Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Perry’s Ice Cream for a tour and ice cream taste testing of their new flavors. And I got to bring a guest, which meant that my husband has now checked an item off his bucket list: become an ice cream taste tester!
If you don’t live in NY or PA, you’ve probably never heard of Perry’s, but anyone from around these parts thinks of them as THE ice cream company (and might remember the “Pick Perry’s” jingle). Perry’s ice cream is found in schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and ice cream stands, often to the exclusion of other brands. It’s THE brand you buy if you live around here. If you live in the Buffalo, NY area, you grew up eating Perry’s. I went to Perry’s on a field trip as a child and when I was a teenager, my first job was scooping Perry’s ice cream at an ice cream shop. That is where I
met and fell in love with my first love: Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream.
I now know why Perry’s ice cream tastes better than any other brand. They cook their ice cream for two hours to develop the flavor, instead of using an instant pasteurization method, as most national brands do. It truly does result in creamier, more flavorful ice cream. Perry’s makes 75 flavors (crazy, right?) and produces 13 million gallons a year. This 95-year-old local company is well-loved and appreciated and anyone who knows the brand can taste the difference. They source their ingredients locally as well – 98% of the milk they use is from local farms.
All of the taste testers in the room were asked to name their favorite flavor of Perry’s ice cream and of the 20 or so people there, nobody chose the same flavor!
Our experience was fun afternoon. We learned about the history of Perry’s, which is a family-owned company, now in its 4th generation of Perry’s (it’s always great to see a locally-owned company that is family-owned) and employing over 300 locals. We got to see the production line, hear about the huge strides they make with sustainability (setting industry standards in many ways), and meet many wonderful people. We also were invited into the 25
degree below zero storage freezer where they keep ALL the ice cream. It was COLD.
The best part was of course the tasting. Lest you think it was all fun and games, we did learn how to really taste and evaluate ice cream.
- First, evaluate for aroma
- Next, consider the feeling factors. There are two categories of these: temperature and chemical feeling (spicy, cooking, astringent, prickly)
- Texture is the next factor and you experience this both with your lips and with your teeth – smoothness, firmness, hardness and moistness
- The final component is a sensory evaluation
The sensory evaluation is the most complicated, since there are different terms to use when evaluating the different types of flavors categories (dairy, brown and sweet flavors, vanilla, and chocolate). For example, there are 19 words we were given that can be used to evaluate chocolate flavors alone (some include roasted, astringent, winey, buttery, caramel, prune/raisin, smokey, barny, and tobacco).
Ice cream preferences vary by region – here in Western NY, tasters like to taste dairy first, then flavors, then sweetness. In the south, sweetness is the first taste they want. This is why there are regional ice cream companies, and why national brands may not be able to compete with the local companies (they are catering to a national preference while your region probably has specific taste preferences not found elsewhere).
We were told we should taste each sample at least three times (SUCH a burden) and to note that the first taste is often too cold to really evaluate well.We were also told to sip water in between flavors to reset our palates.
Then the ice cream came out. Fortunately I skipped lunch for this event. We tasted 7 different flavors:
– Lactose Free Vanilla
– Oh My Cherry Pie (vanilla ice cream with cherry swirls and graham cracker crumbs)
– Sponge Candy (this is designed to get locals excited since sponge candy is a local area specialty – sponge candy flavored ice cream with pieces of chocolate covered sponge candy)
– Movie Time (popcorn flavored ice cream with sea salt caramel swirls)
– Black Raspberry
– Queen of Hearts (dark chocolate ice cream with raspberry swirls and fudge truffles)
– Party Sandwiches (ice cream sandwiches with vanilla wafers, cake batter ice cream and sprinkles)
I’ve enjoyed ice cream before (who hasn’t?) but it was a different experience to be evaluating and describing the flavors, textures, and appearance of the ice creams. It was hard work to concentrate on the flavors and try to find words to describe all the nuances. There’s so much involved in one flavor of ice cream. My favorite flavor was Queen of Hearts. The husband picked the Lactose Free Vanilla. Perry’s collected our evaluations to help them as they refine and develop new flavors.
Do you have a favorite ice cream brand? Is it a local brand? What’s your favorite flavor?
[Note: I obviously was given Perry’s products to sample, however Perry’s did not require me to produce a post nor do anything in exchange for this post and I received no payment.]
Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Perry’s Ice Cream for a tour and ice cream taste testing of their new flavors. And I got to bring a guest, which meant that my husband has now checked an item off his bucket list: become an ice cream taste tester! Pick Perry’s If … Read more