PADUCAH, KENTUCKY (WDKY)– We all know Kentucky is a pretty cool place. It’s also home to one of the coldest products on the planet.
The Dippin’ Dots factory in Paducah looks like a mad scientist’s lab.. it’s a place where it snows indoors, where machines are covered in ice and a foggy vapor comes out of bags and boxes.
In 1988, Curt Jones, a microbiologist working at Alltech in Lexington, was experimenting with a flash freezing process. He found that cream turned into tiny beads instantly when exposed to liquid nitrogen at a temperature of 320 degrees below zero.
Stan Jones, who has been the chief development officer at Dippin’ Dots since the beginning, said “He (Curt) actually showed up in my office with a sample of it and wanted to know what I thought about it. I said you might have something here. It’s kind of different.”
Curt Jones started making the extreme ice cream in his garage in Illinois, selling it at fairs and festivals. But because the dots need to be stored in super cold conditions to keep their consistency, that wasn’t going to work for long. When he began to line up more customers, he had to find a facility. So, he moved the operation to a building across the Ohio River in Paducah.
Now, 30 years later, the little dots are a big deal, with annual retail sales of 300 million dollars. The plant has been expanded three times. Dippin’ Dots are sold at theme parks, zoos, aquariums and ballparks around the country, as well as in conventional stores.
Here’s the scoop:
The factory today turns out more than two billion dots per day.
It can make 70 different flavors, with the favorites being chocolate and cookies and cream.
Al Dippin Dots in the U.S. are made in Paducah and they’re also shipped from here to seven other countries.
“We were the original,” Stand Jones said. “We started in 1988. We’ve been doing it longer than anyone else. Anyone with a beaded product is going from our lead. “
Even though it looks cold in the production room, it’s actually 70 degrees in there. But in another part of the plant, it’s a different story. The dots can’t be kept in a conventionat freezer. The storage room is kept at 46 degree below zero. Employees can’t stay in there more than two or three minutes.
Dippin Dots has had its ups and down, nearly going bankrupt in 2011. The company was purchased by Fischer Enterprise, a family owned company that brought new strategies to the business. The product is now sold in more venues and, with an expanded focus on home delivery. The company also markets Doc Popcorn, a gourmet snack.
Dippin’ Dots recently expanded into China.
“We’re just starting there,” Stan Jones said. “It looks like a very big market, We think it will pass the U.S. market in a short time, so we’re excited about that.”