UPPER MERION >> The cold, hard fact is that Wegmans customers seemed to have the scoop on one of the biggest comeback stories to ever hit the ice cream aisle.
It may have been the Pottsville-based Yuengling’s Ice Cream Corp.’s strategy to quietly reintroduce its premium, all-natural ice cream after a 29-year hiatus a little more than a year ago, but there was nothing subdued about customer demand at Wegmans.
Whether it was driven by nostalgia or a vague misconception that hops and malted barley were winding up inside their frozen happiness — they’re not — these folks were all screaming for their ice cream, recalled Andy Lindner, a merchandising manager for the King of Prussia Wegmans store.
“The customers really drove it. I was getting requests for the ice cream before they even launched it,” said Lindner, who wasted no time in reaching out to the Wegmans corporate office in Rochester, N.Y. “We make sure we’re always in business for the customer and what the customer wants. And being that Yuengling’s is local,” he added, “we really wanted to carry it, because we’re really big on local products. Pottsville is not that far away and we have stores in that area, so this was a win-win for everybody. It’s been a big seller for us ever since. The great story about Yuengling’s ice cream is that it was first made during Prohibition and then it just went away.”
Established in 1829 in Pottsville, D. G. Yuengling & Son, now the oldest operating brewery in the country, found itself struggling to survive during the Prohibition era.
Like many brewery operators at the time, third-generation owner Frank D. Yuengling chose to diversify, launching Yuengling’s Ice Cream Corporation in 1920, according to Yuengling’s company history.
The name was changed to Yuengling Dairy Products Corporation in 1935, when it began processing and distributing milk.
The last cartons of Yuengling’s Classic Ice Cream rolled off the production line in 1985, the company shut its doors, and the factory building was donated to St. Patrick’s Church in Pottsville, the website noted.
The rebirth of Yuengling’s Ice Cream, which is not affiliated with the brewery, came about when president David Yuengling, son of onetime company president Fredrick G. “Fritz” Yuengling Jr., partnered with COO Rob Bohorad to reboot the company, while reintroducing all 10 original flavors, now produced in quarts at Leiby’s Dairy in Schuylkill County: Vanilla, Chocolate, Vanilla Fudge Chunk with Pretzels, Root Beer Float, Chocolate Chip, Espresso Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Marshmallow, and the signature, top seller at Wegmans, Black & Tan.
Despite the fact that it is named after Yuengling’s iconic dark-brewed porter, Black & Tan, like all of the Yuengling’s flavors, does not contain a drop of beer, but achieves its blissfully creamy punch through an elegant merger of Belgian chocolate and salted caramel.
Last month, the company debuted four new flavors — Original Sea Salt Caramel Swirl, Caramel Popcorn, Orange Cream and Peanut Butter Cup.
“We loved coming up with these four new flavors and we’re really excited to have our customers try them,” noted David Yuengling in a press release. “The ideas came from a mix of our imaginations, popular trends in the food industry and customer requests. And, of course, our taste-testing panel, comprised of 19 fans, helped us choose which new flavors would be sold this year.”
Yuengling’s ice cream — now available for $5 to $6 in dozens of supermarkets in the Mid-Atlantic states, including early boosters Weis and Acme — is a PA Preferred product, meaning many of the ingredients are sourced from Pennsylvania.