Awww Shucks ice cream highlights ‘purpose beyond profit’

Aww Schucks Ice Cream packed in these five-ounce cups and given away at the John Deere Classic and promotes the contribution of farmers. Eli Yoder, 3, of Savoy, Illinois, was a big fan of the new ice cream flavor Wednesday, July 3. PHOTO CREDIT TODD WELVAERT

When hundreds of young people descend on the John Deere Classic’s Youth Day on Wednesday, July 3, they’ll be treated to a unique sweetcorn ice cream that its creators hope will leave those who taste it saying Awww Shucks.

The inscription on the Awww Shucks ice cream emphasizes that the product was made possible by farmers. CREDIT WHITEY’S ICE CREAM

Importantly, too, the unique new flavor pairing that bears that same name was created for this year’s JDC kids’ day by John Deere’s brand activation team and Whitey’s Ice Cream to promote Deere’s “We Run for All” marketing campaign.

In all, 1,000 free five-ounce containers of Awww Shucks – the equivalent of about 33 gallons – is expected to be in the hands of youth, pros, media members and others attending the JDC and visiting its Fan Zone on Wednesday at TPC Deere Run at Silvis.

The giveaway of this cool treat on a hot day is part of ongoing efforts by a John Deere team whose job is “to help make our brand come to life,” said Holly McAvoy, the global equipment maker’s manager of brand activation and events. 

While the JDC team is responsible for the golf tournament, Ms. McAvoy said her team is responsible for the brand activations on the course. The results of their efforts can be seen across the golf course including in the sponsor sky boxes, the Fan Zone, employee venues and what is known as Equipment Hill.

JDC more than golf

“We always think about the Classic as a golf tournament and we’re in a golf tournament largely because we sell turf equipment, right?” Ms. McAvoy told the QCBJ.

“There’s already a lot of attention on golf and the course and our equipment. But from a brand standpoint, we also want to take the opportunity of having the crowds there to give them a little bit of what our purpose is beyond profit.”

JDC Aww Shucks Ice Cream Whitey's
Whitey’s Ice Cream and John Deere teamed up to create an Awww Shucks flavor ice cream to be given away on Youth Day. CREDIT WHITEY’S ICE CREAM

The Awww Shucks ice cream was created, she said, “just to try and get the visitors on the course – and primarily kids – to think about where our food comes from. I think as we get further and further away from an agrarian economy people don’t even really realize where their food is coming from. So we’re having 1,000 five-ounce cups of ice cream developed by Whitey’s because also, whenever you think of ice cream locally, you think of Whitey’s, right?”

The inscription on the ice cream cup  – which includes this sentence: “From the dairy to the vanilla to the corn itself, every delicious ingredient is thanks to a farmer.” – also reinforces that message. In addition, the wooden spoon attached to the cup is a nod to Deere’s sustainability commitment and its forestry division.

Whitey’s produced the ice cream and filled the cups bearing the Deere logo at the company’s Moline plant. The treat is expected to be handed out on Wednesday, July 3. But Ms. McAvoy warned those who want to taste it not to wait until the end of the day to visit the Fan Zone. “When they’re gone, they’re gone,” she said.

How Deere runs for all

The organizers hope that everyone who wants to try the ice cream on Youth Day will, so that they can spread the impact of Deere’s We Run for All campaign. (Read more about that campaign here.) 

A central message of it is, Ms. McAvoy said, “Whatever you had for breakfast came from a farmer and even the roads you took to get to work were produced by our customers because we have construction equipment that does road building.”

To help make that connection last year, Ms. McAvoy’s team did a caramel corn giveaway. This year, she said, “I really wanted to do another food giveaway because it’s a great way for people to immediately go ‘Oh, this was produced by a farmer.’”

Whitey’s, a longtime JDC partner, was “great to work with” to create Awww Shucks, Ms. McAvoy added. Both John Deere and Whitey’s call Moline their company home. 

“We got to go to their offices for the official taste test and pick up the samples that we brought back to our offices to get feedback from everybody,” she said. The process was also a fun team-building experience, she added “so the whole process has just been a joy to work on.” 

