London·Pinto on Food

You'll never guess London Ice Cream Co.'s most popular flavour

Hint: It's not vanilla — or chocolate.

Jonathan Pinto beats the heat with a tour of the factory on Base Line Road

Scoop shop manager Nina Nouwens hold up a fresh scoop of ice cream from the London Ice Cream Company parlour on Base Line Road. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

New Wave Ice Cream is one of the largest independent ice cream producers in southwestern Ontario.

Founded in 1994 by Alan Sargant, the company's products are now available coast to coast, under the in-house brands of London Ice Cream Company and Country Boy, as well as private labels that comprise a large part of the business.

The London Ice Cream Company was founded by Alan Sargant in 1994. While he sold the business in 2006, Sargant remained involved in the company until his death in 2014. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

According to sales and marketing manager Abbi Lezizidis, working there is a bit like being a rock star.

"If you tell people you work at an ice cream company, eyes light up. It's incredible what those two words do for people," he said. "When you say the word ice cream, people smile — subconsciously smile — no one ever frowns."

Abbi Lezizidis is the sales and marketing manager for New Wave Ice Cream. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

During the busy season, which is right about now, up to 100 people work for the company, producing 700 tubs of ice cream a day. 

London plant manager Karen Minielly said a typical day starts at 4 a.m. and ends around 1 a.m. 

Karen Minielly is the plant manager of New Wave Ice Cream, which produces London Ice Cream Company-brand ice cream. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Minielly said while the process of how they make their ice cream hasn't changed much over her two decades in the plant, the flavours she has to come up with certainly have.

"The millennials are a crazy bunch," she said with a laugh. "They seem to like the odd flavours ... like the green tea and the black sesame and they like natural fruity things."

Best seller: It's not vanilla — or chocolate

When asked what their best-selling flavour is, the answer isn't vanilla, or even chocolate: it's mango.

An Indian vendor displays Alphonso mangoes at a whole sale market in Mumbai, India. (Rajanish Kakade/AP)

"[It happened] over the last couple of years," Minielly said. "Mango just sort of picked up and took off."

Lezizidis said people in London tend to be very traditional, gravitating toward classic sweet and salty flavours such as maple walnut and butter pecan. In the rural area around Chatham, London and Woodstock, speculoos — named after a dutch cookie — is popular, likely due to the large Dutch farming community in the area.

And in Windsor, chocolate monkey, a mix of banana and chocolate, and grapevine, which tastes like purple grapes, are popular.

While Lezizidis can't explain the popularity of chocolate monkey in the Rose City, he does have a theory about grape.

"About thirty years, forty years ago there was a fellow that just made grape ice cream on Ouellette [Avenue] in Windsor and that's all he did," he said. "That's perhaps why it's been so deep rooted in the generations."

Making a batch of ice cream

Every batch of ice cream starts with a base made from sugar and fresh Canadian cream. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)
The cream, sugar and flavourings such as cocoa and vanilla are heated together in a process called "batch pasteurization." (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)
One of the company's "prized possessions" is a homogenizer from 1946, which breaks down fat into smaller pieces to allow flavour to spread smoothly. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

After the base is homogenized, it is pumped into tanks. If the ice cream is destined to become soft serve, the liquid is simply bagged and boxed.

For hard — scoopable — ice cream, the base is pumped into a giant ice cream maker, which adds air, producing a product that looks like whipped cream.

Pieces of candy are added into these hoppers connected to the ice cream makers. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Every tub is hand filled.

Can't see the GIF? Click here.

Before the ice cream is sent to the warehouse, it is placed in a freezing cold "hardening room" to set. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

London Ice Cream Company products are available at parlours and retail stores across southwestern Ontario. The factory scoop shop is at 43 Base Line Rd. W. in London.

The factory and scoop shop is on Base Line Road, while New Wave Ice Cream's warehouse is on White Oak Road, both in London. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

CBC Windsor reporter Jonathan Pinto travels across southwestern Ontario as Afternoon Drive's "food dude." Know of a place you think he should check out? Email him at jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca or on Twitter @jonathan_pinto.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now