LAKELAND, Fla. - Have you ever stood there in Publix, staring at the freezer section, trying to decide on an ice cream flavor? Perhaps Bear Claw, It's Your Birthday Cake!, or maybe even the limited-edition Hula Hula Macadamia.
And have you ever thought, 'Where do they come up with this stuff?'
The Publix Lakeland Dairy Plant is the birthplace of many of your favorite ice cream flavors. And like any product, it starts with an idea.
"We rely on trends research," explained Tarisha Gray, product development manager at the plant. "We rely on our suppliers as well to tell us what’s trending in their regions. When you create, you're not creating for yourself or your own palette, you’re creating for the masses."
Carton of Publix's Limited-Edition Hula Hula Macadamia
For Gray, it's her job to take flavor ideas from concept to your spoon.
Every concept needs the perfect ingredients. Tarisha and her partner, Janae, evaluate them down to their slightest delectable details.
After finalizing the ingredients, they formulate a recipe, and the ice cream goes into trials. Some ideas are cut, while others go on to become those to-die-for, limited-edition flavors like Irish Creme Salted Caramel.
"I remember that one because I wanted to tap into the caramel macchiato that was popular at the time," Tarisha recalled.
Inside the Publix Lakeland Dairy Plant
But before it hits the shelves, the ice cream has to be made.
"Out of this plant alone, we are producing about 20 million cartons a year," said Greg Rudolph, general manager of the facility.
The production line runs eighty hours a week.
The production line at the Publix Lakeland Dairy Plant
"From ideation to package takes about a year," Rudolph stated. "A great deal of effort goes into the package and the artwork itself."
With over 1,300 stores in seven states, the craving for new flavors never ends.
But, Tarisha said, they're up to the challenge.
"Food is constant, right? What changes is the way that we eat it," she offered, "and the way that we prepare it. So that keeps me intrigued. It never gets boring."
It's not just ice cream in the Lakeland Dairy Plant. Tarisha oversees product development for sherbets, yogurts, cottage cheese, milks, teas, and lemonades.
They are all produced there. At any given time, they can be working on about ten new concepts.