As for the iconic QC ice cream maker, it was equally excited to join the journey, Whitey’s Vice President Annika Tunberg, a third generation company leader, told the QCBJ.

A longtime partner

“Over the years we’ve participated in kids day more times than I can count and it’s always great to see the good work that the Classic does for Kids Day and for First Tee and all the programs they put on out there,” she said. “It really is something special so we’re happy to be part of that.”

In addition to the ice cream giveaway, Whitey’s also will be selling its usual cold treats on the course throughout the July 4-7 tournament.

As for Awww Shucks, it got its start during a brainstorming session, Ms. McAvoy said. “One of my colleagues from ag said ‘I’ve always wanted to make sweetcorn ice cream.’ And I thought, ‘You know what, why are we trying to be too clever? Sweetcorn is so perfect.’”

The name was created by the John Deere brand activation team, and the Whitey’s team loved it. Not only is it a great fit, Ms. Tunberg said “You might have kids running around the John Deere Classic saying ‘Awww Shucks’ all day.”

As Whitey’s fans no doubt know, Awww Shucks isn’t the first ice cream Whitey’s has created for the JDC. Its John Deere Classic Ice Cream helped celebrate the JDC’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. “That’s still such a huge flavor,” Ms. Tunberg said. “We sell it in our stores every year and each year it seems to get a few more followers and we’re happy for that.”

Whitey’s June treat of the month also was a John Deere Classic sprite float, with 50 cents of each one sold going to the JDC Birdies for Charity fund. That’s a cause near and dear to Whiteys’ and Ms. Tunberg’s heart.

Flavor showcases farmers

Regarding the ice cream maker’s unique new flavor, Ms. Tunberg said Whitey’s and John Deere initially began talking about collaborating last year, but there wasn’t enough time to make it happen so they revisited the idea a few months ago.

“The team at John Deere really wanted to showcase all the great work of farmers using John Deere equipment and really highlight the different aspects of agriculture that are used in our food,” she said.

That includes ice cream whose chief ingredient is milk supplied by dairy farmers. Finding plenty of that was the easy part, sourcing corn flavoring was not, she said.

Creating new flavors is sometimes “rather easy for us if it’s things we have on hand,” Ms. Tunberg added. “Corn was not something we had on hand.”

So Whitey’s began reaching out to flavoring companies “to see if they had corn flavoring, which wasn’t as readily available as one would hope,” she said. “But we found a few companies that we trust and we knew that had corn and sweetcorn flavoring available.”

She added “We made a few batches with different flavoring and then narrowed it down to the one we thought was best taste-wise and also had a good, strong corn taste.”

Texture, taste tested

Next they created the different samples featuring corn kernels, chopped up corn and kernels free, which were requested by Ms. McAvoy’s team. That team’s preference was the bits of corn which provided plenty of flavor but were not too overpowering.

The next challenge was finding the right recipe for a large quantity of sweetcorn ice cream where none existed. “Corn is a pretty strong flavor and so we used some of our regular vanilla which is special to Whitey’s just to add a little sweetness,” Ms. Tunberg said.

The process then involved “experimenting  with that and making sure we had something that people would want to eat a little bit more of and not just have a bite and call it a day.”

Is it good?

What does it taste like, the QCBJ asked the partners.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve eaten a lot of it in the past few weeks,” Ms. Tunberg said laughing. “I think that it’s surprising. I think that originally you’re going to be, ‘Oh, gosh, no. That’s not a combination I want.”

She added “I think once you have it, you know I don’t know if it’s going to be everyone’s favorite flavor, but it’s at least something that’s interesting and really highlights farmers and agriculture on a number of levels.”

As for Ms. McAvoy, “Your first reaction is ‘Oh, that’s corn’ but it’s in their delicious vanilla ice cream so that it finishes really softly with a nice vanilla finish.”

She added, “I don’t know that a lot of people would have been excited to try it, but that’s why we’re doing it as a giveaway. I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how delicious it is.”

Ms. Tunberg added, “It’s definitely a unique, different ice cream experience.” She’s also excited to debut the new and unique flavor on Youth Day.

 “Isn’t that fun? You know kids, they’ll give you their really honest opinion,” she said.

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