Hudsonville Ice Cream LLC: Creating Memories One Scoop at a Time

There’s something truly nostalgic about a giant ice cream cone, piled high with your favorite flavors. One lick of the sweet, creamy treat and it’s like childhood all over again. For Hudsonville Ice Cream LLC (Hudsonville), that is what business is all about: creating memories scoop by scoop.

The Michigan-based company has been churning out gallons of popular flavors since 1926, including traditional, rich chocolate and tart strawberry, as well as new additions such as triple peanut butter cup, strawberry cheesecake and blueberry cobbler, just to name a few. Hudsonville remains family-owned and -operated after over 118 years in the business.

The Recipe for Success

“The company started out in 1895 as a local farmers’ cooperative,” explains C.J. Ellens, brand ambassador of Hudsonville. “The farmers joined forces to find a better way to sell their dairy products and distribute milk. After choosing a location on Chicago Drive in Hudsonville, Mich., the creamery was born.”

It wasn’t until 1926 that Hudsonville started producing ice cream during the summer months. With the invention of the continuous process freezer, Hudsonville was able to produce ice cream year-round, turning out gallons of the original six flavors: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, orange pineapple and tootie fruity.

In 1930 Dick Hoezee, one of the original cooperative members, began working at the creamery. “In 1946 Dick purchased the company, acquiring the rights and recipes to Hudsonville’s ice cream,” recalls Ellens. “Joined by his four sons, Dick moved the operation to Burnips, Mich., to make room for expansion.”

Over the next 26 years, Dick streamlined the churning process and updated the plant with the latest manufacturing innovations, including automated filling machines. In 1972 Dick sold the business to his four sons, Dell, Jack, Rich and Phil. The squad continued the family tradition, adding 50 more flavors to Hudsonville’s selection until 2003. At that time the company was sold to another west Michigan family. However, Dell still serves as a consultant for Hudsonville, stopping by every Monday to check on operations.

“We’ve integrated the old and the new,” explains Ellens. “At our new Holland, Mich., location we still have one of the original cream tanks from our early manufacturing site, which was built in the 1940s. We also use some of the original ice cream freezers.”

As the company continues to grow over the years, the tried and true recipe isn’t the only legacy. The backbone of Hudsonville’s ice cream is the company’s employees; with average employee tenure over 20 years, the team is an integral part of the Hudsonville story.

According to Ellens, when you walk into Hudsonville you won’t find titles on the door. “We don’t really have official titles here,” he says. “Our biggest component is family ownership, and treating our employees as such. We really take pride in what we do and focus on being true artisans. We’re a different company and people to see that.”

Pure Michigan

Today Hudsonville is committed to producing the highest quality product by sourcing the finest local ingredients. “We purchase cream from local farmers within 20 to 40 miles of our facility,” reveals Ellens. “We are proud to be Michigan-made and -based; all the components used for our ice cream base is right from the west Michigan area.”

Additionally Hudsonville has partnered with the Pure Michigan tourism campaign, furthering the company’s influence throughout the state. “For the campaign we developed a specific flavor,” details Ellens. “The featured flavor is Pure Michigan Caramel Apple, and we are using apples directly from farmers within the state. Even though we live in a very seasonal area, and it’s not possible to get every ingredient right from home, we do our best to source whatever we can locally.”

Pure Michigan Caramel Apple was such a hit that Pure Michigan and Hudsonville are teaming up again to run an ice cream flavor contest starting in May 2013. “We’ll release the new winning flavor this fall,” adds Ellens.

“We are also a sponsor of the Detroit Tigers,” shares Ellens. “Our Tiger Traxx flavor is the official ice cream of the team.” The company has also partnered with the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan. “It’s one of the oldest original wooden hotels still standing,” adds Ellens. “It symbolizes elegance and the rich history of the area. This rich history, along with Grand Hotel’s family ownership for over 50 years, made this a perfect partnership”

With more than 30 flavors in 56-ounce containers and still more than 50 available in three-gallon size, Hudsonville continues to be one of the most-loved and respected companies in its home state. “We recently released Seaside Caramel, my personal favorite, with salted caramel ribbons,” describes Ellens. “We like to get creative with our limited-edition line.”

Over the past 118 years the company has gained a huge following, but Hudsonville remains grounded in its humble founding and community. “We want to stay true to the fact we are Michigan born and bred, but we are excited to enter the Chicago market,” shares Ellens. “We are content with growing at a reasonable rate. We don’t need to be the biggest, but we are certainly out to make the best product.” Hudsonville Ice Cream LLC continues to churn out creamy treats through a century-old recipe for success.