Philadelphia’s Bassetts Ice Cream, Now in Taiwan

Jan 23, 2020

By Graziella DiNuzzo

Taiwan has now joined the growing list of countries who have fallen in love with Philly’s own Bassetts Ice Cream. “One of their top executives had tasted Bassetts Ice Cream while traveling and had been trying to get it ever since,” says Michael Strange, President, Bassetts Ice Cream, referring to an executive at Hi-Lai Foods, the parent company of Harbour Buffet Restaurants.

Harbour Buffet Restaurant, Taiwan’s all-you-can-eat restaurant chain will now include Bassetts Ice Cream on their menu at seven locations starting January 2020.

Strange explains that Bassetts has been pursuing Hi-Lai foods since 2011, “thanks in a large part to Pennsylvania’s Authorized Trade Representative in Taiwan, Irene Tsai, we were able to navigate our way through it all finally and find a way to get our ice cream to Taiwan.”

Quoted in a recent article in Taiwan’s Savor Life Style Magazine, Tsai says, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the US state with the most representatives in the world, and has established their presence in Taipei for 15 years. I have had the good fortune of having tasted Bassetts every time I go back to Pennsylvania for meetings.”

Zemin Liu, Hi-Lai’s Chief Brand Officer tells Savor Life Magazine, “Considering the needs of the Taiwanese consumers, we will introduce 12 flavors including Peanut Butter Swirl, Cookies and Cream and Pomegranate Blueberry.”

​At a press conference, Roning Wu, Director of Marketing for Hai-Lai Foods was pleased that the Taiwanese will be getting the “exact same product as in the US,” since the brand is so “wildly popular in the States and Korea.”

In 1861, using a mule-turned churn on his farm in Salem New Jersey, Lewis Dubois Bassett invented what would become America’s oldest ice cream – Bassetts.

By 1885, Bassetts Ice Cream was sold at fifth and Market Street in Philadelphia and by 1892 moved to its current location inside Reading Terminal. Ice Cream production was also moved into the basement of the Reading Terminal location.
​“I am certain that my great, great grandfather would be both amazed and proud that Bassetts Ice Cream is now available on the opposite side of the world,” said Strange.

Exporting Ice Cream takes some strategic logistics planning. “When we were first approached by them we needed to make sure that our product would be handled correctly and that we wouldn’t be limiting our brand’s potential growth within the market. About four years ago, we were very close to agreeing on a sale, but could not quite get to the final step. Since then Hi-Lai’s distributor for meats, Mayfull Foods Corporation, added a huge, brand new storage freezer that would make for the perfect environment for our ice cream and the capabilities of delivering to a broad array of clients all while maintaining the cold temperatures needed to maintain the quality of our ice cream door to door. All of that being said, what kept the conversations alive was the superior taste and quality of Bassetts Ice Cream.

One of the reasons for our success in Asia is that our ice cream is less sweet than many of our competitors,” says Brian Bebee, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Bassetts. “From our experience it seems it’s something the Asian palate prefers. “

Bassetts manfuctures its Ice cream in Pennsylvania using the highest quality ingredients including fresh butter, non-fat milk, and fresh and dried fruits.

Tourists and Philly-area locals traditionally line-up at Bassetts’ only brick and mortar store at Reading Terminal on North 12th Street in Philadelphia. President Barack Obama is said to have enjoyed a cone.

With the help of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP) international trade specialist, Dale Foote, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development, Bassetts began exporting to China in 2008 and on June 7, 2017, opened its first store in South Korea.

Today, consumers in South Korea can get their scoop at one of over 31 Bassetts stores, called Bassetts Ice Cream Café. The cafes also serve sandwiches, beverages, coffee and ice cream cakes.

Bassetts Ice Cream is planning to export to additional countries “we are in the early stages of conversations with prospects in Malaysia, Chile, Bermuda and the Middle East,” says Strange.

It may not be long before everyone on the planet gets to fall in love with America’s oldest ice cream.