We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

The Untold Truth Of Jeni's Ice Cream

Since opening in 2002, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has grown to be a household name, with stores selling scoops of infinitely creative premium ice cream flavors from coast to coast. Jeni's was one of the very first contemporary artisan ice cream makers to start creating high-quality ice creams with carefully sourced ingredients and special attention to seasonality. Since then, dozens of popular ice cream brands have emerged, following in the footsteps of Jeni's, and creating premium ice creams outside of the classic large-scale industrial ice cream model.

Created and founded by Jeni Britton Bauer, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is based in Columbus, Ohio. With over 20 years of ice cream-making experience under her belt, Britton Bauer has created an ice cream company that's as innovative as it is delicious. But that success didn't happen overnight. In fact, it took years of trial and error to even get off the ground. 

Once in business, Britton Bauer along with her team has encountered both challenges and victories. The multiple award-winning ice cream brand is now available in scoop shops, grocery stores selling high-end ice creams, and shipped directly from the source to your door. While snacking on a pint of Jeni's ice cream, we decided to take a deep dive into the history, business, ingredients, and flavors of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Here's everything you need to know about the incredibly popular ice cream brand and where to get a bite.

Jeni Britton Bauer got her start working in a bakery during school

Jeni Britton Bauer, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, didn't go to culinary school with dreams of being a pastry chef. Instead, she attended Ohio State University, studying fine arts and art history and working at a bakery while in school. "Throughout high school and into college, I worked in a rustic French bakery called La Châelaine in Upper Arlington, Ohio," says Britton Bauer in her first book, "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home." Britton Bauer notes, "I savored each moment in the bakery and I worked as much as I could through high school and in college. In time ... I started to make my own sweets at home."

In the bakery, she learned classic French cooking techniques as well as how to operate a successful food business, but also found herself drawn to the flavors and desserts of her Midwest roots. While experimenting with ice cream at home, she went out on a limb and mixed cayenne essential oil into a batch of chocolate ice cream and was completely enraptured with the results. That was the turning point that led Britton Bauer to drop out of art school and open her first ice cream shop, bypassing culinary school entirely. Even though she left the fine arts behind, it's clear with every bite of Jeni's ice cream that creativity and culinary artistry are at work with every new flavor she develops.

Jeni Britton Bauer's first ice cream shop opened in 1996

You may not know that Jeni Britton Bauer actually opened up an ice cream shop all the way back in 1996 named "Scream Ice Cream", which unfortunately went out of business. After leaving college to pursue ice cream, Britton Bauer opened up her first shop with a friend in the North Market, a public market for independent merchants, farmers, and makers. Britton Bauer admits that she was learning how to run a business while in business, and perfecting the art of ice cream making along the way. "Running a business was a completely different animal, as foreign to my consciousness as Old Latin. So I learned from what I saw every day all around me," Britton Bauer wrote in her first book. In the process she dove headfirst into the science of ice cream, perfecting her techniques and developing new and unique recipes.

At the end of the day, she found that it was too much work running an ice cream business almost entirely on her own. "The hardest lesson I learned at Scream was that it takes more than one person behind the counter to run a business, no matter how well-intentioned that person might be, no matter how enthusiastic or inspired or dedicated to making it a success," she writes. But the end of Scream was just the beginning of ice cream for Britton Bauer, and the seed for Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams had already been planted.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams opened in 2002

After closing Scream, Britton Bauer was even more resolved to open up an ice cream shop that would be successful and provide some of the best community-based premium ice cream available. But it didn't happen overnight, and in her first book, Britton Bauer tells us how the Jeni's we know and love came to fruition. 

First, she would go back to work at the French bakery she had worked at in high school and college making croissants for hours on end. Then, with the help of her husband, Charly Bauer, as well as a close team of friends and family, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams began to take shape. Britton Bauer began making ice creams once again, selling pints out of her home freezer and building up a large enough following and enough capital to convince the bank to give her a small business loan for the shop equipment. After several years of dreaming and serious planning, Britton Bauer once again opened up an ice cream shop in Columbus' North Market in 2002 — where she still sells ice cream to this day. It's now one of dozens of scoop shops nationwide but remains the inspiration for all of the other shops.

Jeni's has published two award-winning cookbooks

If you adore Jeni's ice creams but don't live close to a store or enjoy trying out new recipes at home, you're in luck. In 2011, "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" was the first cookbook Britton Bauer published, complete with over 80 ice cream recipes, served up alongside sauces, cones, and a few ice cream-based desserts. Unlike traditional ice creams that are stabilized with eggs, most of the recipes in this cookbook are stabilized with cornstarch, cream cheese, or sweetened condensed milk. Not only does the swap make the ice creams easier to create at home from scratch, but also keeps the texture of the ice creams on par with what you'd expect from the store. The recipes are presented by season, opting for fresh ingredients that you can expect to find at farmer's markets and grocers depending on what time of year it is. The cookbook was so well received, that Britton Bauer won a James Beard Award for it in the Baking & Dessert Book category in 2012 — one of the most coveted awards in the culinary world.

