What Ever Happened to Coney Island Ice Cream?November 20, 2019
More than just everyone’s favorite comfort food (because who hasn’t sobbed into a pint while watching Robb Stark die going through a tough break-up?), ice cream is one of those classic eats that can bring on powerful feelings of nostalgia. And for those of us who are old enough to have witnessed the demise of some well-loved brands, Coney Island exerts a particularly powerful pull.
I was only a wee toddler when the Coney Island brand started to fall off the grid, but I vividly remember tucking into a small cup of their bubblegum-flavored ice cream, its creamy sweetness and bubblegum bits evoking images of the brand’s distinctive carnival theme. For some, their Eskimo Roll was the stuff of legend, a celebrated ice cream sandwich of sorts that went on to inspire a lot of similar creations (such as Ian Carandang’s Chilly Burger and Penny Brown’s Ice Cream Sandwich) long after it was pulled from the freezers.
Just like other nostalgic brands like Big Bob’s, Coney Island Ice Cream was last seen back in the nineties. Fast forward to the present day, and no one seems to know where the beloved brand went. Fortunately, with a little bit of digging here and there, we were able to find out a bit more about why it went off the radar (as well as where you can still get a taste of some select flavors today).
Despite its American-sounding name, Coney Island was very much a Filipino brand. Established sometime in the 1970’s, Coney Island was one of two brands under Seamark Enterprises, then the second largest ice cream company in the Philippines. Owned by the Trillana – De Ocampo families (who, incidentally, were also the ones behind Whammo’s and other 90’s treats), the Coney Island brand was once so popular that there were about 33 Coney Island Scooping Stations operating throughout the country. Apart from the ubiquitous Eskimo Roll, kids (and kids-at-heart) went absolutely nuts over their innovative flavors like New York! New York! (a buttery pecan ice cream), Bubblegum, and Pistachio.
However, the giant Purefoods conglomerate bought out Seamark Enterprises in 1991, and after a brief spell on the PBA court (with one of the Purefoods teams being renamed the Coney Island Ice Cream Stars), the brand simply vanished.
Back in 2009, the Trillana- De Ocampo families (who had already established the popular Go Nuts Donuts chain then) decided the bring back some of their old ice cream creations but under a different brand entirely. Rebranded as Go Nuts Ice Cream, the new product line’s flavor line-up was dotted with some of Coney Island Ice Cream’s most popular flavors. Available in select Go Nuts Donuts branches (the ones in SM Makati, SM Mall of Asia, and West Gate Filinvest in particular, if I’m not mistaken), scoops of Pistachio, Bubblegum, and New York! New York! ice cream, among others, are now available for anyone who’s in the mood for a gustatory blast from the past.
But there’s still no sign of that legendary Eskimo Roll, though.