Recently, I took a trip to AE Dairy in Des Moines, Iowa, to find the secrets that garner their notable cult-like following by anyone who has ever tasted their delicious dairy products. This family business, started in 1930 by Iver Erickson, has become an Iowa icon and has withstood the test of time. Passion for freshness and quality drives this 85 year old business to success year after year.
My friend Brandi joined me on the immersion day. We had the best time with Miriam Erickson Brown, CEO and President of AE Dairy, and Kim Peter, Director of Marketing. Miriam is the third generation to work for AE Dairy, with her father, Jim still involved on a daily basis. I hear he is the expert taste-tester! Our tour day began with our own taste test too! Laid out beautifully with cow napkins to boot, was a delicious breakfast spread of AE Yogurts and AE Greek Yogurts, AE Chocolate Milk, AE Orange Juice, Miriam’s delicious homemade granola and more. The tastes and textures of all of the different products are really mind blowing if you ask me. You can’t find quality like this anywhere. I could have eaten my way through the entire lineup, but Brandi was there, so I had to share. Of course, I couldn’t come to the party empty-handed, so I brought Miriam and Kim a batch of my all-time favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies. Since I’m all about full disclosure, I will tell you that we all had a part of a cookie for breakfast. It was the first time I had ever had a cookie with chocolate milk, it is now my new favorite splurge! I also enjoyed the AE Key Lime Greek Yogurt and AE Orange Juice (trade secret: their AE Lemonade is my favorite summertime drink!). Tops on Brandi’s list were the AE Almond Crème Greek Yogurt and traditional AE Strawberry Banana yogurt, both were so divine! It was great to talk to Miriam and Kim about the farms they source their milk from and how important the farm families are to the success of the dairy. I know some of those farmers… and they are special folks. Kevin Blood is one of those farmers. His family together, owns Blood Dairy LLC and in the photo below, he shows my daughter how to milk a cow on her first trip to a dairy farm. Cows are milked by machine this day in age, but this long time dairy farmer wanted to take the time to show my animal-obsessed farm girl how to milk a cow the right way. She loved every moment. Back to the tour! We began the tour of the dairy and I immediately noticed how precise each layer of the manufacturing process was. We got to see some of the 25 various sensory tests done at different stages from raw milk to end product, by individuals, and machines in their state of the art laboratory. I found it so interesting that they had their own lab on site. I fully believe that this part of the facility, (insisted upon by Miriam’s grandfather during the building process) is the ticket to the unsurpassed quality that AE Dairy products have. They even test their products’ “Best By” dates thoroughly, and 99% of those pass the test, which is very impressive! My favorite thing about the tour was seeing each product container be filled, sealed and ready for shipping. Below you can see Miriam and I checking out the whole milk being bottled. All of the employees of AE Dairy were showing the love! (See background of picture.) The milk jugs flew by on their way to their final destination, it was almost surreal. There is no time wasted in this facility, and again, this contributes to the high quality of their products. The freshness is second to none, with milk ending up on the grocery store shelves within 24-48 hours of being trucked off the farm.
From the luxurious texture of their sour cream to the undeniable addictiveness of their cottage cheeses, one thing is for sure, AE Dairy products will always hold a place in the home and heart of any Iowan and any person who has ever had the opportunity to taste these delicious treats. As Miriam says, “We aren’t the biggest dairy out there, but we don’t want to be. We just want you to be delighted.” Delighted, indeed. Now… where’s my #AEDairy chocolate milk?
Learn more about AE Dairy and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube for great recipe ideas and news of exciting new products coming down the pipeline! (Because, trust me… they are coming!) Do you love #AEDairy? Comment below and let me know your favorite products and flavors… especially if it is one you don’t think I’ve tried. I’m always looking for new things to try! One carton at a time… I hope to make it through the entire line up this year! *And you never know… for a comment I’ve been known to surprise people with goodies! (I’m making some jam and jelly this week!)
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of AE Dairy via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.