As the calendar now points to the middle of July, few people will pass up the opportunity to scoop up a refreshing bowl of ice cream on a hot day. The ice cream industry is worth more than $10 billion and the average American consumer scarfs down 20 pounds of ice cream each year.
In fact, Ronald Regan designated July as National Ice Cream Month, along with the third Sunday of the month, as National Ice Cream Day.
According to Jinny Lam, director of category growth for Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), Tillamook’s exploding growth in brand awareness and ice cream demand starts with the high-quality milk, which she says is due to working with partners who meet their high-quality standards.
“We also work with a few co-manufacturers who have exact standards on production, so we have a mix of great milk supply and production locations that have enabled us to grow to meet our incredible demand for our products,” Lam shared on a recent International Dairy Forum’s Dairy Download podcast.
This spring, Tillamook announced plans to open an ice cream manufacturing facility in Decatur, Ill., in late 2024. The Decatur facility will be TCCA’s first owned and operated manufacturing facility outside of Oregon and will be TCCA’s only facility solely dedicated to ice cream production. TCCA also owns and operates two manufacturing facilities in Oregon that are primarily dedicated to cheese production.
“This is because of the exponential growth we’ve experienced in recent years, especially in the eastern part of the U.S.,” Lam says. “We are the fastest growing ice cream brand in the country, and we are proud to be expanding our manufacturing footprint closer to the consumer.”
Lam shared that the primary growth is coming from the grocery channel, which she says is where consumers prefer to purchase their ice cream.
“Although we’ve also been growing with mass merchandisers, like Target and Walmart,” she shares. “That said we have tons of opportunities and other channels like club stores, convenience stores, dollar stores, and even food service which is exciting.”
In 2022, Tillamook partnered with Dot Foods, a redistributor that opened up a huge network of restaurants and scoop shops coast to coast.
“With that partnership, we became the official scoopable ice cream at all Six Flag theme parks in the U.S.,” Lam shares. “We’re really excited about making our ice cream more available outside the home.”
Lam shared with the Dairy Download host, Phil Plourd, head of market intelligence at Ever.Ag Insights, that a few years ago the focus shifted to healthier ice cream options that had lower calories, less sugar, and lower fat, which gained more shelf space. In recent years, Lam said that it became clear that consumers want indulgence with their ice cream.
“We’ve also seen more and more consumers care about their ice cream ingredients and where they come from,” she says.
Rich and Heather Draper, owners of The Ice Cream Club, have been producing award-winning ice cream and distributing it to select ice cream shops, restaurants, resorts and food service accounts throughout the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean for nearly forty years.
Unlike Tillamook, The Ice Cream Club does not move products through the grocery chain.
“We still have the one store after 41 years,” Heather Draper said, sharing they feel they win business and edge out the competition by offering more flavors than anyone in the industry. Their line-up includes more than 150 ice cream offerings. “We primarily focus on independent stores. They want the flavor selection. So, our tubs are salespeople or service. And I think that’s what separates us.”
Draper shares that they don’t have to worry about the same product being sold in a grocery store or a warehouse, which they believe has helped them build their business.
A lot of time is devoted to developing new flavors and Draper shares that they use the ‘1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’ slogan when it comes to developing new flavors and their team has fun with developing new flavors.
“A lot of requests come from our customers,” she says. “We really rely a lot on our team.”
One trademark flavor called Garbage Can requires a long label, as it starts with vanilla, but includes granulated peanuts and pieces of actual candy bars and more.
The Ice Cream Club manufactures, distributes and stores ice cream in south Florida. The Drapers share that people like the southeastern part of the country are growing and that people like the idea of starting their own ice cream store.
“There’s a lot of people that are coming here that like a smaller business. It was one of the businesses that they can maybe afford,” Draper says.
According to Draper even amidst the pandemic, their business fared well because they could pick up ice cream and consume it at home.
“Oddly, in troubled times we seem to fare well, I think there was a resurgence of people wanting just that basic comfort as much as anyone,” she says.
To listen to the entire Dairy Download ice cream conversation, go to The Dairy Download – Dishing on Ice Cream – IDFA
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