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headshot of Cali Gitlin with a photo of ice cream in the background

Ice cream for dinner?

Think you can’t have ice cream for dinner? Cali Gitlin is here to change that with her revolutionary meal replacement ice cream, Three-Course Creamery.

Cali Gitlin is a recent UT Austin graduate with a BSA degree in Nutrition from the College of Natural Sciences. In Spring 2019, she enrolled in Advanced Food Science with professor Drew Hays and met Marissa Epstein. In the course, Cali came up with the idea to develop a meal replacement ice cream and worked with Hays and Epstein to make her dream a reality. She started Three-Course Creamery, and her experience creating a revolutionary ice cream might change how we view ice cream forever.

We interviewed Cali about her experience developing Three-Course Creamery as a part of our Longhorn entrepreneur series.

How did you come up with the idea?

CG: I was in an advanced food science course my junior year, which was a part of the nutrition core curriculum. The whole class was focusing on product development and the entire class was making ice cream that semester. I got to choose what target market I wanted to make it for. My partner shared that she had struggled with getting enough calories and meeting her daily nutrition needs. She had a lot of experience using Ensure® (a meal supplement). We wanted to make an ice cream that could meet her needs and the needs of populations with the same concerns.

At the end of that semester, our professor Drew Hays brought Marissa Epstein into the class. Marissa taught us how to pitch our products to potential investors. Our class presented our products to Marissa, and she really looked at our meal replacement ice cream and thought it could be something. I hadn't taken any courses in entrepreneurship, and I didn’t really know how I would transform this meal replacement ice cream idea into a business. I ended up taking Marissa’s Food and Health Inventors Practicum in the fall, and I started taking more and more entrepreneurship courses to the point where I switched my minor to entrepreneurship. My minor classes really taught me the foundations of how to build a business and how to do market and customer research to validate my idea.

How did UT play a role in your journey?

CG: The advanced food science course I took really provided me a platform to create the product in the first place. And I built a strong relationship with Drew Hays and Marissa Epstein. I started coming to them with all the questions that I had about how to move forward. They were so willing to help with my journey. One day after I came back to school after winter break, Drew reached out to me and said there was an event called College of Natural Sciences Donor Appreciation brunch. They wanted to showcase some students who had been working on great projects to show the alumni who would decide what their financial sponsorship went towards. It gave me the opportunity to think about sharing my idea with others and was really rewarding to get so much encouragement. The biggest thing was that my professors have really been huge advocates for me in terms of the motivation they gave me to keep going and pursuing this.

Cali Gitlin presenting her meal replacement ice cream in sample cups with a report on the table

Why did you decide to start a company?

CG: I was about to graduate. I had been thinking about what job I want to try to get after I graduate and figure out a plan. I wasn't really set on anything. Last summer, I was working in New York, and it was a great experience, but nothing that I was so eager to get back to. I really just struggled for a while to think about what I truly enjoyed doing. I'm a very creative person, and so the idea that I could start something on my own from scratch and build it into this larger thing that could end up really helping people was really appealing to me. Once I started taking entrepreneurship courses, I was given those tools to then think to myself I could really go do this.

What advice would you give other aspiring food and beverage entrepreneurs?

CG: Be prepared to make mistakes. You will fail many times before you realize your goal. I consider myself a perfectionist, but you have to give yourself patience and pace yourself on the journey to what you want to achieve.

How does COVID-19 impact your current business from an innovation standpoint?

CG: It has been beneficial for me personally in the sense that it gave me the time to really feel like I could do this on my own. The ice cream is specifically for older adults or populations that have diseases and can’t receive the nutrition they need in other forms, due to difficulties like discomfort swallowing, loss of taste, or digestive challenges. I have actually been doing a lot of research about the impact of nutrition on COVID-19 patients. For COVID-19 patients who are getting really sick and need to be on ventilators, preventing them from malnutrition is paramount in their treatment. The ice cream is really applicable to their situation.

Learn more about Cali’s recipe development process and her association with Blackstone LaunchPad in this short video.

Get inspired by other Longhorn entrepreneurs innovating in the food and beverage space.

Published on October 26, 2020 in What's Fresh