In the last year, the purchasing power of consumers has declined because of the rise of inflation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of the average change in prices paid over time, the cost of food has increased 10.9% from July 2021 to July 2022.
At The Little Man Ice Cream Factory, located at 4411 W Colfax Ave in Denver’s Sloan’s Lake neighborhood, this inflation snowball has caused their ice cream production cost to increase dramatically. Bucket List Community Cafe got an exclusive look into the factory to find out how increased prices are having an impact on the production process.
“Things that were standard staples to any baked good, like butter and all that kind of stuff has almost tripled in costs since last year, for the exact same quality products,” said Sarah Hegge, Little Man’s Production Manager. “No size differences, just you are now paying three times as much just to have what you originally had.”
Little Man’s ice cream factory goes through thousands of ingredients each week. Hegge mentioned that they have around 230 different ingredients used to make their ice cream and other desserts. Purchasing these ingredients has become considerably more expensive as inflation continues to climb.
“I’ve had to consistently jump around to go find other products somewhere else that is cheaper, but then I lose the amount that we’re sourcing,” said Hegge. “So, it’s kind of a constant game of evaluating where you can find something that’s not affected by inflation, but also is matching the ingredients we need and the specs that we need.”
The Little Man Ice Cream Factory opened on July 6, 2019. It is a 6,000 square feet facility that serves as a tasting room/ice cream shop and production center. Little Man acquired the space due to the massive volume of ice cream they produce daily.
“When I first started 10 years ago, we produced all the ice cream in a teeny tiny little granny kitchen in a bungalow on Tejon Street, which was right up the street from our original location. It was maybe 250 square feet.” said Basha Cohen, Little Man Ice Cream’s Director of Marketing. “When we started expanding there was a clear necessity to be able to ramp up the production facility.”
The Little Man Ice Cream company now encompasses seven different shops across Colorado, including the original Little Man Ice Cream in Denver, The Constellation Ice Cream in Denver, and Old Town Churn Ice Cream in Fort Collins.
Hegge said they churn out between 400 and 600 gallons of ice cream per eight-hour shift. At any given time, Little Man has a menu of roughly eighteen assorted flavors of ice cream. This year alone, they have created and added a new flavor to their menu every month.
The factory is designed to remind visitors of a churning ice cream machine. Upon entering the factory, you immediately notice the “freezer” type design of the doors. Inside, the space has a factory feel with exposed wooden beams and metal fixtures. The kitchen area has an open appearance allowing all visitors to get a glimpse into the Little Man production process.
Little Man’s production process starts with reading their recipes and preparing all their ingredients. After that, they pour their mixture into the ice cream machines and let the magic happen.
“This location has four machines running. They run every single shift, every single day. Some days we have two shifts in a day, so we are running it you know at least a guaranteed 16 hours a day,” said Hegge. “Our volume is quite large for how many shop locations and clients we have as well as the fact that the product being housemaid takes a lot more love so that you get that scoop that’s nice and perfect.”
“Once it comes out of the machine, we add in our cookies, wafers, brownies, and Oreos and all that kind of stuff. And then the rest goes into the freezer and finalizes until it is nice and solid,” Hegge said.
Hegge expressed concern that prices everywhere have increased. She said it has been challenging to try and maintain their traditional financial budget because of these price hikes.
“Just in general, just like any company, prices are raising overall,” she said. “So, stuff that we’ve originally budgeted and planned for no longer matches that because every company is having to adjust.”
While experiencing production cost increases, Little Man has maintained the same ice cream prices for their customers.
“Our goal at Little Man is to always provide an outstanding product at a fair and competitive price. Depending on where markets go, there may be a very modest price change in the future to offset the wide range of supply-based cost increases the entire industry is dealing with,” said Cohen. “In the end, we want to balance being both a high quality and value brand from the perspective of our customers.”