Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream (DGIC) is in the business of putting smiles on people’s faces with ice cream. With nearly 100 years of experience in the market and a robust portfolio of well-known brands, the company’s suite of ice cream treats includes something for everyone.
Headquartered in the Bay Area, a hub for up-and-coming food trends, DGIC focuses on both the future and the present for ice cream. Its 2,500-plus employees share the same passion for ice cream and are continuously pursuing innovative ideas to deliver the best ice cream experience to all consumers.
“Quality is literally at the center of everything we do with our products and the way we run the business,” said Kim Peddle Rguem, chief executive officer, DGIC. “We spend an incredible amount of time making sure that the consumer experience for the same product that comes in the same package from one location to another is exactly the way we want it to be.”
In 2020, DGIC joined Froneri, a fast-growth international ice cream business. Froneri operates in 23 countries with a team of 15,000 employees who are on a joint mission to build the world’s best ice cream company.
Upon joining forces with Froneri, DGIC set out to accelerate its mission to become the No. 1 ice cream company in the United States. Together, DGIC and Froneri work as one global team to advance and disrupt the category.
While DGIC operates in the United States, the company also looks beyond borders for inspiration on how it can produce the best ice cream possible. Another key element to the ice cream maker’s continued success is DGIC’s global influence by Froneri. The international ice cream business has winning market share in Europe and is one of the largest ice cream companies in the world.
DGIC continues to make large investments in its owned manufacturing facilities and, more importantly, the people and communities within them. In fact, DGIC is investing more than $600 million over four years in manufacturing improvements which include everything from factory expansion and technology to events located where DGIC’s four core facilities are based.
DGIC runs a highly technical operations model which enables the company to serve high-quality ice cream. DGIC is a collection of food scientists, engineers, mechanics, marketers and much more. Not only is the company’s goal to make the best ice cream, but also to grow its capacity so DGIC can maximize how many US customers and consumers it serves.
Primarily, DGIC is uniquely only about ice cream.
“We are singularly focused on ice cream, and we take great pride in that,” Rguem said.
The Dreyer’s name has been a household favorite since its first tubs of ice cream were sold in 1928. That was the year William Dreyer and Joseph Edy, an ice cream maker and sweets maker, respectively, came together in California to establish Dreyer’s and Edy’s ice cream. A year later, the duo innovated a flavor that presently remains a hit — Rocky Road.
Today, DGIC manufactures, markets and distributes an even wider variety of ice cream and frozen snacks made with high-quality ingredients. Its robust portfolio of brands includes Drumstick, Häagen-Dazs, Edy’s/Dreyer’s, Dibs, Outshine, OREO, Chips Ahoy!, Nestle ice cream, Butterfinger, Toll House, Frosty Paws, Edy’s Pie and Skinny Cow.
Häagen-Dazs recently introduced City Sweets, a new ice cream line inspired by city street food desserts. Launched in February in select retailers, the full product portfolio of City Sweets will be in stores nationwide by April.
“The design of the City Sweets package was done by creative individuals who we wanted to support,” Rguem said. “So, all of that work has helped our brand grow and made it an absolutely historic year for us.”
The City Sweets packaged collection includes five flavors: Dulce de Leche Churro, Coffee Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, Summer Berry Cake Pop and Black & White Cookie.
The collection also embraces three snack bar flavors: Dulce de Leche Churro, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel and Summer Berry Waffle.
As a category, Rguem said ice cream continues to show impressive growth. And DGIC is leading this growth across a number of product categories.
“Over the past two years, in particular, we’ve definitely experienced higher sales,” she said. “What we’ve seen is consumers spending more time at home. We definitely have seen some increased interest in nostalgic-type products, items that bring smiles to faces. And the ice cream category is one of those.”
Historically, it’s always been more of a seasonal category, Rguem said.
“What we’re seeing now, however, is a year-round product that’s stocked and enjoyed at any time,” she said. “So we’ve seen shifts in the time of year people are consuming ice cream, as well as the frequency of consumption.”
What’s more, Rguem said consumers and retailers alike are demanding more handled frozen treats.
“There is incredible growth trajectory for everything that we would call handheld — ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars, ice cream sticks, et cetera,” she said. “Our Drumstick brand has seen double-digit growth. So that is another part of the category growth trend we’re really seeing.”
Last year was a historic one for DGIC in many ways, Rguem said.
“I think first and foremost, we sold more ice cream than we ever have,” she said. “We made over 2.9 million ice cream products, and our sales climbed to over $2 billion. Our output was higher than it had ever been, and we grew our market share.We also invested in our relationship with our consumers in a bigger way than we ever have before. With consumer input, we created new communications to talk about our brand, and revitalized the packaging.”
