This is a cup of Royal Red Merlot frozen sorbet...

This is a cup of Royal Red Merlot frozen sorbet that is produced by Frosae Wine Sorbae in Mastic. It was served up on Oct. 29, 2014. Credit: Daniel Brennan

After making ice cream for three decades, John Pastore of the Ice Cream Cottage in Mastic decided to try a different twist on his frozen treats.

Asked to make a dessert for a wine event, he concocted a sorbet made from wine.

It was a hit, but Pastore didn't think he could commercialize it without going through a lot of red tape because it contained alcohol.

That changed in 2011, when his colleague and now partner Ben Amato read about a change in New York State law allowing frozen desserts that contain less than 5 percent alcohol to be sold without a liquor license.

That year, with the help of two more partners/investors, retired high school principal Joseph Gagliano and real estate developer Neil Koenig, they formed East Patchogue-based Frosae Wine Sorbae LLC.

Frosae -- which comes in white, royal red and chocolate merlot -- contains alcohol (1.8 percent), requiring purchasers to be 21 and older. Add to that its status as a niche product, and you have the company's challenge: finding distributors.

The product, made in Mastic using mostly local wines, is available in more than 50 stores and restaurants on Long Island and in Queens and Brooklyn, including select King Kullens. But the partners want to grow.

Distribution hurdles

Distributors "have never heard of something like this before," explains Koenig, 36, Frosae's chief financial officer and Gagliano's son-in-law. "They hear there's alcohol in it, and there's some hesitancy."

For starters, there's uncertainty on where it can be sold. In New York it can be sold anywhere regardless of a liquor license due to the state amendment, but laws vary by state and educating distributors on that has been a slow process.

"Large food distributors typically won't take the time to learn about the product or educate [retailers] because they can't," says Robert Nadeau, managing principal at Industrial Performance Group, a Highland Park, Illinois-based consultancy that works with manufacturers and distributors. "They have too many products they represent."

Frosae should target smaller niche distributors that can take the time to get to know the product, he suggests, or the company needs to go straight to the consumer/end user, creating its own demand.

If the partners can generate enough demand so customers ask for Frosae by name or they can show distributors they have a large customer base, they have a better chance of getting their attention, explains Nadeau. "Distributors love products customers ask for by name."

Interest from stadiums

People who've tried Frosae like it but don't know where to get it, says CEO Gagliano, 68, noting they've sold out at events. So far, 3 G's Vino, a wine distribution company in Farmingdale, and Sysco Long Island have represented the product.

It was a seasonal item for Sysco this past summer, says Sysco LI president Frank Recine, noting they haven't discussed terms for next season.

3 G's is working to get Frosae into stadiums, casinos and other venues including Yankee Stadium, says Frosae president Amato, 62, a retired high schoolteacher. It's already sold at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury.

"In New York, we're getting great interest for Frosae kiosk stands at high-profile venues," says Tom Falcone, vice president of operations for 3 G's.

Nursing homes are also big customers, says Amato.

That's a good place to start, says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst at NPD Group in Port Washington, adding that casinos also sound like a good fit.

The product is in a category that has appeal -- frozen treats -- but "the moment you say alcohol, it's going to have an issue," says Balzer. The key is getting into the hands of the right purchasers -- adults -- and that requires a "well thought-out strategy," he adds.

Samples, coupons

The partners should work to generate consumer demand through "sampling and couponing at the right places" and using direct mail to drive people to their website, says Nadeau. "Their chances of success will increase when there's more people in the marketplace that want to buy it."

Frosae has given out more than 20,000 samples and recently began selling the products on its website. It sells 4-ounce and 1-, 5- and 10-quart containers, priced from $14.99 to $49.99.

The partners also plan to add more flavors. "The possibilities are limitless," says Pastore, 57, Frosae's executive president.

AT A GLANCE

NAME. Frosae Wine Sorbae LLC, East Patchogue.

PRINCIPALS. Joseph Gagliano, CEO; John Pastore, executive president; Ben Amato, president; and Neil Koenig, chief financial officer

PRODUCT. Frozen wine sorbet

ANNUAL REVENUE. $200,000-plus

NewsdayTV goes behind the scenes of the Gilgo Beach investigation, revealing the shocking findings in the year since the arrest of Rex Heuermann. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports.

Unearthing a suspect: The Gilgo Beach killings NewsdayTV goes behind the scenes of the Gilgo Beach investigation, revealing the shocking findings in the year since the arrest of Rex Heuermann. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports.

NewsdayTV goes behind the scenes of the Gilgo Beach investigation, revealing the shocking findings in the year since the arrest of Rex Heuermann. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports.

Unearthing a suspect: The Gilgo Beach killings NewsdayTV goes behind the scenes of the Gilgo Beach investigation, revealing the shocking findings in the year since the arrest of Rex Heuermann. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports.

Latest Videos

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.