The dairy plant on campus nearly doubled its production of ice cream last year by selling around 15,000 gallons to South Dakota Made Stores, Inc.
The stores, formerly located in Bristol, Hill City and Miller, have sold vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream and strawberry revel since April 2004. This year, they had the option to sell two seasonal flavors, pumpkin and peppermint. Two of the three locations have changed and stores are now located in Aberdeen, Rapid City and Miller, but they are still marketing the half-gallons of SDSU’s own.
The SDSU ice cream has popped up in other grocery and retail stores across the state, like Sioux Falls Hy-Vee stores, due to an arrangement between the South Dakota Made Stores and HRS Foodservice of Aberdeen and Rapid City.
Tim and Robbyn Conlon opened the first South Dakota Made Store in July of 2002. They approached Howard Bonnemann, SDSU dairy science instructor and dairy bar and plant manager, about selling the ice cream in November of 2002.
“We had wanted to sell South Dakota made ice cream when we opened our first South Dakota Made Store, Inc.,” said Robbyn Conlon. “I had been told that SDSU made a wonderful ice cream on campus. We drove down to SDSU to try the ice cream for ourselves and were convinced. SDSU ice cream is the best ice cream we have ever tasted.”
The couple then began striking a deal to get the ice cream from Brookings to Bristol.
“Our mission has been through the promotion, marketing and selling of the finest of South Dakota made products we hope to foster economic development throughout South Dakota. We felt SDSU ice cream was a perfect fit,” she said.
“I thought it’d be a good idea to give us increased exposure. And to give students increased experience is definitely good,” he said.
It took nearly 10 months to get a contract in place.
“We had to get permission all the way through the Board of Regents to get approval,” said Bonneman, citing price consideration as another factor in the contract.
The dairy bar and plant is self-sufficient, aside from utilities and being housed on campus.
“We start out the year with no designated state funds,” said Bonneman.
South Dakota Made Stores began moving the ice cream last April.
“We have been very pleased with our initial sales and are looking forward to even greater sales this coming year,” said Conlon.
Their contract with the university allows them to sell up to 43,000 gallons a year. If production and sales reach that level, the dairy bar and plant could net as much as $15,000 to $20,000.
“We would like to get it up to what the contract rates,” said Bonneman. “It would be my hope, income over expenses, to make $15,000 to $20,000, but since we’re not up to that we don’t know that yet,” he said.
Usual production at the dairy plant is between 16,000 and 17,000 gallons, so even the 15,000-gallon increase has changed a few things. Extra income generated from the increased sales helps pay for day-to-day expenses, like store-front help in the dairy bar, as well as unexpected repairs.
“It gives me the option of running a few more hours,” he said.
Bonneman said the partnership isn’t for economical reasons.
“Pricing is based a lot on the market. We set an amount that we needed to cover our expenses,” said Bonneman, who has a total of 25 students employed in the plant and store-front that work from five to 12 hours a week, as well as two full-time staff members. “My function is not to make product, but to train students.”
The added ice cream production has given the student-workers a chance to make larger batches of ice cream and gain more practical experience.
“It caused us some logistical issues here, but in the end it was an advantage,” he said.
An HRS Foodservice truck picks up the ice cream once or twice a week, so an extra freezer for ice cream storage was put in this fall.
In addition to retailing SDSU ice cream in their own stores, the South Dakota Made Store distributes it, through HRS Foodservice, to grocery stores across the state.
“It is rewarding to see the faces of the alumni light up when they see the ice cream,” said Conlon, who gives out samples in Sioux Falls Hy-Vee stores. “Many people in our state are not aware that SDSU makes ice cream.”
She said people who taste the ice cream for the first time are “immediately won over.”
“People are very excited to be able to purchase SDSU ice cream off-campus and love supporting higher education and South Dakota, while eating the best ice cream in the world.”
#1.885422:349018501.jpg:Michelle B.jpg:Michelle Bjorklund scoops SDSU ice cream for a waiting customer at The Lodge in Brookings. The university ice cream is being marketed statewide and is also available at various locations in town.: