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Cookies and Cream Invented in a South Dakota College Town

Cookies and Cream Invented in a South Dakota College Town

Cookies and Cream Born at SDSU – a Hub of Agricultural Inventiveness

Cookies and Cream was invented at South Dakota State University’s Dairy Bar.

Agriculture is the number one industry in South Dakota, to the tune of $21 billion a year. Then it’s no surprise that South Dakota State University, the state’s largest public university, is home to thriving Agricultural and Biological Sciences programs.

One of those programs, SDSU Dairy and Food Sciences, is a hub of state-of-the-art dairy processing facilities and home to a herd of more than 300 Holstein and Brown Swiss cattle. The SDSU Dairy Bar is one of the most popular offshoots of the Dairy program by far—but it’s not just any ice cream shop.

All of the products sold in the Dairy Bar are manufactured on SDSU’s campus. In fact, visitors can grab an ice cream cone and a seat at the windowed bar to watch Food Science students process ice cream, milk, butter, and other dairy products in the onsite plant.

The Dairy Bar offers more than 60 ice cream and sherbet flavors throughout the year, with one flavor that stands above the others in SDSU fame. In 1979, a Dairy Science student named Joe Leedom helped make the very first batch of cookies and cream ice cream.

South Dakota State University Ice Cream - Cookies and Cream
The birthplace of Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Flavor. SDSU Daily Bar.

Birth of Cookies and Cream

While the idea itself is attributed to Shirley Seas, one of the dairy plant’s managers at the time, Leedom fondly remembers his part in the creation of the new flavor.

During one of his regular shifts at the plant, Seas asked Leedom and his classmate Joe Van Treeck to pick up some Oreo cookies at the neighborhood grocery store, saying, “I have an idea for a new ice cream flavor, and I want you guys to make the first batch.”

Leedom and Treeck drove to the store, still in their dairy plant uniforms and, “pretty much cleared them out of all of the Oreo cookies that they had,” as Leedom remembers it.

When they returned to the plant, they crushed the cookies in a fruit feeder machine, added the crumbles to some fresh vanilla ice cream, and a new flavor was born.

Cookies and Cream Inspiration SDSU
The SDSU Dairy Bar.

Once word got out, cookies and cream sold out almost immediately every time it hit the Dairy Bar shelves.

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“Seas used to say that it was like a wildfire going through dry grass once the word got out about this new flavor,” Leedom recalls.

While it would be difficult to find fault with any of the many fresh flavors at the university’s popular Dairy Bar, cookies and cream is still held in high esteem with SDSU students, area residents, and foodies all over the world.

Food Network Magazine even awarded it with the title of “Best Ice Cream Treat” in 2013.

Today, the famed cookies and cream flavor accounts for about 8,000 of the 50,000 gallons of ice cream the Dairy Plant produces each year. While the SDSU team never patented the flavor (and several other manufacturers have since claimed to have invented it), the university believes it was truly the first.

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