In 2014, Jeni's second book, "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts" was published, building on the success of the first book. New ice cream flavors and recipes are presented alongside creative desserts and baked goods for an all-encompassing dessert experience. These recipes go far beyond the bowl but also include some out-of-this-world ice cream sundaes that you won't find anywhere else.

Dairy and ingredients for the ice cream are meticulously sourced

When creating her ice creams, Britton Bauer chose early on to source her ingredients as locally as possible with special attention to high-quality ingredients that supported other small businesses and farmers. While the company has grown substantially since then, the mission remains the same. "For our strawberries I used to buy two flats each week and now we contract an entire field. We like to know that we have this single transaction with our grower and that all of the money stays right here in Ohio," Britton Bauer told Food Republic. And it's not just the strawberries. Everything from the grass-fed dairy to the wide variety of produce used for the unique flavors is sourced from Ohio farmers. Chocolate is sourced from the artisan chocolate-maker Askinosie, and coffee comes from the popular fair-trade coffee purveyor, Intelligentsia Coffee.

Britton Bauer calls these suppliers "The Fellowship", based on the collaboration of hobbits, men, elves, and dwarves in "The Lord of the Rings" books. "It's a fellowship, right?" Britton Bauer told Glamour. "Everyone brings their awesomeness, and then together we make something greater than the sum of its parts. And that's what building a company is, or at least what it should be."

Jeni's ice creams are made without stabilizers and emulsifiers

Traditional ice creams are made with egg yolks, which thicken and stabilize the ice creams. Stabilized ice cream melts slower, forms fewer ice crystals, and helps create a lusciously creamy texture. Many contemporary ice creams are made without the use of eggs, but often include other stabilizers like gums and starches. 

Since day one, Britton Bauer has been making ice cream without the use of stabilizers, choosing instead to develop the ice creams individually based on the ingredients and building the textures of the ice creams around them. "It's a very delicate balance, and we're obsessed with how it melts ... I'm fixated on the science behind it. It's designed to melt on your tongue. We make it to be licked, not eaten with a spoon," she said to Glamour. As a result, each ice cream has a smooth and supple texture, without any strange aftertastes. Ice creams created with stabilizers also have a tendency to coat the mouth, sometimes with a waxy or slick finish. Jeni's takes pride in creating ice creams with a clean finish, which is directly credited to ice creams made without stabilizers and emulsifiers.

One pint of Jeni's Ice Cream tested positive for listeria in 2015

One of the worst things that can happen to a restaurant or foodservice business is having to deal with a case of foodborne illness. In 2015, Jeni's ice cream faced that very crisis when a single pint of ice cream in Lincoln, Nebraska tested positive for Listeria, according to NBC News. According to the Mayo Clinic, the listeria bacteria may not make someone with a robust immune system sick, but the ramifications of a listeria infection for a pregnant person, persons over the age of 65, or anyone with a weakened immune system may be fatal. While the infection can be treated with antibiotics, it's still a situation that food purveyors want to avoid at all costs.

In response to the contaminated ice cream, the ice cream production facility was inspected and two spots contaminated with listeria were found. Jeni's made the difficult decision to pull all ice cream from store shelves in every flavor, not just the contaminated batch of ice cream. All of the Jeni's scoop shops were also closed in response. It was a costly move that almost put the ice cream company out of business, but luckily Jeni's was able to recover and come back with a clean bill of health from the FDA, according to Food Safety News. Upon their return, Jeni's came back bigger and better than ever, having kept the confidence of its consumers with complete transparency and communication.

President Biden loves Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

President Joe Biden is a long-time lover of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and has made no secret about his affection for the brand. On September 29th, 2020 while campaigning for president, he posted a picture on Instagram of a pint of Jeni's Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks ice cream alongside a pair of Apple earbuds. In the caption, he wrote, "It's debate night, so I've got my earpiece and performance enhancers ready," referring to the ice cream and attempting to lighten the mood before a strenuous presidential debate.

It's reported that between August 2019 through September 2020, the Biden campaign sent Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream as gifts to campaign fundraisers and donors, totaling $12,546.11, presumably by the half dozen (via Columbus Monthly). Those are some sweet thank you gifts!

Biden and Britton Bauer officially met all the way back in 2012, when Biden was still Vice President, and Biden made an unscheduled stop at the North Market Jeni's scoop shop located in Columbus. They became friends, and later in 2016, Biden returned to Jeni's in the North Market to hold a press conference and the topic of fair wages and employment (via Eater). For someone like Joe Biden who adores ice cream, it's saying a lot that his favorite ice cream is Jeni's.

