By Rafael Canton
Ranch dressing is a staple condiment that works well with pretty much anything from pizza to chicken wings to salad.
But does it work as an ice cream? Artisanal ice cream maker Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and Hidden Valley Ranch seem to think so. They’ve partnered on a limited-time offering of a ranch-flavored ice cream, available at Walmart later this month.
Fast Company took a taste test of the new flavor and, well, it definitely tastes like ranch. For anyone trying a pint of this new flavor, do not expect a super sweet voyage for your taste buds. It has undertones of sweetness but is mostly savory and tastes better when dipped with another salty treat like chips or pretzels.
The release is part of the Brooklyn-based artisanal ice cream maker’s offering of seven new flavors for a spring-related drop, available at Walmart from March 20 through May 28.
The viral appeal of weird treats
These sorts of wonky flavors have proven effective at getting press—and building buzz on TikTok or YouTube as influencers and consumers rush to try the out-there concoction and record their reactions. The collaboration also allows both brands to engage with new consumers.
Van Leeuwen, which started in 2008 as an ice cream truck, and has grown to 41 scoop shops across the country, has done several brand collaborations in the past, including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Grey Poupon flavors. Most recently, it debuted a Glass Onion-inspired flavor in partnership with subscription-based media streamer Netflix.
“In addition to raising awareness for our brand, earned media builds credibility and trust,” Ben Van Leeuwen, company cofounder and CEO, tells Fast Company. “We see it as a core piece of the puzzle.”
The Kraft collaboration led to everyone, from Today show hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager to influencers on TikTok, trying out the mac & cheese ice cream flavor.
“With our limited time offering collaboration flavors, we do like to shock people, and then surprise and delight them with a flavor that, although super-weird sounding, is highly enjoyable,” Van Leeuwen says. Plus, the buzz helps drive people to try the brand’s other—more appetizing sounding—new flavors like Sweet Maple Cornbread, Blood Orange Chocolate Chip, Carrot Cake, and Honey Graham Cracker.
Hidden Valley is no stranger to wild brand collaborations either. In 2021, the brand teamed up with Crocs for a special pair of shoes that sold out. Last year, Hidden Valley collaborated with Truff on a spicy truffle ranch sauce that sold out in under a minute, according to the brand.
“We strive to be culturally relevant and unexpected,” says Nick Higgins, vice president and general manager of Hidden Valley Ranch. “[We’re] always looking for ideas that will break through and spark joy for our consumers.”
That includes marketing stunts. Last year, the brand created a diamond using Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning that eventually sold for $12,550 in an eBay auction. And this past holiday season, the brand created its own answer to Elf on a Shelf: Ranch on a Branch.
“We take the flavor of ranch very seriously,” says Higgins, “but we don’t take ourselves that seriously. Ranch Diamond and Ranch on a Branch allow us to have fun with our fans by showing up in new places and in unexpected ways that make our consumer feel seen and understood.”