A black raspberry chip, butter cookie, cheese Danish, chocolate butter cream, oatmeal raisin cookie breakfast. As it pulsed through my system, I justified the sugar infusion by saying it’s good to get it all out of the way at once.
On the last day of the Retail Confectioners International (RCI) convention, I toured Graeter’s Mt Auburn candy and confection plant. There was way too much production, marketing and distribution detail to blog about; however, the continuity and efficiency of the individual operations was fascinating.
We watched Graeter’s employee, Brady, oversee the process of making the company’s best-selling ice cream, black raspberry chip. Fruit (berries) used in the product comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, unquestionably the home of this country’s premier quality berries. Peter’s Chocolate liquor is poured into the ice cream mixture, then “pulled” for 2-3 minutes to effect the large, irregular chocolate chips that are the hallmark of the chip varieties. Graeter’s new French pot freezers process ice cream at -20 degrees F.
Many confections are produced at the Reading Rd facility, including pastries, cakes, cupcakes, coffee cake, cheese crowns, Danish, caramels, chocolates, and many, many more. A small number of French pot freezers remain at this facility for as needed use in products such as ice cream cakes.
Lou Graeter, now 83, still comes to work every day around midnight. I was fascinated with the original caramel cutter the company uses to this day, and Lou said he had vague memories of hand-cutting caramels when he was a child.
What is obvious about the Graeter operation is that it’s very labor-intensive. Naturally, there are the automated features of a contemporary ice cream and confection business; however, so much of what distinguishes Graeter’s as an artisan company is equally evident… hand-packing, hand-decorating… very much a hands-on operation.
Also noteworthy was the longevity Graeter’s employees had. As we were introduced to staff, the fewest years of service I heard was 15. Many others had been employed for 20, 29, 30, 33 years. I was told that 3, 30-year employees retired last year.
Graeter’s partners with Montgomery Inn (famous locally for
ribs) to ship its product around the country more cost-effectively. Unsold product, returned to the factory, is donated to local charities and soup kitchens.
So, 4 generations and counting, Rich, Chip and Bob Graeter carry the banner; however, many of the other family members still have active roles and were present at the time of our tour.
Hopefully, a 5th generation is on the horizon.
Graeter’s, Inc. 2145 Reading Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45202, 513.721.3323