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Dave Olson, Published October 26 2012

Sweet contests key ingredient in Cass-Clay marketing revival

FARGO - When Twin Cities-based Kemps purchased Fargo-based Cass-Clay Creamery earlier this year, the plan was to keep Cass-Clay’s well-known regional brand unchanged.

And Kemps has pretty much stuck with that plan but for one thing: It is whipping up increased marketing for the creamery, which was born in the mid-1930s as a cooperative association.

One example: last summer’s “ice cream dream” flavor contest, which inspired more than 140 entries.

Of all the ideas submitted, the one that rose to the top was Oil Patch Prairie Praline, brainchild of Marnie Thielbar, of Langdon.

Thielbar won a $1,000 cash prize and a year’s supply of Cass-Clay ice cream.

Her creation, which will be sold in stores starting in the spring, came to life with help from Logan Julstrom, senior food technologist with Kemps.

“It actually takes a lot to get the finished concept,” said Julstrom, who picked up Thielbar’s idea of combining brown sugar, butter-flavored ice cream and glistening swirls of fudge (to resemble oil) and turned it into something Cass-Clay could put in a carton.

“I tried probably five different brownies because she (Thielbar) specified large chunks of chewy fudge brownies,” Julstrom said.

“I tried some that were a little too dry, some that were too doughy and then we settled on the one that was absolutely perfect: chewy but not soggy,” she said.

Although the words “Oil Patch” initially gave Cass-Clay officials reason to pause, they eventually came around to Thielbar’s way of thinking.

“One of the things in the rules was they wanted the ice cream to represent something about North Dakota,” Thielbar said. “And that’s been such a big buzz word in North Dakota – the Oil Patch.”

Names aside, the concoction turned out amazing, said Rodger McAleer, district sales manager for Cass-Clay.

“It made me think of French toast with syrup and butter. It’s pretty good,” he said.

Next up in the contest arena is the “Cass-Clay Cares Extraordinary Student Award and Scholarship Program,” which aims to honor North Dakota students who excel in academics, as well as extracurricular activities and contributions to their communities.

From now until Dec. 1, adults 18 and older can nominate a student for the award. The students must be residents of North Dakota, Clay County, Minn., or attend school in North Dakota.

Nominations should consist of a brief essay, 1,000 words or less, that describes the student’s achievements.

Two grand prize winners – one from grades K-6 and one from grades 7-12 – will receive $5,000 in cash for their schools and a $1,500 personal scholarship.

Runners-up will receive $500 for their schools and $250 for themselves, plus a year’s worth of Cass-Clay products.

Nominations may be submitted online at www.cassclay.com/student or mailed to: Cass-Clay Extraordinary Student, c/o Amanda Draxton, Weber Shandwick, 8000 Norman Center Drive, Bloomington, MN 55437.

Winners will be selected in January.

Also early next year, Cass-Clay plans to put on a “big North Dakota cook-off, kind of like a Pillsbury bake-off,” said Rachel Kyllo, vice president of marketing for Kemps in St. Paul.

The idea is for people to send in recipes using different Cass-Clay ingredients.

The contest will kick off sometime in early 2013, but the timing is still being decided, Kyllo said.

“We’re ironing out the final details on where and when, all of that,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555