Canadians still scream for ice cream, so London’s iconic ice cream factory is gearing up.
The Nestle Canada ice cream plant on Wilton Grove Road, which supplies all of Canada, installed two new production lines this year at a cost of $20 million to step up the output of that perennial favourite the Drumstick cone and Haagen-Dasz, the aristocrat of the ice cream world.
But it still isn’t enough.
The plant is running out of room, despite numerous expansions in its 50-year history, and the company is now considering a major physical expansion, said Jayne Payette, president of Nestle’s ice cream division.
“This year we have made significant investments to increase capacity of the plant and there are plans for the future . . . there isn’t a lot of empty space,” she said Thursday.
The plant is also opening its doors to visitors on a limited basis for the first time.
“It’s an opportunity to get people inside and not to have any secrets. It’s a product that’s produced in a very professional way,” said Arthur Van Raalte, who’s been director of the plant since 2014.
Nestle held a contest asking consumers why they wanted to tour the factory and the winners are now getting guided tours.
That’s not easy in an era when food-processing plants must follow stringent security and safety protocols.
Visitors must sign in electronically, watch a safety video, don coats, boots and hair nets, wash their hands and go through a blow dry chamber to remove any loose hair or dust.
But once inside, they’ll be hit with a deliciously sweet smell and an amazing maze of stainless steel tubes and gleaming belts, tracks and pulleys.
Guided by the workers, the machinery squeezes out soft ice cream, mixes it with chocolate and nuts before it is flash-frozen and packaged.
Haagen-Dasz ice cream is produced on licence from General Mills. The premium product is creamier and denser than normal ice cream, and has its own production area in the plant.
Haagen-Dasz recently released a new Spirits line with wicked new flavours including Vodka Key Lime and Irish Cream & Biscotti.
Van Raalte said the new flavours contain only trace amounts of alcohol, allowing them to be sold in stores
Nestle is one of the leading employers in London’s agri-food sector, with about 750 workers in the peak spring and summer seasons.
About three years ago Nestle boosted its environmental commitment by making the London ice cream plant a zero landfill facility.
The paper and plastic waste is recycled and the food waste is fed to some lucky pigs in a deal with area pork producers. The small amount left over is incinerated, but nothing is sent to landfill.
Nestle’s suppliers are also asked to make the same commitment.
NESTLE ICE CREAM PLANT
- Founded in 1966 as a Silverwood Dairies plant, later sold to Ault Foods, acquired by Nestle in 1997.
- Ice cream brands and products include Haagen-Dasz, Parlour and Real Dairy, fruit popsicles. various sundae and bar products based on candy bars and cookies such as Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp and Oreos.
- Plant employs about 750 people in peak season from March to September, and about 500 during the rest of the year.
- Nestle is the leading seller of ice cream in Canada, with a 29-per-cent share of the market.
- 11 production lines turn out about 60 million litres of ice cream a year.