Julie’s Sweet Success and
Sharing the Ice Cream Dream
By Kat Schuett
When faced with a midlife crisis, some people buy a fancy sports car or a speedboat. Tom Gleason just bought alot of ice cream.
After working for years as a senior executive
for a security company, in 1996 Gleason made
what seemed like a crazy move to purchase a
struggling regional ice cream business called
Dutch Girl and create Oregon Ice Cream Com-
pany, makers of organic brands Julie’s and
in the ‘90s. Over 70 percent of the ice cream sold was being made by giants like Nestle and
Unilever, and the conglomerates had driven many out of business.
But Gleason saw ice cream as the perfect medium for creativity, and instead of trying to
compete with the big guys, he scooped out his own niche and put some metaphorical “
sprinkles,” or unique value-adds, on top. With innovation as the main ingredient, Gleason’s R&D
team has developed many “firsts” in the organic frozen treat category including the first-fam-ily sized organic ice creams and super-premium pints as well as prebiotic/probiotic frozen yogurts, 60-calorie sorbet bars and gluten-free ice cream sandwiches, just to name a few.
Looking at the ice cream market during that time,
he idea sounds even crazier. The number of ice cream
factories in the United States had melted down by two
thirds, going from around 1500 in the ‘70s to just over 500