Department of Food Science and Technology creates Hokie-inspired ice cream | News
Virginia Tech and Homestead Creamery have teamed up to launch a line of Hokie-inspired ice cream. Department of Food Science and Technology faculty member and director of the Food Innovations Program, Joell Eifert, said the first flavor will be available for purchase later this fall.
The first flavor, named Hokie Tracks, is vanilla ice cream with pretzel pieces coated in caramel and dark chocolate, according to VTx. It was available for tasting at Gobblerfest.
Eifert and Brian Wiersema, also a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and Technology, both led the project. Wiersema also helped develop Fightin’ Hokies Lager, which launched in the spring of 2021.
Wiersema said the success of lager has led the department to look at other potential projects, such as ice cream.
“Beer was one of the first things we wanted to do, so we released beer, and then it was a hit, and so we figured out how to do collaborations with local partners with regional partners,” said Wiersema. “We have a list of things we want to do and (ice) came out on top.”
According to Eifert, the Department of Food Science and Technology established a relationship with Homestead in 2004. More recently, the department began supporting them with their nutrition labels and regulatory compliances. When Eifert and Wiersema considered which local company to partner with to produce the ice cream, Homestead was one of the leading candidates.
While creating flavor profiles, Eifert noted that she had an idea of the flavors she wanted to see in the market going into the process.
“I think, obviously, we’re always going to look at trends, things that are happening and what people want, what consumers want,” Eifert said. “But I have to be honest with you, some of the other things we do is we do what we want to see, what we like, and if you look at the new flavors, those are combinations that aren’t in the public right now; they’re not in the freezers.
Eifert and Wiersema, both Virginia Tech alumni, wanted to make sure the flavors of the ice cream would evoke memories of being on campus again for alumni. However, they were unable to reveal which flavors are yet to come.
“Unfortunately, we don’t want to share them because we have some great ideas, and I promise they’ll remind you if you’re a Hokie and you’ve been there,” Eifert said. “They’re reminiscent of businesses you remember and parts of campus…so we still have some flavors to come, and we don’t want to give them away yet, but we’re really excited.”
For Eifert and Wiersema, making ice cream appealing to everyone in the Virginia Tech community was the hardest part of the process. Not only did they want to appeal to alumni but also to current generations of students.
“Granted, food is emotional, right?” Wiersema said. “Food is really emotional in how we taste it, how we experience it, and how we feel about it afterwards, so try to remember what it was like when we were younger on campus. , and also consider what it is for alumni on campus. Trying to touch both sides of this current student(s) equation, new alumni and alumni, is a difficult thing to balance.
In order to give back and create impact, partnering with local and regional businesses is a key part of the department’s projects, according to Eifert. Fightin’ Hokies Lager was made in partnership with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
Eifert and Wiersema also pointed out that part of the proceeds from the sales go towards scholarships and student activities.
“That’s where our heart is. We hope to not only give back and positively impact Virginia’s business, but also positively impact our current and future students,” Eifert said.
The ice cream will use the same distribution system as Homestead and will retail around late October or early November.