There are some companies that make a point of looking beyond the boardroom and into the community, taking an active role in giving back. To that end, companies are increasingly thinking about long-term benefits to the community and environment while carrying out profitable strategies to increase market share. 

Consumers are showing increasingly more confidence in socially and environmentally responsible companies, too, and express an increased interest in product sourcing. More consumers are asking themselves, “How exactly are these ingredients being sourced?” A growing number of socially conscious consumers are avoiding products manufactured in conditions that are exploitive, not sustainable or otherwise unknown. And American’s appetite for eating fresh organic food is trending upward. For some, eating organic has become a way of life.

At the forefront of this movement is Eugene, Ore.-based Alden’s Organic Ice Cream, the environmentally conscious producer of organic ice cream and frozen desserts. 

As America’s best-selling organic ice cream, Alden’s Organic has a strong presence in various grocery and natural food stores across the United States, including partnerships with retailers such as Whole Foods and Sprouts.

“The roots of the company originally go back to the late 1930s,” said Eric Eddings, chief executive officer at Alden’s Organic. “But the Alden’s Organic brand and business really came to life in 2004. We are in a beautiful part of the country, where we currently operate our own manufacturing facility right here in Eugene. Something that we’re very proud of. At any given time, we have anywhere between 180 and 200 employees that help support our vision as a company.”

Eddings said Alden’s Organic has always been committed to supporting the organic community, specifically working closely with as many local providers as it can. “Most importantly, we are committed to our local farmers and the farming community,” he said. “This is something that is extremely near and dear to our hearts. We also consistently strive for excellence in sustainable practices, for the people and the planet, and sourcing our organic milk and cream from family-owned farms.” The company has a deep-rooted collaborative commitment to quality and safety, which Eddings said builds a strong sense of purpose and pride among its employees.

“We ‘go all in,’ we make things happen, we welcome everyone, we collaborate fully to achieve company success, and we share the good stuff,” he said. “And these are really the pillars of our culture that allow us to build on those practices.”

The responsible ice cream

All Alden’s Organic Ice Cream products are certified organic to United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program standards. This means that they are made using ingredients that were not produced using genetic engineering (GMOs), sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, or with the use of prohibited pesticides or fertilizers.

The company has used organic ingredients since it began making ice cream in 2004. With dairy, plant-based and gluten-free options, Alden’s Organic offers a full line of organic and non-GMO ice cream products in formats such as scrounds, ice cream sandwiches and bars.

Recently, Alden’s Organic introduced the newest addition to its family of better-for-you frozen desserts and novelties, launching Greek yogurt bars in six flavors.

Each flavor in the company’s Greek yogurt bar line features a twist — described as ribbons of real ingredients that are mixed into the dessert. The debut bars are Mango Twist, Chocolate Fudge Twist, Mint Fudge Twist, Espresso Twist, Salted Caramel Twist and Strawberry Twist.

“This product was so much fun to develop,” said Amber Everly, vice president of quality and technical services for Alden’s Organic. “We were tasked to come up with a smooth and creamy-textured Greek yogurt product, and we developed a beautiful one. It’s filled with probiotic cultures, certified USDA organic and has up to 3 grams of protein.”

Alden’s makes a variety of frozen Greek yogurt bars.

| Photo: Alden’s Organic Ice Cream

From concept to consumer

Alden’s Organic prides itself on being innovative and responsive to changing consumer dynamics, offering unique flavors, formats and sizes to cater to different dietary needs and flavor choices.

Taste, nutrition, sustainability and commitment to quality all play a role in consumer demand in the frozen dairy case. But Joelle Simmons, Alden’s Organic’s chief growth officer, said taste is paramount.

“We’ve done an extensive amount of talking to our consumer base over time and we know within this space that taste is paramount,” she said. “So we do everything we can to make that the driving force in what we do, and we know that it impacts that at-shelf purchasing decision. Is the product good? Does it have a great texture and flavor? For example, when buying strawberry ice cream, consumers want it to taste like strawberries, not something else. Alden’s Organic plays a pivotal role in setting the standard for what we call ‘true-to-flavor’ taste.”

