Hanging out with Hudsonville

I was blessed to be asked to spend the day with the folks at Hudsonville Ice Cream
learning about their practices, production and products.

I'll have to admit that prior to this trip, I didn't know much about Hudsonville ice ream. I knew they were a Michigan company and I know that just over a year ago they took great strides to label their gluten free products. (25 flavors to be exact!) And after spending time touring their facility and learning more about them, they may have just won over this girl as a loyal customer.

Hudsonville Creamery was started (as a co-op) in 1895 and they started making their first ice cream in 1926. That means Husdonville has been around in some capacity for over 100 years! But as I learned a year ago, Hudsonville no longer resides in Hudsonville. It's made a few moves in its lifetime, and it is now located in Holland. But even though the address has changed, the commitment to excellent ice cream hasn't.

As consumers are interested in supporting local more and more, so is Hudsonville. I was amazed to learn that all of their dairy comes from within 60 miles of their plant. They actually receive milk to the facility that was milked from the cow within the past 12 hours! They took us over to Pyle Farm, located in Zeeland to meet the dairy farmers that they work with. It was such a blessing, as I think far too often for this country we take where our food comes from for granted. It reminds me the hard work that these people do every day to make sure that the food the comes to our table is great in quality and superior in safety.

Nate Pyle and his family have been part of this farming community since 1848.
But don't let the long history of Hudsonville fool you--- they are not a company that is stuck in the past. They are concerned about consumer interests and needs and are constantly innovating to make their practices safer and to keep our taste buds tantalized.

In 2014, Hudsonville hired Ray Sierengowski to be their Director of Product Development. Ray has been involved in the food science industry for over a decade and was excited to help Hudsonville develop new flavors and products. He told us that when he interviewed for the job, he impressed upon them the need and the public's desire for natural products.

And it was out of that dream that the new Hudsonville Naturals line was born.

While the FDA still hasn't defined what "natural" means on a label, Hudsonville is striving to set the bar high. Their new naturals line has NO HFCS, no artificial colors or flavors, and no milk that contains rBST. The cane sugar in their ice cream is even non-gmo.They don't even use beet powder to punch up the pink color in their Naturals Strawberry Ice Cream. The only red and pink found in that container is from the strawberries themselves. This line has had such resounding success in its first two months that they are looking to switch some of their other flavors to "naturals" as well. (And they hinted that a pint line may be in the works....so I highly suggest following them on Facebook to get the latest news!)

Not only did they tell us about their processes, they took us through the entire plant, allowing us to ask questions. As a person with Celiac Disease, I asked about the steps that they take to prevent cross-contact, especially as they have flavors that do contain gluten. They have a very detailed allergen matrix which lays out what flavors can be run after others. If there is any concern, they will shut down the complete system and flush it. This is no small order, as it takes hours. Not only do they take allergen safety steps in their facility, but they also offer training for scoop shops to educate them on allergens. While this is primarily done through their website, they are also willing to drive out to scoop shops to give in-person education.

This package just came off the line. Their -40 degree freezers turn it rock hard within 90 minutes.

They are also incredibly generous. I was moved when I heard that they often donate ice cream tubs to local mission shelters. They even keep a freezer in the back of the plant, by the loading bay, to give ice cream to the drivers to take home to their families. They have the most amazing lounge/ kitchen area where their staff can eat lunch in peace and quiet. They treat people with integrity around here. Amazing!

There are so many other great things that happened on our tour, but I don't want to ramble too long.But I want to hear from you. Which of their flavors would you like to see as part of their "Naturals" line up?

Ray holding the door open for us at lunch at New Holland Brewing. What a gentleman!

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