What makes Babcock ice cream so good to eat—and so good for science, students and industry?
By Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz
Babcock Hall experts will also customize a workshop at a company’s request, as they have for the Neenah-based Galloway Company, Wisconsin’s largest manufacturer of frozen dessert mixes for three generations.
“There are things we’re going to find out from the practical end of the field, and things they know from the academic,” says CEO Ted Galloway. “You put it together and boy, you may have something good.”
Throughout the years the Galloway Company has called on Babcock Hall countless times to help develop products. When there’s a specific goal—better understanding the subtleties between sweetened condensed milk formulas, or the intricacies of the different processes between various dairy dessert mixes, or the interactions in milk proteins—such experts as Scott Rankin, Bob Bradley, or, in past years, Joe von Elbe, will develop and present the appropriate curriculum. Sometimes they’ll present their work at Babcock, but often they’ll bring it to company headquarters.
“It’s extremely valuable not only to better understand—but also to be able to ask questions as we’re going through the process that you wouldn’t normally want to ask if you were in a room with a bunch of competitors,” says Galloway.
Beyond access to state-of-the-art instruction, another value Babcock offers is the opportunity to experiment with and run small batches, which would be very expensive for producers to do in their own plants.
The benefits run both ways, Rankin notes. Babcock gleans knowledge from the specific, real-world questions industry brings—and the entire state benefits from the research and development provided by Babcock. It all adds up to a substantial body of knowledge and a creative, dynamic atmosphere.
“It’s unusual to have a plant of this caliber and quality at a university,” says Rankin, noting that only about 10 U.S. universities even have ice cream plants on site. “It provides a perspective and a background that is just invaluable. It’s like learning about a car by driving versus only in a classroom.”
That could be why food science enrollment has nearly tripled in the last 10 years. Many of the basic classes are standing room only, and “we literally can’t fit everybody in Babcock Hall anymore,” says Rankin.
Food science students, who routinely win national product development competitions, are eminently marketable in an industry that respects Babcock Hall so much.
“Our graduates are highly, highly recruited. Employers know they’ve gone through an exceptional science-based, scholarship exercise that is complemented with applied, hands-on opportunities,” says Rankin. “We start getting calls in January from companies looking to hire. The biggest problem that our seniors have is, which of these three jobs am I going to take?”
Of all the students to utilize Babcock Hall each year—ranging from undergrads taking a sanitation or pasteurization course to Ph.D. students conducting advanced research—15 or so are employed as staff each year. They work alongside Tim Haas as the ice cream is frozen and packaged, generally putting in two to three hours a day. The one who gleans the most experience is the summer intern, most recently a junior food science student named Trent Kearns, who spent a two-to-three-week rotation in each area of the plant.
Tags: Babcock, Bill Klein, Bob Bradley, Dairy, food engineering, Food science, ice cream, Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz, Scott Rankin
Posted in Featured, Food, Main feature, On The Cover, Summer 2012 | 11 Comments »