Newly minted Richmond ice cream brand inks Wegmans deal

From left: Allison Monette and Julie Bishop (Courtesy of O’My Dairy Free Gelato)

A local gelato startup launched by alums of Ukrop’s and Altria has caught the attention of a major grocer just a few months after launching.

O’My Dairy Free Gelato, founded in Richmond earlier this year by Allison Monette and Julie Bishop, has signed a deal to put its gelato in the freezers of 50 Wegmans stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England area.

The company debuted its product, made with coconut cream in lieu of milk, in June at a handful of independent Richmond stores such as Libbie Market and Ellwood Thompson’s.

Monette’s background is in the consumer packaged goods industry, having worked at General Mills and PepsiCo, as well as Altria. Bishop worked at Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods and Ukrop’s Super Markets.

It was while working in a division of PepsiCo’s Frito Lay that Monette said she gained some of the knowledge she’s used to get O’My off the ground.

“It was kind of like an incubator for acquisition brands like Stacy’s Pita Chips and Sabra,” Monette said of her time at Frito Lay. “We ended up launching a lot of new brands and it demystified the process of seeing products that had started from the ground up.”

Monette eventually decided she wanted to start something of her own and said she’d noticed that while milk alternatives such as almond and soy milks were gaining in market share, their ice cream counterparts lagged behind.

“And ultimately my whole family has a major sweet tooth, so desserts felt appropriate,” she said.

She and Bishop then raised $500,000 in equity funding this year to launch O’My, according to SEC filings.

The company is based in the city, while its gelato is manufactured and packaged by a contract facility in Statesville, North Carolina.

O’My’s ice cream is dairy free and made with coconut cream. (Courtesy of O’My Dairy Free Gelato)

They created six flavors: chocolate, vanilla bean, mint chip, coffee chip, orange cream and root beer float. Those offerings caught the eye of Wegmans this summer, Monette said, despite O’My being a bit late getting to market.

“I was familiar with the sales cycles for these grocers, and the flip side to being in a small category is it can be hard to actually procure ingredients,” Monette said, noting that most grocers sign deals with ice cream manufacturers in the fall and winter.

“But Wegmans doesn’t have a set cycle (for bringing in new products). They review products as they come up … We sent samples and they agreed. The fact they took all six flavors is really exciting,” Monette said.

With the Wegmans deal in place, Monette said O’My plans to gradually expand its distribution, looking next to the Southeast.

O’My isn’t the only local consumer goods startup to sign a major grocer deal shortly after launching. Last summer, AR’s Hot Southern Honey signed a deal with Publix.

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