Pick up a pint of Acme Ice Cream in one hand. Now a pint of Dreyer’s in the other. Feel the difference? Acme Ice Cream prides itself on being a zero air ice cream producer, meaning their pints are full of denser, creamier and more fatty ice cream, says Acme sales manager Steve Grichel. While more mainstream brands like Dreyer’s, Haagen-Dazs and even Ben & Jerry’s add air to their ice cream to increase volume, allow for easier mixing of ingredients and change the texture of the ice cream, Acme chooses to eliminate the air. As a result of Acme’s high fat content and zero air percentage, the ice cream falls into the “super premium” industry category. Lucky for Whatcom County, this “super premium” ice cream is made in our backyard.
Acme Ice Cream was founded by owner Jim Swift seven years ago with dreams to centralize production is his beloved Acme, a town of several hundred people about 20 miles east of Bellingham. Acme Ice Cream is among a handful of artisan products such as Acme Farms Cheese and Chuckanut Crunch Granola that are owned by Acme Valley Foods, a food and beverage company. Unfortunately, due to the remote nature of the town, Swift was unable to build the facility in Acme. Instead, production began in the back of one of his other businesses, Rocket Donuts on Holly Street in downtown Bellingham. Today, the downtown Rocket Donuts location is still home to Acme Ice Cream production. Acme distributes hand-packed pints to 100 retailers along the Interstate 5 corridor. “We are in stores a few miles from the [Canadian] border down to Olympia,” Grichel said. In addition to the downtown and Fairhaven scoop shops, Acme lovers can find pints in various “mom and pop” grocery and convenience stores, all 15 Haggen stores, Seattle Metropolitan Market locations, and Bellingham Whole Foods Market.
Only three production employees hand-pack every pint in the back of the downtown Rocket Donuts. “In the beginning, the employees would basically make donuts by night and ice cream by day. Now we have dedicated ice cream employees,” Grichel said. The term “small batch” almost doesn’t do enough to describe the production of Acme Ice Cream. Each flavor is created in just five-gallon batches before being packed into Acme pints or tubs for scoop shops, Grichel said. The process relies almost entirely on people—with very few mechanized tools—in order to keep quality high.
High-quality ice cream starts with high-quality ingredients. “Our business model is based around the ‘mom and pop’ model. We try to use as many local ingredients as possible,” Grichel says. All the dairy is sourced from southwest Washington. The berries found in flavors like blueberry and mixed berry come from Whatcom County and the espresso flavor is made with Moka Joe coffee. This “super premium” ice cream can be purchased for $3.90 per scoop at the downtown and Fairhaven Rocket Donuts locations. Acme takes ice cream to a gourmet level, giving customers flavor and texture, you can just taste the difference, Grichel says.