If you’ve eaten a pint of ice cream that’s about 300 calories or less, you have University of Virginia School of Law alumnus Douglas Bouton to thank.
Bouton is co-founder of Halo Top Creamery, which stole the hearts and spoons of ice cream fans globally. By 2017, Halo Top was the No. 1-selling pint of ice cream, and soon other brands were imitating its low-calorie recipe for success. In 2019, Bouton led a sale of Halo Top’s U.S. and Canadian business in which he spun out Halo Top’s international operations and became CEO of Halo Top International.
In addition to Halo Top International, he is focused on launching Gatsby Chocolate, the first-ever low-calorie chocolate, looking to do to the chocolate market what Halo Top did to the ice cream category.
Bouton, a 2010 UVA Law graduate, recently chatted about his success, and what’s next.
Q. Shortly after its launch, Halo Top rocketed to success. How did you and your team do it?
A. Like with anything in life, we didn’t do anything special. We worked hard, made the most of our lucky breaks, and did our best to get it right rather than worry about being right. In 2015, we reformulated so that our product was much better and retained virtually everyone who tried it, and we rebranded so that our brand was visually disruptive and would stand out on the shelf.
We then got a lucky break with some PR, putting millions of eyeballs on our brand, after which the product and brand itself became a viral sensation via word-of-mouth marketing.
Q. You started your own law firm before dipping into the ice cream business. What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
A. It started as maniacal independence. I simply can’t stand if someone else can tell me what to do, when to do it, how to do it. It since has grown into the joy of creating and building. I love the innovation piece and constantly thinking about how to get and stay outside the box.
Q. What lessons did you learn in selling Halo Top and starting something new with Gatsby Chocolate?
A. I could write a novel on what I’ve learned, but I’ll just say that it’s really hard. It certainly doesn’t get easier just because I did it once. I had romanticized the early days way too much and forgotten just how hard it is to build a brand from scratch. I also think it’s critical that you partner with a team of cofounders – people who don’t need to be managed, who aren’t employees. My sweet spot is anywhere from two to four people. I think that’s the ideal founding team number, and sky is the limit with what you can do with two to four co-founders.
Q. What’s your favorite Halo Top flavor and Gatsby item?
A. Peanut butter cup for Halo Top and white chocolate peanut butter cups for Gatsby. I guess there’s a theme.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. Make it happen. Nobody else will do it for you. So go make it happen, whatever “it” is for you.
Chief Communications Officer University of Virginia School of Law
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March 22, 2023