Jeni's meets political controversy

It should come as no surprise given their history of friendship that Britton Bauer would support Biden during his campaign for president, and celebrate his election in 2020. In support of his inauguration, Jeni's released a special flavor called, "White House Chocolate Chip" which contained both chocolate chunks and chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces. It was a limited edition flavor that was available in both pints and select scoop shops (via Cleveland.com).

But not everyone was impressed with the gesture. Despite releasing a special flavor celebrating Biden's inauguration, Britton Bauer claimed that the ice cream flavor was meant to unify the country under a flavor that everyone could love, and declined to give any hard-hitting political statements otherwise. Critics like New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner thought that Britton Bauer's message wasn't strong enough in condemning the GOP and the instigators of the January 6th riot at the Capitol (via The Takeout), especially since the release of the inaugural flavor was delayed due to national upheaval surrounding the riot. 

Rosner, among others, thought it was strange that Britton Bauer would go so far as to make a political ice cream, but stop short of "being political" about events. A week after Rosner's critical tweets, Jeni's released a four-part Twitter statement condemning "racism, violence, hate speech, sexism, ableism, queerphobia, or xenophobia" and stating, "if you believe all humans are equal, you are welcome in our community."

Dolly Parton has her very own flavor of Jeni's ice cream

In April of 2021, Jeni's released a very special flavor of ice cream to honor the beloved Dolly Parton, called "Strawberry Pretzel Pie". Not only did Dolly Parton contribute to COVID-19 vaccination development, but she's provided books for children for free through her Imagination Library since 1995. Part of the proceeds of the sale of the Dolly Parton ice cream went directly to the Imagination Library, making this particular flavor more exciting than just for the people eating it.

On Facebook, Jeni's posted, "Strawberry Pretzel Pie is our ode to the Queen of Country: sweet and salty, with timeless appeal, deep American roots, and makes you feel good." If you're not familiar with strawberry pretzel pie, you should know that it's not a particularly fancy dessert, but it's colorful and easily a fantastic dessert choice during peak strawberry season. While recipes vary, all start with a pretzel crust that's made like a graham cracker crust, with ground pretzels, butter, and a touch of sugar. The next layer of the pie is a Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream) and cream cheese mixture, according to Betty Crocker. It's then topped with strawberry Jell-O that has strawberries folded into it. The entire dessert is chilled before serving. Some recipes call for fresh strawberries macerated in sugar alone as the topping, omitting the Jell-O. This perfectly sweet and classically Southern ice cream seems like the perfect ode to Dolly.

Each ice cream flavor is created from scratch

Once a flavor combination is imagined, the ice cream at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is created from the ground up, to create the perfect texture and flavor profile. But this practice isn't the norm for many ice cream companies. "Almost all of the ice cream makers use a preassembled ice cream mix. It's a packet of milk and stabilizers, so you'll notice that every ice cream has the exact same texture," Britton Bauer told Food Republic. "All you do is add flavoring and you're in business as an ice cream maker." 

But Britton Bauer wasn't interested in taking the easy way out to create her ice creams. It was that choice that prompted the company to begin purchasing and pasteurizing milk and cream in-house, instead of outsourcing the pasteurizing and mixing process. From there, a new ice cream is created around the desired flavors and textures, adding more fat, sugar, or flavor to achieve the perfect body and finish. It takes quite a bit more effort to make ice cream this way, especially at such a large scale, but it's one of the foundational principles that gives the ice cream integrity and makes Jeni's ice cream a true delight to eat.

Scoop shops are expanding across the United States

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is based in Columbus, Ohio, but over the last two decades, scoop shops have opened from coast to coast. According to the Jeni's website, there are scoop shops in 13 states and the District of Columbia. In total, there are currently 60 locations with the majority of the shops concentrated in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. If you're lucky enough to live near a scoop shop, Jeni's also provides delivery directly from the shop. Deliveries include pints, and if you order 4 or more, delivery is free. 

If there isn't a location in your city, or even in your state yet, don't worry. Jeni's has been steadily expanding locations and may get to you yet. The most recent location is slated to open in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in December 2021 — specifically in the Fishtown neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia. If you're interested in having a location open near you, it never hurts to drop the company a note and let them know how much you'd love to have a scoop shop in your area.

Not every flavor is available in every store

While you can typically find the most popular selections of Jeni's ice creams in the scoop shops, not every flavor is available in every store, and different stores may have different selections. A lot of that might have to do with how much space the store has on hand for ice cream freezers, but it's predominantly based on what sells the most. 

