Holding a dream job: The ice-cream tester

Posted: August 13, 2007

Meet the luckiest man in the world. Ernie Pinckney gets paid by Turkey Hill Dairy of Lancaster to eat ice cream. He also fields questions from the curious and passionate about the frozen treats for the company's blog at http://icecreamjournal.

turkeyhill.com.

Pinckney, 69, whose official title is special plant project coordinator, makes sure the quality and taste of the company's ice cream are consistent. He makes sure that the chocolates are sufficiently chocolaty and that swirls of flavor are in both the bottom and the top of the container.

He has been at Turkey Hill for 14 years, but he dates his ice cream expertise to his childhood on his family's New York dairy farm. The 650-employee Turkey Hill, owned by Kroger Co., is run by Quintin Frey, grandson of the founder.

In an interview with Jonathan Berr for PhillyInc, Pinckney dished on his career, ice cream and his way of staying trim.

PhillyInc: Can you pick a favorite flavor, or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?

Pinckney: They are mostly all my favorites. . . . I like our black raspberry just for the flavor and the taste of it, and butter pecan. . . . From a professional standpoint, I prefer vanilla because you can get a true sense of all of the other dairy products.

Q: Is there a downside to getting paid to eat ice cream?

A: I can't think of one. . . . Not really. You need to be in control and limit your intake to be able to sample many flavors.

Q: What's a typical day for you?

A: Anything from a cutting to sitting on a flavor panel.

Q: What's a cutting?

A: We set aside each day the first and the last sellable product of each flavor. Then we harden it because it's too soft at that point to do anything else with it. They are all set aside and hardened, and the next day we will cut that package open. Then we will take a taste of it. Once we've tasted it, then we will cut the package in half, and then we will score it.

Q: What's a flavor panel?

A: That's where we would be testing new concepts, an internal focus group. This time of year, they are probably having one a week because we are getting ready for next year's flavor schedule.

Q: What flavors are on the drawing board?

A: We will probably have four to six new flavors. We are not ready to tip our hand yet to tell people what they will be. We like to be able to keep the surprise element, the mystique element.

Q: What does Turkey Hill have that competitors don't?

A: We're still manufacturing in the heart of dairy country. Our supply of dairy products is within a 25-mile radius of here.

Q: Does it give Turkey Hill an advantage?

A: Sure, because you are working with a fresh product all of the time.

Q: What about Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs?

A: They appeal to a certain palate, and they do well within the range. They are narrowing the playing field - Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's. We are going to be a traditional family ice cream that's going to appeal to the whole family.


Read the whole Q&A and other posts at .

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