Behind The Brand: An interview with High Road Craft Ice Cream
Today we are going Behind The Brand with High Road Craft Ice Cream. We have tried several High Road Ice Cream flavors including Sea Salt Vanilla and Fresh Mint Chip. You might be thinking ‘well, every ice cream company has vanilla and mint’.
Not so fast! The difference is in the details here. Hand-crafted ice cream and mix-ins made by real humans. Real vanilla bean sourced from farmers in Tanzania (more on this below). Real peppermint oil from Seely’s Mint Farm. Seeing the theme, here? Real awesome ingredients put together by real awesome people!
From our first bite, we knew High Road was a special company. So read on for the inside scoop on High Road Craft Ice Cream!
AN INTERVIEW WITH HIGH ROAD CRAFT ICE CREAM
My name is Nicki Schroeder, and I am the Co-Founder and CMO of High Road Craft Ice Cream, Inc. We are a handcrafted, chef-quality ice cream company out of Marietta, GA. We’ve been in business since 2010. We started selling ice cream and sorbet to chefs only – made with the highest quality ingredients, everything crafted in-house, with our own vat-pasteurized ice cream mixes. Chefs loved what we did, how we did it.
Folks started to see our names pop up on menus throughout Atlanta, and wanted to see and purchase what we were making. This lead to our jump into retail pints, previously, we were only in large 3 gallon tubs and 5 liter pans. Whole Foods was the first retailer to pick us up…and we’ve been growing ever since.
How did High Road get its start? How has it changed and how has it stayed the same since then?
We started with one small 30 gallon vat pasteurizer, one batch machine, one blast chiller and a small induction burner and table top oven. We’d knock on restaurant doors with samples and price sheets, run back to our facility make ice cream deliver to the chefs, drop off more samples…24 hours a day 7 days a week. It was gritty…and it was FUN.
Our kitchen was about 1200 sq. feet of working space – and now we have a 75,000 sq. foot facility where we do everything the SAME as when we started…just on a much larger scale. Happy to say – everything is still made by hand and we are so proud of our team. The size of our team has grown to about 60 people. So we are still a pretty small company, but we get A LOT accomplished everyday.
From the videos on your website, it looks like you work hard, but have a lot of fun too! What is it like to work at High Road?
We have a BLAST most days. We are very driven to work hard and deliver the highest quality products we can. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to reach our personal and professional goals everyday. We have many lanes that we work on – from purchasing, quality, production, culinary, logistics, operations…not to mention our super-fun sales and marketing team. We work hard and play hard and our team tends to be pretty smiley most days.
Without revealing any trade secrets, can you tell us more about how your ice cream is made and how it differs from others on the market?
Sure! We make a 16.5% butterfat ice cream mix in an old school 500 gallon vat. This allows for a cooked, custardy flavor to prevail. We don’t pump a lot of air into our products, so your end result is dense, chewy and very flavorful.
What is the ONE High Road flavor that you recommend everyone absolutely must try and why?
I absolutely love our Super Chocolate. I have never been a Chocolate ice cream girl, but we’ve taken about 4 years to perfect this bad boy…and it really delivers on the “Super” promise. It is a blend of two cocoa powders and it is cooked overnight – so all of the powders hydrate without that “chalky” mouthfeel. I love this, and you can usually find me in the break room with a spoon of this in my mouth.
Please tell us more about your flavors. Where do you find inspiration for new flavors? How do you determine which flavors make the cut and will go to market?
Great question! We like to travel the world, experiencing the foods and cultures of many far-aways places. We taste a lot…and use that for inspiration. We like to pay homage to a place with our ice cream and sorbet.
For example, our Aztec Chocolate ice cream takes you to Oaxaca, Mexico and celebrates Mexican drinking chocolate. You’ll find a beautiful chocolate base, blended with cinnamon, roasted, candied almonds and finished with roasted habaneros and jalapeños. It really takes you there.
We craft many innovative flavors for our chef-partners throughout the year, and we use the feedback and inspiration for what to show to the retailers. They eventually pick what they feel best suits their shoppers, but we like to pull out all the stops and show our R&D depth and breadth.
What are some of the craziest flavor combinations you’ve tried? Any funny or memorable stories from the test kitchen?
We’ve done some crazy crawfish boil ice cream…totally for fun! Watch the Crawfish Boil Video here! We’ve also made some really fun truffle (mushroom, not chocolate) ice cream, garlic ice cream, beautiful Hatch Chile ice cream and many boozy delights.
We LOVE real vanilla! Your trip to Tanzania to source vanilla from local farmers looks like it was an amazing and inspiring experience. Can you tell us more about it (and did it smell amazing?!)
We were looking for a better source for vanilla. Vanilla has skyrocketed in pricing over the past few years, and we wanted to find a better source…and one we could get behind. We made an instant friendship with Juan Guardado. We loved what he was doing with Natural Extracts Industries (NEI), and wanted to support his efforts.
We thought, if we can sell to a large retailer, like a Sam’s Club, we be able to really have an impact on a country. So we sold our idea to Sam’s Club and the team really got behind it! Soon, we were visiting Tanzania, making friends with the farmers and his team and IMPORTING vanilla. It was really fun…and it DID smell great!
Any other behind the scenes info, fun stories or interesting tidbits you think our readers would like to hear about you and your business?
At out hearts, we are a team of goofballs that are very passionate about making the BEST quality ice cream (we think on the planet). We have a very diverse team, we come from all walks of life, and we love that about High Road. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and each other to learn and grow everyday – and make time to celebrate our successes…and learn from our failures.
Here are some fun facts:
- Keith (CEO/Co-Founder) and I have been married since 1995, live and work together without killing each other.
- We make over 150 ice creams for chefs in food service.
- We are working on an earth-shattering novelty (coming in 2019…if I told you, I’d have to kill you) 😉
- We come up with 20-30 projects a year that get tabled for the future…we are an R&D machine.
- We quit Facebook as a company last year…it was too angry for us.
- We bought Ciao Bella Gelato this year, and we’ll be bringing back the 1983-style packaging and coming to market with innovative flavors in 2019 – really fun!
How can we get our hands on High Road products and learn more about your company?
Our website is www.highroadcraft.com. We’ll be combining the Ciao Bella and High Road websites together very soon – be on the lookout!
You can find us at Publix, Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Safeway, Ingles, HEB, Tom Thumb, Randall’s, Central Market and many more. Check out our location finder online to find a store near you!