Imagine premium gelato ice cream. It did not involve you going out of your way to a gelateria shop, standing in line, and paying at the till. All it requires is a refrigerated capsule that is put into a specialized machine in front of you. No, this is not an espresso maker, and the technology is far different. In fact, the capsule itself can be turned into an ice cream cup when the machine processes your order. All you, the customer, need to do is wait. Within 60 seconds, your premium ice cream is in front of you, served.
Solato, an innovative Israeli start-up specializing in gelato ice cream machines, was established by Barak Beth Halachmi in 2013. Following his extended army service, Halachmi, a self-proclaimed foodie, honed his expertise in gelato craftsmanship in Italy. The company’s mission revolved around addressing two critical challenges in the ice cream industry: crafting the freshest gelato possible and overcoming the environmental limitations associated with ice cream production. These hurdles are significant, as ice cream to be served fresh must be served right away. Most gelaterias resort to freezing containers to store ice cream for extended periods, compromising freshness, energy efficiency, and health considerations.
According to Lisa Mendelson, the general manager in the US and chief marketing officer of Solato, the solution was to develop a single-serve technology. She explains that conventional ice cream stored in freezers deteriorates over time, resulting in a different experience from the initial factory-fresh taste. With Solato’s approach, customers can enjoy their gelato immediately after production, savoring it in its freshest and most flavorful state.
The second problem is tackled by the energy consumption that is usually required to preserve ice cream. There is no frozen chain. “There is no freezing whatsoever. Capsules are refrigerated, but it is an eco-friendly way which saves on energy, as it does not need to be frozen twice [once in the production and the second time in its maintenance],” she says. In fact, the immediate creation of the ice cream saves a tremendous energy footprint of between 80% to 95% associated with the maintenance and transportation of ice cream. The result is an ice cream that is healthier as well. As sugar is no longer needed to preserve the ice cream, Solato’s products are up to 40% lower in sugar volume, with some low sugar options available.
Integrating cloud technology and innovation into ice cream
The machine developed by Solato has the remarkable capability of producing thousands of flavors, seamlessly integrating the realm of cloud technology and modern innovation into the world of ice cream. Solato’s machine functions as a sophisticated reader connected to a cloud network. Explaining this intricate process, Mendelson notes that making ice cream is a complex task. Each capsule carries a unique code, which the machine scans. Once the code is read, the machine accesses the corresponding recipe, guiding its preparation.
The genius behind the machine comes from the company’s research & development department, which is based in Petah Tikva. It helps to program not only the codes for the ice cream flavors but the machine itself. Many of the technicians, engineers, and food specialists served in elite IDF tech units and had access to specialized technology from a young age. The exposure to technology was later adapted to the hi-tech scene after the army.
In terms of market presence and future prospects, one can find a Solato machine in the offices of various Israeli start- ups. However, its primary market is in the United States and soon in Europe, where its business to business sales has Solato machines gracing the shelves of many airport and museums. Mendelson explains, “We are in Delta lounges. We are in the Barclays Center. We are in many of the top banks. We are working with the Metropolitan Museum in New York…. We see Solato in places where people can relish the product. We want to see our machine in places with widespread exposure. In every airport lounge and every top museum in the world.”
However, gelato fans need not worry. A prototype of a home ice cream machine is in the works to make it possible for anyone to enjoy. While the company focuses on expanding its reach in businesses and their clientele, soon the machine may be coming to a home near you. ■