Foothills Creamery

Scoops of Joy: Meet the Legen-dairy Foothills Creamery

By Amanda Philipow

Published May 2024

Think back to your favourite summer memory as a child. Whether it was spending weekends by the lake or lying in the grass looking for shapes in the clouds, there’s a good chance you ended up at an ice cream shop at one point or another. So many of us have that special memory of being just tall enough to see into the cooler, gazing at the seemingly endless sprawl of flavours and asking yourself the hardest question of all: Rocky Road or Mint Chocolate Chip? For almost 60 years, Foothills Creamery has provided kids and kids at heart across Western Canada with scoops of joy through their ice cream. We were fortunate enough to tour their facility and meet with Scott Wegener, Vice President of Brand Operations, to get the scoop on everyone’s favourite summer sweet. 

Though they’re now largely known for their signature frozen treat, the Calgary-based creamery actually started its operations with butter production. The Foothills Creamery story began when founder Don Bayrack saw an opportunity to save the factory where he had previously worked as a butter churner. He and his business partners took over the plant in 1969 and began what would become a decades-long legacy of high-quality dairy products. Today, Foothills’ production operations are still based solely out of Calgary with their facility now located near Inglewood. Despite moving locations twice, Foothills Creamery continues to honour their roots and make their butter the same way — the old-fashioned way. 

“Not many businesses are making barrel-churned butter anymore, and we really care about that process,” explains Scott. “We’re still making butter the same way we have since 1969.” 

Each batch of creamy butter begins with cream brought in fresh from Western Canadian dairy farms. That cream is then pasteurized and stored until it’s ready to be used. Once it’s showtime, the cream goes through a heat exchanger to warm up and then heads to a giant barrel churn. The cream is churned until the fat is separated from the liquids resulting in a smooth 80% butter fat. This old-fashioned process is a true art; every batch of cream is different and requires their knowledgeable team to recognize when the butter is done churning to ensure a consistent product. Once complete, the remaining buttermilk is drained off and reserved for future use. Finally, inclusions are added depending on flavour and the rich butter is sent off to be packaged. 

With butter offered in the form of blocks, tubs, patties and cups, packaging alone is a marvel to watch. Our tour eventually brings us across an impressive machine filling, wrapping and folding blocks of salted butter. Gary, a team member of 19 years and butter expert, watches closely as the freshly packaged blocks make their way down the conveyer belt, ensuring each block is up to Foothills’ standards. When we inquire about the age of the machine, he wittily replies “older than you!” This fact is confirmed when he shares that this well-loved contraption has been around for over four decades with no signs of slowing down.

Foothills Creamery offers their butter in several different formulations, too. Beyond classic salted and unsalted, they produce garlic butter, whipped butter, a “Foothills Blend” of butter and premium vegetable oil and a baker’s butter with an extra 4% butter fat perfect for cakes and pastries. Their care and commitment to quality in every product is visible not only in the proud smiles of their team members, but in the unmistakably rich flavour in every bite of their craft butter. 

“It’s not just butter, it’s Foothills Creamery Butter, and there really is a difference,” Scott beams. 

With all that buttery goodness going on,we’re in awe of how Foothills Creamery also manages to create 80 flavours ofice cream for us to enjoy. Ice cream production began in 1986, and theirpassion for upholding their legacy has only grown over the years. 

"The kids that were getting ice cream at our scoop shops 30 years ago are taking their kids to those same scoop shops today. We really care about that,” Scott smiles. 

So, what does it take to keep those customers coming back? Well, remember that leftover buttermilk from earlier? If you look at the label on any pint of Foothills Creamery ice cream, you’ll notice a consistent first ingredient: buttermilk! Using buttermilk in their ice cream allows them to eliminate waste in the butter-making process and give each scoop an extra rich and creamy flavour that stands out among competitors. 

The ice cream making process starts by combining buttermilk, cream, sugar and a few additional ingredients. The mixture is then heated and cooled to create the base mix of the ice cream. This base mix will now either be turned into soft serve, sent to the ice cream room to become one of their 80 flavours or sent to other ice cream shops you know and love! That's right — Foothills’ ice cream base is also used at several of your favourite scoop shops in town. Creating this base mix themselves allows them to fully curate that craft ice cream flavour and control every aspect of their products. 

“With everything we make we use the most basic ingredients — from scratch,” Scott explains. 

Foothills’ flavour range is vast, encompassing everything from Scott’s personal favourite, Sea Salt Caramel Fudge, to the unique Nova Scotia-inspired Moon Mist; a wild combination of bubble gum, banana and grape. When it comes to sourcing ingredients for their various flavour ribbons and add-ins, they first search locally whenever possible. Every June, the team looks forward to their seasonal Haskap Prairie Berry flavour featuring berries grown right here in Alberta! A lineup like this requires a ton of creativity, and the Foothills product development team works to create new flavours every year. Other staff members are also encouraged to submit their ideas for new and unique flavours.

“We always want to offer something new, different and exciting,” Scott says.

New recipes are first tested at their scoop shops across Western Canada and a popular few may be added to their lineup of grocery offerings currently sitting at 18 flavours. Though a new addition for this year, their Cinnamon Bun flavour ice cream will be hitting stores shortly, including Sunterra! 

“We were so excited about the Cinnamon Bun we just pushed it right to stores,” Scott shares. The feeling is definitely mutual. 

Other new additions for this year include Campfire S’mores and Root Beer Float. Foothills’ current product line also includes several flavours of sorbet and three lactose-free varieties for those with dietary preferences. Even with the introduction of more modern flavours like Groovy Ube and Shark Attack, they’re always sure to keep those nostalgic scoop shop classics close to their heart — think bestselling Bubble Gum, Old-fashioned Vanilla and Tiger.

It would be safe to assume the endless butter and ice cream are the best part of the job, but Scott informs us otherwise.

“It’s the people,” he says. “We have people that have worked at Foothills for over 30 years and there’s a lot of pride that comes with where we were and how we’ve grown.” 

You can feel that pride as soon as you walk into their office. Adorning the walls are custom caricatures of employees holding their favourite flavour of ice cream drawn by local artist Rob Milton. Scott tells us that employees who have been with the company five years or longer receive a drawing, and based on the quantity of photos alone, the dedication is undeniable.

Foothills Creamery’s mission has always remained simple at its core: to deliver scoops of joy. Or, in the case of butter, spreading joy. 

With an old-fashioned but innovative approach to creating their products and a committed team behind them, we’re proud to carry Foothills Creamery ice cream and butter in all our full-shop markets. And with warmer weather approaching, it’s the perfect time to find your new favourite ice cream flavour and swap out your regular ol’ butter for some creamy, Alberta-made goodness. 

Shop Foothills Creamery products for15% off this month and transport your tastebuds back to those sweet summer daysof scoop shops and buttery homemade meals — we’ll see you there!

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