Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream is making more ice cream than ever at its 705,000-square-foot facility in Laurel, Md., near Baltimore.
As the recession forces reductions in industries across the economic spectrum, the Laurel factory, which produces Nestlé, Häagen-Dazs, Edy’s and Dreyer’s frozen desserts, is expanding, The Baltimore Sun reported. Last month, the company added a new production line, and it will add two more by year’s end.
The growth comes on the heels of a $200 million expansion in 2005 that made the plant the largest Dreyer’s facility in the country. Production manager Ted Shields says that Dreyer’s has added nearly 600 employees in the past five years, bringing the total to about 800.
“Nobody’s recession-proof. But you just don’t eat ice cream for the calories,” plant manager Mark McLenithan told The Sun. “You eat it for the emotional well-being and fond memories.”
The industry has not been immune to economic forces. The past couple of years, production in the core category – packaged ice cream – has been down, said Bob Yonkers, vice president and chief economist at the International Dairy Foods Association. A clearer picture of the economic impact on the frozen segment is expected after the peak summer season, though as an affordable indulgence, ice cream historically weathers such downturns.
The segment of the industry that has experienced growth and been the focus of expansion is novelty products, Yonkers said. According to The Sun, Dreyer’s has added a couple of dozen workers since the beginning of the year and says it plans to hire more. The Laurel plant serves stores up and down the East Coast and as far west as Chicago; next year, the plant will export to Canada.
Built in 1962, the plant has changed owners but has always made frozen desserts. In midsummer, the peak season, close to 900 people will be on the job.