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Kemps cooks up new products

We are part of The Trust Project.

By Jeff Kiger

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

If you drive past the Kemps Ice Cream plant on Rochester’s North Broadway, it looks the same as it did last year and the year before.

But inside, those Kemps cows are heating up the ice cream industry with some new tricks.

"It has been busy," says Plant Manager Mike Hanisch, with understatement dripping from his words.

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Topping the list of new projects is the $2.5 million addition of a new production line. And its addition is not a small thing, though the name of the product rolling off it is Ittibitz.

"What we’re doing there, nobody else does it in the world," Hanisch said. "The only familiar part is that we use ice cream mix."

However, Ittibitz does look familiar. The "pelletized" ice cream specialty looks like Dipping Dots ice cream pellets or beads.

While Kemps acknowledges the similarities, they say there is one key difference.

"It can travel and be stored at normal ice cream temps," said Rachel Kyllo, vice president of marketing for Kemps.

On the other hand, Dippin’ Dots is flash frozen using liquid nitrogen and must be kept at temperatures below zero.

Beside the benefit to the vendor, Kyllo says that makes Kemps’ product creamier and more flavorful than the competition. The seven flavors include Banana Split, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chip, Cotton Candy, Strawberry, Vanilla and Neapolitan.

In the couple months the Kemps production line has been at full speed, it has been producing 5,000 cases a week. Each case has 48 cups.

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"We assume it will eventually be 15,000 a week," Hanisch said. The new production line is staffed by 12 people.

Right now Ittibitz is mainly marketed at food service locations like ice cream shops, restaurants, vendor carts and sports stadiums.

It is already served at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and at Fenway Park in Boston.

In Rochester, it can been found at Mr. Pizza, Rochester Produce, the Little Store on Marion Road and at events like last week’s youth production of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

Kemps did not expand the plant to add this new line, but it did take advantage of an expansion done at the plant a couple of years ago. It that time, a production line was moved for the south side of the plant. Since then the area had been used as package store.

That part was revamped for the new unit.

Meanwhile, another new product is also being made in Rochester, thanks to the plant being certified as organic.

It is producing sherbets and juice bars made with organic fruit from Cascadian Farm, a company based in Washington state.

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"This is a brand-new initiative. It gives the plant a wonderful frozen dessert option it didn’t have before, especially with the dramatic growth of organic food category," Kyllo said.

Production started June 1 and products are just starting to ship out.

"We’ve made just 100,000 cups so far," said Hanisch.

Don’t look for the sherbet in Rochester yet. It is only available at Kowalski’s, Byerly’s and Lunds stores.

What does it take to be certified as organic?

"A lot of minor details and a lot of documentation. We have to keep all of the ingredients separate," Hanisch said.

This certification opens the door for Kemps to produce other organic products.

"We are working on a couple other prospective companies for possible future contracts," Kyllo said.

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