STATE COLLEGE - One of the most popular traditions for Penn State students, alumni and fans is standing in line during a home football game weekend to get a scoop of Berkey Creamery's famous ice cream.
With "Hall of Fame" flavors like Cherry Quist, Keeney Beany and Peachy Paterno, creamery customers are known to wait more than four hours before happily walking away with a cone, cup or milkshake.
"We moved to our new location in 2006," said Jim Brown, assistant manager of creamery operations. "Our sales and production have more than doubled since then and we're consistently working to expand and update."
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Though Berkey Creamery is known for its famous ice cream flavors, customers can also enjoy catered sandwiches, salads and sides.
Moving from a location with 1,700 square feet of space to the new Food Science Building, with 3,700 square feet of space, has allowed the creamery store to expand what it offers to students and visitors.
"The store now includes 80 indoor seats and more than 150 seats outside so people can take their time and enjoy the store," Brown said. "We have also started offering breakfast, lunch and dinner food like sandwiches, salad and sides."
The new food selections, catered by Irving's Bagels and Fiddlehead Soup and Salad Cafe, are delivered twice a day and served fresh, Brown said. The store also sells donuts, muffins, cookies, mushrooms, eggs and meats produced on campus or by area businesses, he said.
"What we're adding to the store complements the products we already have," Brown said. "People come in for bagels and need cream cheese, or come in for lunch and need dessert, driving up sales."
In fact, during lunch hours, it's almost impossible to keep shelves stocked, as four lines span across the checkout station. Brown is planning to add more cooler space, a larger sandwich display case, more coffee pots and a new counter space design.
"The focus is on efficiency," Brown said. "Though we aren't adding big new things, we're continuing to expand things we currently have in design and equipment."
However, the biggest update, as it applies to sales, is the availability of ice cream through ground shipping, effectively cutting customer cost in half. Previously, customers would have to pay $85 to ship a half gallon overnight by air. Now, long distance ice cream lovers can place orders for $44, with guaranteed two-day shipping.
But Berkey Creamery is much more than its 100-0plus flavors of ice cream. The plant also produces milk, cream, yogurt, tea, juice, cheese, cream cheese, dips and sour cream. Not only is it responsible for supplying all on campus dining facilities, but also the facilities at each extension location.
"Basically the moment we moved into the building we outgrew it," said Bob Rosenberry, production supervisor. "We're on the verge of having to increase production to meet our demand."
The plant started supplying Penn State Extension locations over the past year, causing production to increase dramatically, Rosenberry said. Yogurt has gone from 600 gallons a month to 600 gallons or more every two weeks. Ice cream has also increased from 900 gallons per week to 2,800 gallons, he said.
"We'll probably have to start freezing ice cream four days a week, instead of three, and bottling milk and juice five days a week, instead of two," Rosenberry said. "Either that or start a second shift. It's something we'll have to look at soon."
The plant has also added a new X-ray machine and metal detector to the packaging process to ensure that a safe and quality product is placed on shelves or shipped out, Rosenberry said.
"The X-ray machine is first programmed to identify chunks of ingredients like cookie dough or chocolate chips so that it can find objects, like plastic, that are out of the ordinary," Rosenberry said. "We also run the packaged ice cream through a metal detector."
To ensure additional product safety, a sample of each product batch, whether it be cheese, ice cream or milk, is tested in the Dairy Testing Laboratory by Bonnie Ford, quality assurance laboratory specialist in Penn State's Department of Food Science.
"Food safety is very critical and demanding," Ford said. "I test all the products we make here and handle all the necessary state paperwork. If something doesn't pass, then the product is recalled or put on hold for additional testing."
In May, Ford was honored with the 2013 Dairy Laboratory of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians. The award was a total surprise and such an honor, she said.
Ford also gives presentations at Penn State's Ice Cream Short Course, Ice Cream 101 course, Sanitation Short Course, Cultured Products Short Course and Pasteurizer Operator's Workshop. Her favorite Berkey Creamery ice cream flavor is Keeney Beany.
Berkey Creamery is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.creamery.psu.edu or the Penn State Berkey Creamery Facebook page.