Congrats to Mary Jo Nikolai and her 2013 People’s Flavor winner: Hound Dog Congrats again to everyone who participated and to Mary Jo!
The People’s Flavor Awards is an Izzy’s tradition held every-other summer where we take submissions from our customers for ice cream flavors. Four finalists are chosen from six categories (Kids, Chocolate, Mix-Ins, Fruit, So Local, and Specialties). We make the ice cream and customers vote at the contest. Ballots are counted and winners are announced in each category, including a BEST IN SHOW!
Behind the People’s Flavor Awards
It was back in 2000 that the idea for the People’s Flavor Awards came to Lara Hammel. She had heard about an interesting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream contest in which people thought up, made, and brought their ice cream to Ben & Jerry’s for judging. It was more of an event and not really for the purpose of producing the customers’ ice cream inspirations at Ben & Jerry’s. It was an intriguing idea, but it wasn’t exactly Izzy’s style.
Lara thought it would be an even better contest if customers provided new flavor ideas, Izzy’s made the ice cream, and the whole community got to vote on which new flavor they would be able to enjoy.
So the idea of the People’s Flavor Awards began to come together. Lara knew it would be a lot of work—developing a couple dozen new flavors of ice cream would be difficult even if you had the exact recipes—but these flavors are still just ideas. And new flavors demand some fussing, as well as some sensitivity to the visions of their creators. Using years of ice cream making experience to create something that has never been done before is a healthy challenge, but more importantly it was a fun way to give back to the community of customers that supports Izzy’s.
Footage from the 2009 People’s Flavor Awards
Learn about the event, favorite flavors from the day and tips from Flavor Awards veterans! The overall best in show winner was “Midnight Snack” – graham cracker ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chocolate chunks.
There can only be one Best in Show!
There is no consistent profile of a People’s Flavor Awards winner. Jackie Unger, the 2002 winner for her flavor Italian strawberry, is a principal for LarsonAllen, a Minneapolis-based accounting and business consulting firm. With a background in audit and accounting, Unger spends most of her time serving nonprofit clients. Her inspiration for Italian strawberry came from a recipe she saw on an episode of the Food Network that was highlighting Italian cuisine and, in particular, balsamic vinegar.
“One of the dishes featured was vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar,” says Unger. “It was such an unusual flavor combination that we had to try it.”
Lara Hammel says, “Italian strawberry is an extremely sophisticated flavor.” Unger tried serving vanilla ice cream with the strawberry balsamic topping, but thought she’d leave it to the professionals to actually make ice cream out of the idea. She was pleasantly surprised by the result. “Izzy’s got it perfect—even better than I’d imagined.”
Emilee Fulton, who lives in the neighborhood, had a similar experience with her flavor, SpongeBob. In 2005, Fulton’s flavor was selected as the best in show, the first time a kid had won the contest (she was seven years old at the time). “I thought about my favorite TV show at the time, SpongeBob, and decided to take the main characters and put them into an ice cream flavor. So, I represented SpongeBob by using lemon ice cream and sponge cake, and Patrick by adding in a raspberry swirl.”
Izzy’s didn’t shrink from the challenge of translating a cartoon into a food product, and in the first known transmogrification of a TV show into ice cream, succeeded in making Emilee’s flavor. Emilee says, “It tasted exactly like I was watching SpongeBob.”
Hot brown sugar was the best of show flavor in 2006, and it shares nothing in common with the sophisticated Italian strawberry or the more contemporary SpongeBob. Jane Carlson, the brains behind the flavor, says it was inspired by Indian cuisine.
“I like how Indian cooking mixes hot and sweet,” Carlson says. “I wanted to try adding sweet to heat.” Though her professional title is implementation manager for OptumHealth, Carlson considers herself an amateur pastry chef, and some of her ideas for flavors come directly from her baking experiments.
She was really excited about how her flavor turned out in the 2006 contest. “It actually tasted better than I imagined. I remember at the event there was a long line for my flavor, and it looked like people really liked it. They were going back for seconds,” she says. “I guess it’s pretty popular because when Izzy’s makes it, I have to call and reserve a pint because I rarely get to the store before it sells out.”
A Labor of Love
Working as a team is challenging in any endeavor, and creative projects are even more difficult to execute. But if you are committed to the idea of collaboration, the multitude of possibilities that are entertained and tested and tweaked can produce truly exceptional results. Working in concert with customers who have whole new concepts of what ice cream might taste like, Izzy’s People’s Flavor Contest is a creative gift that the entire community can share.