If you’ve eaten a pint of ice cream that’s about 300 calories or less, you have UVA Law alum 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.
Shortly after its launch, Halo Top rocketed to success. How did you and your team do it?
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.
You started your own law firm before dipping into the ice cream business. What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
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 matured into the joy of helping to build and lead a team, to be part of something bigger than yourself, working with other people for the greater good of the team. I don’t think there’s a more fulfilling manifestation of team-building than teams arising out of entrepreneurship.
What lessons did you learn in selling Halo Top and starting something new with Gatsby Chocolate?
I could write a novel on what I’ve learned, but I’ll just say I’ve learned the importance of teams and building a foundation on which the team can stand. If I want to do anything at scale, if I want to have a bigger impact, I know that I can only achieve those goals with and through a team. At legacy Halo Top, things happened so quickly that we never set a foundation, never talked about or memorialized a company mission, never created and memorialized pillars of a company culture. Without a solid foundation in place, we weren’t ready for the level of scale that happened to us. Hopefully we’re doing much better at setting a foundation, and creating and maintaining a company mission and culture with Halo Top International.
What’s your favorite Halo TOP flavor and Gatsby item?
Peanut butter cup for Halo Top and white chocolate peanut butter cups for Gatsby. I guess there’s a theme ...
You have the last word. What do you want to say?
Bet on yourself. When you look back on your life, are you ever going to say, “You know, I wish I would’ve stayed at that corporate law firm or I wish I would’ve stayed at that big company”? Find something you love doing and go do it. Bet on yourself.