When I was in Merida, Venezuela, in 1998, they told me I must go to the Heladeria Coromoto, a famous ice cream parlor that holds the Guinness record for its variety of flavors.
Who would say NO to the taste of a cold tuna or spaghetti and cheese ice cream?
So I went there and tried the most dreadful ice cream I have ever had, and I am not talking just about the corn or beer flavors that I took, but also the plain strawberry and chocolate.
The Heladeria Coromoto ice cream place offers more than 860 flavors. All kinds of dishes are turned into frozen ice cream, all kinds of fruits, vegetables, alcohol drinks, beverages etc. Not all of them are on the menu daily. Usually there are about 75 different flavors to choose from, a mix of what Manuel Da Silva Oliveira, the owner, calls “bestsellers like beer and rum with raisins”, traditional flavors, like vanilla and Dulce de Leche, and some “long tail” flavors such as tomato, calamari, chicken and tuna.
Manuel’s ice cream place is a landmark and point of interest to any tourist who step foot in Merida. Not for the good taste, like the ice cream in Bariloche, Argentina, but for the variety and gimmick.
What does it say about the long tail of ice cream?
It is a well-known fact that the most popular ice cream flavor in the world is vanilla. According to the International Ice Cream Association, almost 30% of ice cream lovers chose it as their favorite flavor (2012). Here are the top 15 popular flavors:
According to the International Dairy Foods Association report, we can say that the 15 most popular flavors satisfy 76.3% of ice cream fans. The rest hundreds of flavors are preferred by only 23.7%.
The 10 most popular flavors satisfy 68.3% of ice cream fans. The medium and long tail of ice cream is preferred by 31.7%. If there are 860 flavors of ice cream, it means that in the ice cream business 1% of the ice cream flavors is responsible for 70% of the ice cream consumption.
If we ignore the tuna and garlic ice cream, which you can probably only find in Merida, and say that there are 100 “real” flavors (but by that we actually say there is not much of a long tail in ice cream) then we can say that in the ice cream business 10% of the flavors are responsible for about 70% of the demand.
This is the Pareto of ice cream.
So what about Heladeria Coromoto ice cream place?
They offer the longest tail of ice cream and they are quite full and busy.
Isn’t that a proof that the long tail does work?
Well, sometimes businesses use the long tail as a gimmick, as something that differentiate them from others – Pubs that call themselves “The long tail of beer”, comic book stores that claim to have “the long tail of comics” etc.
It works because sometimes, we, as consumers, want to try something new or see something we don’t already know.
But this has nothing to do with any economy change as suggested by the long tail theory;
This is just plain marketing and PR.