Alden’s Organic also prides itself on having a wide variety of tasting selections.

“We know that variety is important to consumers, as they are often shopping for multiple people in the household and not everybody likes the same thing,” Simmons said. “We also know that consumers like to stay within a product brand group. Alden’s Organic answers the call with a variety of product solutions across different platforms, giving the consumer a lot of choices at the shelf, whether it is a special dietary need they are looking for or just a particular flavor.”

The ice cream industry is dynamic and constantly changing, Simmons added.

“For the last four to five years, the industry has been heavily weighted on novelties. In the past six to eight months, we have seen a shift in the resurgence of packaged ice cream. We pride ourselves in the fact that we can adapt with those changing consumer dynamics and offer consumers what their appetites are demanding,” she said. “Being a real pioneer in that organic ice cream space, we know that our solutions are innovative to the category. There is not a lot of participation in providing organic frozen desserts. So Alden’s Organic Ice Cream sits in a space where purchasing requirements by consumers is not just a trend, it is a lifestyle. And we are proud to be a part of that.”

Alden’s Organic keeps a finger on the pulse of its consumers constantly, and does not take a one-size-fits all approach with what their consumers demand.

“We have had an aggressive presence in social media, predominantly on Facebook and Instagram, for quite a few years now. This initiative is led by Kim Berry, our director of brands and customer experience. We’ve done a very good job of reaching consumers and users of the category,” Simmons said. “We pride ourselves in having an upward of 600,000 very active followers who are friends of our brand and interact with us on a regular basis.”

Simmons said the company “checks in” with its customers on an annualized basis, asking questions on topics such as what they are looking for in the marketplace, and whether the company is addressing those needs, and asking if there are any sizes, flavors or formats in which they are interested.

“We also keep ahead of trends by reading industry publications,” she said. “We also tap into our extensive vendor community that supplies us with raw ingredients. Sometimes even on the equipment side of things. Our vendors share with us trends they are seeing in their respective space, things that they see are trending or could be hot in the years to come.”

Simmons said the company also taps into its broker and retailer communities to see what is trending from their perspective.

“We don’t just examine what is trending in the frozen case, but also what’s happening across the store,” she said.

Simmons said the company’s latest launch, its Greek yogurt line of frozen products, came directly out of seeing what was happening in the yogurt category.

“We evaluate trends in other dairy categories — that’s very true to our brand,” she said. “We believe that organic is not a trend, it is a lifestyle. Organic is on the rise throughout the perimeter of grocery store and we want to bring that emphasis and that core consumer from the perimeter of the store to the frozen dessert aisle.”

Everly emphasized that Alden’s Organic gets a lot of great ideas from analyzing current trends, but also from its supplier base.

“We work closely and have long-tenured relationships with a lot of our vendors who are coming to us with their ideas and the ingredients they’re working with that are new and exciting to them,” she said. “Sometimes we will take those ideas and transition them to an organic solution for Alden’s Organic. We will even help some of our suppliers become organic certified.”


Alden's Organic Ice Cream leadership team executives dairy industry C suite

Alden’s Organic leadership team. From left, Doug Denney, chief financial officer, Amber Everly, vice president of quality and technical services, Eric Eddings, chief executive officer, Joelle Simmons, chief growth officer, Cade Swail, chief operating officer.

| Photo: Alden’s Organic Ice Cream

Processing integrity

There is a powerful sense of pride and belief in the products and manufacturing processes at Alden’s Organic. The company prioritizes the importance of food safety and quality, highlighting its adherence to certifications and standards such as GFSI, SQF, kosher, vegan and FDA guidance.

Everly said the company has improved its use of technology in the manufacturing process, specifically in transitioning to paperless quality checks and documentation.

“We have a strong culture of food safety and quality throughout the facility, and we empower our employees to ensure and maintain product integrity,” she said.

Eddings explained that Alden’s Organic likes to be cutting edge when it comes to technology and innovation.

