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The history of ice cream research at the University of Missouri

Ice cream research and the University of Missouri goes back a long way. One of MU's first research bulletins, No. 128 published in 1929, described the effects of pressure in the manufacture of ice cream.

From developing more efficient production methods to creating low-fat ice creams, MU has been continuously contributing to the science of frozen desserts — taking the products of Missouri dairy herds and making treats for kids to enjoy during their summer school breaks.

Ice cream teaching and research got hot at Mizzou in the early 1920s with the arrival of Professor William Henry Eddie Reid. Widely recognized for his ice cream research, Reid and his graduate student, Wendell Arbuckle, wrote scholarly articles on the texture of ice cream based on results from microscopy research.

Arbuckle went on to become "Mr. Ice Cream" and taught at the University of Maryland. He became a consultant for Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Company. Reid retired in 1964 and was replaced by Marshall, who joined the Dairy Husbandry Department in 1960.

Reid cut a deep scoop in the industry. He participated in the Southern Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers, was secretary to the Missouri Ice Cream and Milk Institute for 45 years, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri Butter and Cheese Institute for 25 years, secretary of the St. Louis Dairy Technology Society for 15 years, secretary of the Kansas City Dairy Technology Society for 14 years, and director and secretary of the American Dairy Association of Missouri for 10 years. In 1995 the Missouri Dairy Hall of Honors recognized him with its Pioneer Dairy Leadership Award.

In 1967 the dairy foods faculty was combined with food-oriented faculty of the departments of Animal Husbandry, Poultry Husbandry and Foods and Nutrition to form the Department of Food Science and Nutrition.


Ice cream research at Mizzou became recognized in 1940 when Professor Wendell Sherwood Arbuckle published his dissertation: A microscopic and statistical analysis of texture and structure of ice cream as affected by composition, physical properties and processing methods. An endowment by Arbuckle in the late 1980s led to a renovation of the pilot plant and a shift in focus of the dairy research to ice cream.

From cows to creamery research

From the early 1900s until after World War II, MU cafeterias were supplied with dairy products, packaged in glass bottles and paper cartons, processed by the Dairy Department. The department's own herds grazed where the College of Veterinary Medicine now stands, Marshall said. A retail store in Eckles Hall sold various MU-branded milk, butter and cheese and three flavors of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. After the dairy plant was closed in 1972 due to fiscal issues, sales of MU dairy foods, including ice cream, stopped.

Significant ice cream research resumed in 1989 when Wendell and Ruth Arbuckle funded an endowment aimed at creating an emphasis on research, teaching and outreach in frozen dairy desserts. About $160,000 was contributed by the Arbuckles, the dairy industry and friends of the department. Marshall was in charge of organizing a program.

The dairy plant was renovated into an ice cream pilot plant. State-of-the-art equipment was purchased, including two 15-gallon batching and pasteurizing tanks, a high-temperature short-time pasteurizer, a homogenizer, and a continuous ice cream freezer. A variegating pump was purchased as well. This device would prove important in the development of MU ice cream's most famous product.

Other benefactors stepped in, Marshall said. Anheuser Busch of St. Louis gave the department a batch freezer. The Kelvinator Company contributed two dipping cabinets and one display cabinet and offered a discount on a hardening cabinet. The Sealright Company, a package-supply firm in Kansas City, provided the design and plates for printing the ice cream cartons and the machine for making the bulk containers in house. Vanilla was supplied free for many years by Beck Flavors of St. Louis.

The pilot plant, an adjacent analytical laboratory and the new Buck's Ice Cream Parlor were opened in 1989. The Missouri Dairy Products Association started providing money to support the Dairy Products Evaluation Team, which assists students in becoming proficient in sensory analysis of ice cream and related dairy foods.

The ice cream research program, lead by Marshall, was organized under the umbrella objective of formulating frozen desserts to meet the nutritional needs of consumers. This almost immediately led to pioneering research in the creation of low-fat ice cream. By replacing milk fat with ingredients made from carbohydrates and protein, the team eventually made low-fat frozen products that were similar as the high-fat variety.

The ice cream industry used these ingredients and formulas, along with improved methods of mechanically extruding the products to enhance creaminess, into what we consume today. As the MU team was developing its low-fat ice cream expertise, it also had to establish abilities in sensory analysis, flavor chemistry and food engineering. Those remain MU strengths today.


MU's favorite flavor, Tiger Stripe Ice Cream, was developed through research efforts lead by Robert Marshall, now the Arbuckle Professor Emeritus. His earlier research on ice cream centered on methods to measure taste and the survival of bacteria in frozen yogurts.

Something distinctive to MU is created

MU was back in the ice cream business, but strawberry, chocolate and vanilla flavors were too conventional for Marshall and Professor Dean Shelley. They wanted an ice cream unique to MU.

They envisioned not just an ice cream in the school colors but a gold ice cream with the stripes of a tiger. That would be really cool, they thought. One problem, no one had ever formulated ice cream in such a way to look like tiger stripes.

Initially, the pair hit a few dead ends. They tried orange sherbet and licorice. Not bad looking, but the combination tasted awful.

After various combinations, they settled on gold-colored French vanilla for the ice cream base and dark Dutch chocolate for the stripes (89 and 11 percent by volume, respectively). The trick was making realistic-looking tiger stripes. After experimentation the variegating pump, its volume cut back by two-thirds and operating at its minimum capacity, swirled the chocolate into the French vanilla to create a realistic tiger stripe.

Tiger Stripe Ice Cream was an immediate hit. It was sold at Schnuck's local supermarket, Flat Branch Pub and Brewing and at two private ice cream shops. It is the favorite flavor among the 16 flavors offered regularly at Buck's and is shipped to alumni events across the country.

MU frozen desserts, the next generation

Marshall retired from his MU professorship and Richard (Rick) Linhardt took over as manager of Buck's Ice Cream and the Ice Cream Pilot Plant. Linhardt produced some interesting flavors of his own, including pumpkin pie and signature ice creams for Columbia's Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools. Initially they were made using Mizzou Gold plus green or purple colored marshmallow topping.

Today, the dairy program's ice cream research centers on the creation of "functional foods," frozen desserts that contribute health benefits to consumers beyond regular nutrition.

Associate Professor Ingolf Gruen is leading an effort to add fiber, antioxidants and yogurt-like probiotic bacteria to this next generation of frozen desserts. The team has been working on the research for almost a year and expects the prototype batch to be ready for a taste test in about six months.

Tasty, nutritious and beneficial? Cool.

Story: Randy Mertens