen Products. These were sold all over town in a horse-drawn wagon!
Meeting a young lady named Rose, who worked at the Senator plant as a bookkeeper, they married in 1936. Reuben began to research and experiment with "heavy" ice cream creations.
He decided to start a new company in 1959. Wanting a foreign-sounding name, he came up with Haagen-Dazs. Joking that it means "the best," it really means nothing. But he wanted something that sounded Danish to recognize the country of Denmark for their treatment of Jews during WWII.
The competition of the time used cheap ingredients, many of them artificial. Reuben Mattus and his Haagen-Dazs did not - it used more butterfat, had less air, was heavier, and contained only natural ingredients.
He had to compete with the big boy companies! How could he do that? His ice cream was costly to produce. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has none of the additives and preservatives and stabilizers that you read on labels but cannot pronounce. It uses only cream and sugar, milk and eggs, and natural foodstuffs like chocolate, vanilla beans, coffee, nuts, raisins, etc.
THE BEST AND ONLY WAY MATTUS AND HAAGEN-DAZS COULD COMPETE WAS GREAT QUALITY.
Haagen-Dazs was introduced in 1961. Yes, it would cost more. A pint of his ice cream cost 75 cents a pint, versus an average of 53 cents a pint sold by his competitors. But he was hoping people would be willing to pay for great quality ice cream. Hence the quote above.
He was right. He would market his product to local grocers. Reuben developed the ice cream. Rose, his wife, would dress up high falutin', in keeping with how they wanted their product to appear in the market, and she would offer free samples at grocery stores.
Brilliantly, she would also go to ice cream parlors in New York frequented by college students. Selling her ware to these parlors the ice cream became an immediate hit. Growing slowly, Haagen-Dazs ice cream was first distributed by the Greyhound Bus lines to various college towns in the area.
The rest is history.
The rest is free enterprise. Starting with only three flavors - vanilla, chocolate and coffee - the Haagen-Dazs product line expanded to nearly two dozen flavors. It also began franchising. The company was eventually sold in 1983 for $70 million. It has never lost its great-quality mindset.
PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR GREAT QUALITY. AND GREAT QUALITY DOES NOT HAVE TO GO ON SALE. IT STANDS ON ITS OWN, ABOVE AND BEYOND. GREAT QUALITY SURVIVES AND THRIVES.
GREAT QUALITY IS THE NATURAL RESULT OF