Jeni's creates new flavors seasonally, and most of them are limited time and quantity flavors. A batch of that particular flavor may only be in stores for a short time before it runs out, even if it's still available at a different scoop shop or online. In Britton Bauer's first book, she talks about having two ice cream cases, one for the tried-and-true popular flavors, and another one for a constantly rotating cast of flavors. While that may have been the model in the early days, most of the scoop shops these days sell a more stable selection of ice creams. Unfortunately, the menus for each shop aren't listed with the locations, so you'll just have to stop in and see what's getting scooped for yourself.

Jeni's strives to be an environmentally conscious company

It may not be apparent, but waste in commercial kitchens is relatively common. Whether it's food waste, packing from incoming deliveries or outgoing orders, or just everyday waste created by regular operations (unwanted receipts, gloves, printer paper, etc.), you might be surprised how much waste your favorite restaurant actually produces. With so many disposable options, it takes some effort to turn a dining establishment into a low or zero waste shop, even in places as small as an ice cream scoop shop. But Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is striving to do just that. 

According to the website, Jeni's has converted 95% of its in-shop consumer packaging to materials that can be recycled, composted, or even reused. They also claim to be one of the very first ice cream shops to exclusively source compostable products for customers, including cups, napkins, and spoons. The company is also looking into water conservation methods and reusable tasting spoons.

Not all shops are currently participating, but Jeni's has begun making composting bins available alongside trash cans for waste created in the store. Of course, composting facilities aren't available everywhere yet, which means some stores don't yet have that option. But it's one of the many ways Jeni's is striving to make more environmentally conscious choices when it comes to how the business and stores operate.

Ice creams are available in grocery stores nearly everywhere

Unfortunately, there isn't a Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams scoop shop in every city and town yet (we can dream). Until then, those of us without a brick-and-mortar location will have to make do with picking up a pint of Jeni's from our local grocery store. And really, sitting on the couch with a delicious pint of ice cream sounds pretty great too — pants optional of course. If you're curious what location near you sells Jeni's ice creams, the website has a handy store locator that should help you lay your hands on a pint. The Jeni's website also lists Whole Foods, Super Target, and Publix as nationwide distributors of Jeni's ice cream pints. Publix even has exclusive distribution of one rotating seasonal flavor that no other grocery store has.

Of course, like the scoop shops, flavors and availability may vary by grocery store. The most popular flavors you can find in grocery stores include Salty Caramel, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Darkest Chocolate, Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks, and Honey Vanilla Bean. Additional flavors can also be found, including Churro, Supermoon, Froze, and Brambleberry Crisp. Excuse us while we stock our freezer and pretend our kitchen is our very own mini Jeni's scoop shop.

Jeni's ships pints of ice cream nationwide

Once you've tried all of the flavors of Jeni's ice cream available at your local grocery store or scoop shop, it might be time to branch out and try some more flavors. As of this writing, 32 flavors of ice cream are available for nationwide shipping, including four dairy-free ice creams and a sorbet. Most of the flavors that you can find in stores are available online, as well as seasonal and limited-edition flavors that you may not be able to find so easily in person. Each of the pints is available for $12 online, which may be more or less than the price of a pint at your local grocery store. It's a steep price to pay for a pint of ice cream, but you can rest assured that it's made with the highest quality ingredients, and in flavor combinations that you're unlikely to find anywhere else.

There is a minimum of four pints for online orders, but the website points out that boxes are designed to comfortably fit six, nine, or 18 pints at a time. Shipments of ice cream pints are sent out Monday through Friday, with deliveries scheduled Tuesday through Saturday. The price of shipping ranges from $13 to $19 in the continental U.S. and is based on where you're located, not how much you order (so it pays to order more!). Within 48 hours of shipping, you can expect the ice cream at your door.

Jeni Britton Bauer tastes her ice cream every day

Could you eat ice cream every single day? If so, you and Britton Bauer have that in common. According to an interview with Food Republic, Britton Bauer has an ice cream tasting every day at 3 p.m. where she samples the newest flavors in the test kitchen and helps develop flavors for the shops and to sell in pints. It might not seem like very hard work, but Britton Bauer takes the tastings very seriously. Before sampling the new flavors she makes sure to keep her palette clean, avoiding coffee and putting off brushing her teeth till after the tasting, to make sure she can critically taste all of the little nuances and textures of the ice cream.

But eating ice cream isn't all work. Britton Bauer told Glamour that she also eats ice cream just for pleasure each day, and enjoys sharing scoops with her kids. With work like this, we can see why she might be excited to take it home with her. This constant interaction with the ice cream keeps the new ideas for flavors flowing, with one flavor often sparking an idea for a new flavor. "It's never a chore to eat ice cream," says Britton Bauer told Food Republic.