BREAKTHROUGH You may never have heard of COOLBRANDS INTERNATIONAL. But if you’ve ever eaten an Eskimo pie or Chipwich ice cream sandwich, you’ve tasted its wares. This global frozen dessert maker holds a varied portfolio of products, including popular franchises like Swensen’s and I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt.

Now, a combination of acquisitions, strong “nostalgia” brands, and innovative licensed products has made Coolbrands a rising star in the frozen treats market. Sales jumped 36 percent in fiscal 2002 to more than $150 million, making the Ontario-based company the No. 3 frozen dessert maker behind giants Unilever and Nestlé’s.

One of Coolbrands’ most successful growth strategies has been licensing agreements with major brands like Tropicana, Weight Watchers, and General Mills. The company makes and markets the licensed products, like Tropicana fruit juice bars, Yoplait Smoothies, and Trix Pops, while paying a small percentage royalty to the brand parent company. Coolbrands’ Weight Watchers Smart Ones line, for instance, has grown in sales by more than 70 percent in just two years.

And while the smaller company won’t overtake the competition anytime soon, it’s aggressively competing for both market share and potential acquisitions; it’s monitoring a handful of frozen dessert makers for future purchase, company officials say. With more licensing deals pending, and others — like a recent one to become the exclusive soft serve ice cream provider for Universal Studios Florida — on the way, frozen dessert aficionados may soon be snacking on a long list of Coolbrands’ goods.