“We embrace technological advancements, but also make sure to vet and validate those advancements before implementing them,” he said. “An example of this was our transition to paperless quality and regulatory documentation, which has improved efficiency and accessibility. We also collaborate closely with our suppliers and manufacturing partners, incorporating machinery from different countries to stay at the forefront of innovation.

“We strive to be at the forefront, embracing cutting-edge advancements while avoiding the risks associated with new technologies,” he said. “Our focus is on embracing innovation responsibly.”

Eddings said the electronic screen in Alden’s Organic production rooms in Eugene displays various information, such as line speeds, scorecards, startup time and dashboards.

“It provides real-time data that allows employees to monitor and track the production process,” he said. “The screen also shows green, yellow and red indicators to indicate performance levels, which helps motivate and inspire employees to improve their work.”

Everly also called attention to the fact that Alden’s Organic follows strict safety and quality standards. The company has written manuals that detail its safety process, quality process and standards. The operation also makes use of a training system that is fully engaged and scheduled.

“All of our food safety and quality checks and procedures are documented and verified. Additionally, we have embraced high standard certifications, such as USDA, organic certification, gluten-free certification, kosher certification, vegan certification, and operate under FDA guidance rules,” she said. “We also undergo regular audits to maintain these certifications.”

Alden’s Organic’s quality and safety standards have a significant impact on company employees and culture.

“We have a strong food safety and quality culture in our facility, where all departments prioritize food safety as the number one concern,” Everly said. “Employees are empowered to stop the production line if they have any concerns about safety or quality. This creates a culture of accountability and ensures that everyone is committed to maintaining high standards.”

Everly said the emphasis on quality and safety also fosters a sense of pride and purpose among employees, as they know they are producing a high-quality product that meets rigorous standards.

Alden's Organic Ice Cream Vanilla production dairy products frozen facility linePhoto: Alden’s Organic Ice Cream

Make things happen

Eddings thinks that company culture is crucial to the success of any organization, emphasizing the importance of embracing a playful and persistent approach in everything it does, from sourcing ingredients to training employees.

“Collaboration is a key aspect of our culture, and we strive to ‘make things happen’ by providing support and resources to our employees,” he said. “We also prioritize community involvement, whether it’s through initiatives, fundraisers or supporting local events.”

What’s more, from a production standpoint, adding a new product line takes collaboration, Everly said.

“It takes our team. But most importantly, it is our processes that allow us to take an idea, vet it out, validate it, produce it on benchtops, trial it on the production floor, and design the packaging. It all goes through a very rigorous commercialization process, where we are stopping and checking the product throughout each step in the process,” she said. “This process enables us to go to market quickly with a product that is going to be successful. But it comes with a wonderful team behind it, working collaboratively with R&D, production, marketing and sales.”

Eddings added that Alden’s Organic’s employees believe in thinking beyond themselves and collaborating to make a difference in the world.

“We actively participate in community initiatives and events, such as sponsoring local sports teams and hosting giveaways,” he said. “Overall, our approach is to be real, vulnerable and committed to doing the right thing.”

Alden’s Organic is dedicated to stewardship and community involvement in several ways, particularly when it comes to promoting conservation and reducing its environmental footprint.

“We participate in state activities related to environmental conservation and improvement, and we are involved in tree planting initiatives in our community and county,” Simmons said. “We also organize a 25,000 scoop ice cream giveaway on National Ice Cream Day in July, distributing ice cream through social media and our employees. Additionally, we communicate our environmental footprint and take steps to manage wastewater, promote recycling and reduce water usage. We believe in social and environmental responsibility, both individually and as a company.”

In Alden’s Organic’s 2024 strategic plan, the company added a fifth pillar of sustainability, which highlights its commitment to building actionable plans and making a difference in operations, Eddings said.

“Our future focus will continue to be on reducing our carbon footprint, increasing sustainability in our processes and collaborating closely with farmers on regenerative organics within their supply chain,” he said. “We aim to continue innovating our product line and staying at the forefront of technology while ensuring that our employees remain an integral part of the process.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *