Monday, November 9, 2009

Gifford's Ice Cream takes first place

I scream. You scream. We all scream for the world's best ice cream.Right? Well, locally owned and operated Gifford's Ice Cream is rising to the top nationally with a recent first-place showing in competition and the designation as having the "World's Best Chocolate Ice Cream."

Gifford's earned a perfect score in the World Dairy Expo 2009 contest last month in Madison, Wis. "We're ecstatic -- we actually received our award, a trophy, just yesterday and that just reenergized us again," said Lindsay Gifford, vice president of sales and marketing, and daughter of co-owner John Gifford. "It's an honor, we're kind of speechless, because we always try to make the best quality product and it's apparently paying off, all of our hard work and dedication. We're thrilled."

Submissions to the Expo are reviewed by dairy-science professionals in a blind-taste test, based on flavor, body and texture, melting quality, color, and appearance, according to publicist Ann Ewing at Front Burner PR LLC of Portland.

"The perfect 100 percent rating is extremely rare at the annual event; none of the other winners at this year's event received a perfect score," Ewing said. The World Dairy Expo attracts more than 65,000 attendees from 80 countries. It is the only international judging contest of its kind and is considered today's most important dairy industry competition, Ewing said.

The award is the second "World's Best" win for Gifford's chocolate ice cream. The company also earned the award at the 2007 competition.

The first-place win for Gifford's was announced the same week that The Griffin Report of Food Marketing, a regional trade publication, named Gifford's Ice Cream to its 2009 "Best Places to Work" list, according to Ewing.

Gifford's Ice Cream, a third-generation family business, has long been committed to making all of its flavors using fresh, pasteurized, growth-hormone-free milk from local Maine dairy farms, Gifford said.

The trick to making the best chocolate ice cream?

"I would say it's the ingredients, the cocoa that we use, as well as how we make our product," she said. "We use 1940s Cherry Burrell freezers that makes the product smoother, so there's less ice crystals; it's not the fastest process, I will tell you that, but it does, we feel, give the best quality.

"Our employees are critical to our success, and we're honored by their dedication to Gifford's. We share our win at the World Dairy Expo with all our employees."

Lindsay's father, John Gifford, 54, with his brother Roger, 57, now run the business. The family originally hailed from Bristol, Conn. They moved to Farmington in 1971, where his parents purchased Titcomb's Dairy, according to John Gifford.

"In 1974 we bought this facility in Skowhegan, which was Hunt's Dairy," he said of his parents Randall and Audry Gifford. "We merged the two dairies together about six months later."

In 1980, Gifford said, the diary had a surplus of cream because of the craze for low-fat milk -- that's where the ice cream came in.

The family bought an existing ice cream stand on Madison Avenue in Skowhegan, which was run by John and his wife Cathy, where it remains today.

In 1983 they sold the milk portion of the business to Oakhurst Dairy and concentrated exclusively on ice cream making and sales.

Today there are eight Gifford family members who work for the company. Ice creams sales topped $10 million last year.

John Gifford said all of the operation's milk comes from local daily farms, is blended for ice cream in Portland and returned to the Hathaway Street plant for the ice cream-making process. The mix for the Gifford's flavor is done on site, in Skowhegan, he said.

Gifford's Ice Cream has been added to food-service offerings at Colby College in Waterville, and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Lewiston.

Gifford's Ice Cream is available throughout northern New England at Hannaford's, Shaw's Supermarkets, and Roche Bros. locations. The product line also is offered in several hundred ice cream stands throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, Ewing said. There are Gifford's Ice Cream stands in Skowhegan, Farmington, Bangor, Waterville and in Lewiston.

Additionally, Gifford's is served at a growing number of high-profile account locations, including The Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in New Hampshire, Rutgers University, and the University of Connecticut.


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