Q&A with the Makers of Snoqualmie Organic
Barry Bettinger, CEO and Co-Owner of Snoqualmie Ice Cream in Maltby, Washington, took some time out of his busy ice cream crafting life to chat with us about what he and his wife, Shahnaz, have been working on. With the recent launch of their Snoqualmie Organic line of premium, organic ice creams, the duo has been leading the ice cream industry in quality and flavor and it doesn’t looks like they’re slowing down anytime soon.
How long have you been crafting gourmet ice cream? How did you get started?
My wife Shahnaz and I wanted to work together, so in 1997 we moved from New York to Washington State and bought Snoqualmie Ice Cream. Shahnaz and I were the only “employees” for the first few years. The beginning was full of long days and nights. In one day, I would make ice cream, deliver to restaurants within a hundred (or so) mile radius and sample at demos and events. We sold 2,000 pints in our first year. Talk about humble beginnings…
In 2001, Haggen became the first larger grocery chain to carry Snoqualmie Ice Cream pints and by the end of that year, we sold over 150,000 pints of ice cream.
In 2004, after we outgrew our tiny space in Lynnwood, we bought a house on a couple acres in Maltby and converted the house into our offices and scoop shop and built our manufacturing plant. We made an ambitious decision to develop a sustainable factory and went through a handful of engineers and architects before we found a team to make it happen, because we were the first sustainable project in our county. Our factory was ready in 2005 and we were happy to finally have our own plant, because we could make our own mix and have full control of what we’re making.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve grown all over the Northwest and hope to grow Snoqualmie Organic nationally. We continue to live by (and never compromise) our mission and values, which focuses on making the most perfect ice cream possible and taking care of our customers, employees, community and environment and we even became a certified B-Corp last year!
What’s the secret to making Snoqualmie Ice Cream so wonderful?
We work diligently to make our ice cream as perfect as possible because we never compromise our mission and values. Our ice cream is always evolving into a better product. For instance, we replaced soy lecithin and carrageenan with eggs a few years ago, are now using 100% organic stabilizers and spent the last couple years switching our ingredients to be GMO-free. We are committed to innovation and creating delicious new flavors, so we research food trends, conduct consumer surveys and review category data to determine what our next flavors will be. Then we spend several months on R&D and ingredient sourcing, because we have extremely strict quality and food safety standards. And…our ice cream is so “wonderful” because it is truly the highest quality in the industry.
Tell me a little bit about your new Snoqualmie Organic Ice Cream line.
Snoqualmie Organic is our new line that launched at the beginning of 2017. We’ve been wanting to make this line for about 5 years, but had to wait until consumers were willing to spend a little more for something that is high quality and organic. For us, it’s not just about being organic…it had to be perfect. I wouldn’t make an organic line until I knew I could make it as good as our existing line. We spent a couple years tracking the ice cream category to see how higher priced and/or organic ice cream was selling, as well as the growing consumer demand for organic products and decided that 2017 was the year to launch. We spent about a year developing the flavors, sourcing ingredients, designing the packaging and becoming a certified B-Corp.
My favorite part was the product development, because we got to make this line using the highest quality ingredients possible, many of which are custom-made for us. Our ingredients are 100% organic and include Northwest dairy, eggs and berries, as well as Madagascar vanilla, Barry Callebaut Belgian chocolate, imported Provence lavender and salty caramel from Oregon using Jacobsen sea salt. Honestly, this line turned out even better than we imagined. I think it has to do with the fact that they are all custards. The pints contain 14% butterfat, less than 20% overrun and are so rich and creamy. Snoqualmie Organic is, as my marketing team describes, “Literally the best organic ice cream ever.” But seriously though…it is the highest quality organic ice cream in the country.
I would say that I am the most proud of our team for making this happen. It was a real collaborative effort, because we did everything in-house, from the product development and organic certification to the packaging design and brand strategy. We all learned a lot during this process and everyone contributed in his or her own way to bring this to life.
If you were the embodiment of one of your new organic flavors, which would it be and why?
It would have to be lavender. Just kidding…I hate lavender…Thankfully this business is not all about my personal preference. Hmm…If I were the embodiment of one of the flavors, I guess it would be Organic Vanilla, because I am a purist at heart. I love having a scoop of our vanilla, because I can really taste and appreciate the quality of our ice cream.
Any wild ideas for the future you’re considering?
Who knows what’s next. Right now, we’re focusing on building the Snoqualmie Organic brand and selling tons of our conventional pints. We’ve been looking into different trends like non-dairy and “diet” ice creams, but let’s be real…Do you really think I would ever make anything that wasn’t real ice cream?