Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream has all the trappings of your typical ice cream parlor — from its array of luscious flavors to tasty add-ins like candies, nuts, and fruit. However, the Utah-based brand is far from average. It puts an innovative twist on a beloved frozen treat — the company's delicious desserts are made with a rather peculiar ingredient: liquid nitrogen. The scientifically made ice cream combines cream, flavors, and mix-ins that are then blasted with the chemical, instantly freezing the mixture for a creamy cup of bespoke goodness made ready in under a minute.

The toothsome treat is the brainchild of Jerry Hancock, who is knowledgeable about chemistry, and his wife, Naomi. The couple founded the company back in 2004 after discovering the sub-freezing properties of liquid nitrogen, opening their first ice cream location next door to their wrap eatery, New York Burrito. The burrito establishment eventually failed, but folks couldn't get enough of the frozen dessert — leading the company to open its first franchise location in 2008. Fast forward four years and the Hancocks were ready to bring their fresh, customizable scoops to the Tank. They were already a hit with kids, but would any of the Sharks scream over their ice cream, too?

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream melts on Shark Tank

The Hancocks took the stage during Season 4, Episode 13 of "Shark Tank," which aired in January 2013. They sought $300,000 for a 12% stake in the company after losing $500,000 due to a bad business deal. At the time, they already had two corporate stores and 18 franchise locations open in states like Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and California.

Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John, and Mark Cuban tucked into a few flavors, including chocolate with chocolate cookie dough and one with coconut and berries. Aside from the obvious perks of Sub Zero Nitrogen's products — namely, it's made fresh so you never have to worry about freezer-burnt ice cream — Jerry also shares that if it starts to melt, they can quickly re-freeze it, unlike other ice cream shops. And, since no freezers are required, Naomi says the cost of store ownership is cheaper, and the carbon footprint is lower compared to conventional frozen dessert shops.

The Sharks liked the taste, but questions arose on how fast orders could be made and whether or not the process of using nitrogen was safe, among others. In the end, the investors dropped out one by one. John said he didn't have the time, O'Leary didn't think the brand was worth its $2.4 million valuation — while Cuban simply didn't want to get into the ice cream business. "I will eat more of your ice cream, though," he said. 

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream after Shark Tank

The Sharks may have swam away from making a deal with the Hancocks, but the couple remained steadfast in their commitment to reinventing the ice cream experience one liquid nitrogen-frozen scoop at a time. After the show aired, Sub Zero Nitrogen garnered national publicity, leading the "Shark Tank Effect" to boost business sales threefold for the majority of its franchises. 

The brand's customizable scoops and menu of "Sensations" — which include flavors like Cherry Charge, Peanut Butter Bonds, and Mass Mocha Madness, and come served with a waffle cone — were certainly already a hit with customers. But, the brand took things up a notch by expanding its tasty offerings to include ice cream cakes, pies, milkshakes, sorbet, Italian ice, and, more recently, fresh, made-to-order açai bowls in select locations. The company also offers a variety of dietary options, including sugar-free, non-dairy, vegan, and low-fat creams so everyone can enjoy a scoop.

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream is still scooping

More than a decade after appearing on the show, business is certainly still booming for the Sub Zero Nitrogen. On July 18, 2023, the company marked its 18th anniversary; to celebrate, it offered 18% off customers' orders for the day — so long as they wished the brand a happy anniversary. 

Franchise locations are also doing well, with Forbes naming the company one of the "10 Best Franchises to Buy From Shark Tank" in 2017. Fast forward to today, and the brand is still charging full liquid nitrogen steam ahead with more than 30 franchise locations now open across the country, including one in the Bahamas. 

Earlier this year, the brand launched one of its newest parlors in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is the fourth Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream location opened by franchisee owners Mark and Rita McCabe. Those interested in taking a bite out of this sweet treat can purchase their own storefront franchise too for an Initial Franchise Fee of $35,000, with mobile trailer units going for $20,000.

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream churns new flavors

This cool treat is certainly a scoop above the rest, and the ice cream chain is certainly making it easier to choose premium ice creams. To keep things fresh, the company launches a new and delicious-looking Sensation each month. September's in 2023 was a creamy tiramisu featuring coffee ice cream drizzled with chocolate flakes, whipped cream, and a thin dusting of cocoa all served in a waffle bowl, and the Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Sensation was the star flavor of the show the month before that. 

Every time the temperatures drop, Sub Zero Nitrogen gears up for holidays with the launch of new flavors — like the Pumpkin Toffee Sensation. But the brand isn't just keen on whipping up frozen nitrogen ice cream — it's also big on learning. The company works to teach students about the extraordinary properties of the chemical too by offering STEM-focused presentations at local schools around the country for some truly sweet food for thought.