Ohio’s sweet heritage: Evolution of ice cream 

By Jake Zajkowski, OCJ field reporter

In just about every town in Ohio, where ice cream shops seem to dot each street corner, Ohioans share a special connection with this beloved frozen treat. As we celebrate National Ice Cream Month, it presents an opportunity not only to indulge in a weekly ice cream run but also to reflect upon the significant history of ice cream in the state.

“Ohio played a prominent role in ice cream manufacturing,” said John Lindamood, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. “When I began working in Extension, there were 425 dairy plants in the state of Ohio, with specialty ice cream products leading the sales. “

Lindamood’s tenure at Ohio State University spanned 40 years during a pivotal era of innovation in the ice cream industry as a dairy foods Extension agent. Ohio proudly claims credit for several iconic ice cream inventions during this timeframe, including the ice cream drumstick, pioneered by Ohio State, the Klondike bar from Isaly’s Dairy Company in Mansfield, and the Good Humor brand, which initiated the first-ever treat delivery service across suburban America. By the 1980s, traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains began to fade away, leaving behind a trail of innovation by Ohio-based businesses.

Lindamood reflected on when ice cream cone company, Drumstick, owned by brothers I.C. and J.T. (Stubby) Parker of Fort Worth, Texas, started working with his team at Ohio State University. 

“Drumstick Company didn’t make ice cream themselves. Anytime they developed a machine, they would bring it over to Vivian Hall, where the Dairy Tech Department was located, and where we had the ice cream-making machines for teaching ice cream,” he said. “When it was known as dairy technology, we were teaching frozen dairy desserts, graded milk, dry milk, cheese, fluid, yogurt. Now the department teaches all foods and nutrition.” 

Ohio State’s research in dairy was driven by the problem-solving of dairy farmers and manufacturers, and the consumer interest in new food products that Americans were hungry to taste. 

“Over the years we got associated with the Parker brothers, and they came to us about a problem of cones getting too soggy before they could be shipped to sellers,” Lindamood said. “I discussed this with Dr. Hanson, and we decided to suggest to them that they should coat the cone with chocolate to try and keep it from getting soggy. And it worked.”

The idea of a chocolate coating later evolved into the inside of the cone, giving rise to the product we know today. Although the Dairy Tech Department did not receive official recognition, the Parker Food Science Building stands as a testament to the Parker family’s generous donation to the college.

Revolutionary ideas, such as preventing soggy ice cream cones or delivering Good Humor treats directly to consumers, all begin with creative ideation. 

“During his lunch breaks, I.C. Parker would head out to the factory for a snack. By adding nuts and chocolate to his cone, he inadvertently created something his wife thought looked like a ‘drumstick,’ thus giving people their favorite treat’s name,” Lindamood said.

While Ohioans can enjoy their all-time favorite ice cream shops, let us not forget the legacy names that put Ohio on the map. National Ice Cream Day is celebrated on July 16th and serves as a delicious reminder of Ohio’s rich ice cream heritage, where a passion for creamy delights has shaped the state’s frozen legacy.

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