For the ice cream category, Rguem said, the best is yet to come.
“We are investing for the long haul. We’ve announced approximately 15 new production lines, plus we’re making improvements to lines that we already have. We have four factories across the United States where we produce our delicious ice cream products, and every one of those factories is in a major transformation phase.”
In terms of long-haul expenditures for the ice cream giant, DGIC is making a $600 million investment over four years in factory expansions, including new equipment.
The company also is investing heavily in training.
“Our consumers are demanding more complex, interesting combinations of products. Therefore, our production lines have become more complicated and intricate,” Rguem said. “The equipment is new, it’s different and it’s faster. So, we are also investing in training our employees to operate new equipment and developing their technical expertise to make the best ice cream we can.”
In addition to investing in infrastructure, DGIC is adding three new selling locations across its network.
“Our goal is to have all of our products stocked on store shelves — all of the time. Additionally, DGIC’s selling capacity has increased about 30% this year,” Rguem said. “In the spirit of building for the future, we are creating an infrastructure that facilitates the growth that we see happening in the marketplace today, and we have real confidence that it will only increase moving forward.”
DGIC’s investment includes $145 million in an expansion of its Fort Wayne, Ind., production facility, anticipating up to 145 jobs by the end of 2024.
The plans include two new production lines for the company’s Drumstick products, set to be fully operational by the end of 2023. That’s in addition to another new Drumstick production line, announced in October 2020, which is already up and running.
DGIC currently employs about 400 people at its Fort Wayne facility. The 100-plus new manufacturing job opportunities will support the new Drumstick ice cream production lines, offering competitive hourly rates, as well as full benefits, including paid time off.
“Teamwork, collaboration and open communication are keys to our success at Fort Wayne,” said Julia Zirpoli, plant manager, DGIC, Fort Wayne, Ind. “We do rely on everyone at every level to understand our process and equipment to ensure we are producing a high-quality product.”
DGIC puts an emphasis on keeping an entrepreneurial mindset, Zirpoli said.
“We have a lot of passion for improvement,” she said. “We are continuously trying to stay ahead of possible challenges by building contingency plans to make sure that we run our facilities at the highest performance. As an example, a couple of our facilities provided labor to one of our vendors for a month last summer in order to ensure that our raw material kept coming into the factory. Which is, I would say, a departure maybe from the type of actions we would end up taking in the past.”
Because DGIC is ice cream centric, the company can leverage knowledge as it has invested in new production lines, purchasing the latest proven technology for filling and packaging equipment.
“We partner with our vendors for their subject matter experts to be onsite during our production line implementations,” Zirpoli said. “Once we’ve made improvements to the equipment, those improvements get transferred to new machines. Not just on our site, but to our sister factories as well.”
Zirpoli said the company has transitioned its focus from a commercial-centric mindset to a manufacturing-centric mindset.
“To that end, we make sure we are using the latest technologies to manufacture our ice cream,” she said. “The quality of our ice cream is improved by utilizing the right technology and processes.”
Zirpoli said COVID-19 brought to life how important the work in DGIC’s manufacturing facilities has been.
“We are focused on the quality of the ice cream and how it is made, and it has elevated the work of all of our manufacturing employees.”
A Scoop of Thanks
On April 23, 2020, DGIC kicked off a large-scale ice cream donation initiative to deliver 158,879 smiles across 129 hospitals. The company worked with existing partners and customers to reroute ice cream that was originally planned for food service customers to hospitals.
“Our mission was to show gratitude to frontline workers in the US. who had risen to the challenge of caring for our communities in the uncertain times brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zirpoli said. “What we know how to do best is make ice cream that brings smiles to people’s faces. In an effort to bring a smile to frontline workers during challenging times, DGIC worked with hospitals in several states, including in the communities where we live and work, to share a moment of joy with our ice cream.”
Through its Scoop of Thanks ice cream initiative DGIC served healthcare workers in Indiana, California, Washington, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland and New York.
The feedback DGIC received from hospital staff was overwhelmingly positive, Zirpoli said.
“It was really great to see so many frontline heroes enjoy a moment with our delicious ice cream and be so grateful for it,” she said.
The people DGIC employs and its surrounding communities are at the center of what they do, Zirpoli said.
“It’s important that we make sure we take care of employees and the communities in which we work and live. I am personally very proud of our Scoop of Thanks initiative launched when COVID-19 was putting the most pressure on hospital frontline workers. Our employees rallied together and really stepped up to the plate.”