COWS Ice Cream has been a family tradition on Prince Edward Island (PEI) since 1983. Founded by Scott Linkletter, who still owns the business today, the ice cream business had a humble beginning but has grown tremendously over the past 35 years.
From a small kiosk on the famous Cavendish Boardwalk, the COWS brand now has seven locations across PEI, two in Nova Scotia, two in British Columbia and one each in Alberta, Ontario and Beijing, China! The COWS brand has expanded in a big way over the years with cheese and butter lines, as well as their popular COWS-themed merchandise.
Originally the COWS t-shirts were worn by staff, however more and more people that came in for ice cream wished to purchase the shirts and so in 1987, local PEI graphic artist Marc Gallant came up with the whimsical cow that is still found on the merchandise today. President and CEO Jackie McIntyre says, “people are always laughing about the images that we come up with using the cow graphic and the staff has a great time coming up with new ideas!” All of the screen printing to the t-shirts is done right in house.
According to Jackie, there are many things that makes COWS ice cream so unique. “All of our milk comes from Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), which is all produced here on the Island and we’ve been working with ADL on our ice cream and cheese since the beginning.” She goes on to say that that employees make the company extremely special. “We have the best staff, we’re like a family! We support each other both at work and outside of it and we instill this in our new hires. It’s really a special group of people.”
In a time where ice cream options seem endless, the COWS brand has remained relevant due to the continued use of the highest quality ingredients, including pure bourbon vanilla, sourced from Madagascar. It is considered “super premium” with a butter fat content reaching 16-18% and the fact that very little air is pumped into the product. All of these things combined give the COWS ice cream the unique, rich taste that has patrons coming back for more!
The staff also has a lot of fun submitting names for the new ice cream flavours. The #1 seller “Wowie Cowie” was submitted by one of the employees. Other popular flavours such as “Gooey Mooey” and “Fluff n’ Udder” are very popular with the customers. “We encourage our staff to come up with new ideas for flavours and merchandise by having our ‘cow ideas’ box where staff can submit ideas for a chance to win cash prizes,” says Jackie. All staff at the head office also get to participate in the taste-testing new product lines, “a very hard job!” Although there is no 100% certified gluten-free ice cream, there is gluten-free (not certified) options available.
Expansion plans are already in motion at the main headquarters of COWS ice cream, as building of a new freezer and cooler area are currently under construction. New cheese cutting equipment will also be added in Phase 1, which is scheduled to be completed by October 2018. Phase 2 of the building project will see and upgrade in the office space which will be completed by summer 2019.
The cheese and butter lines of COWS have done incredibly well which is part of the reason for the expansion. One of the cheeses produced is called Avonlea Clothbound Chedder, which gets its name from a traditional chedder-making technique that involves wrapping the cheese in cloth. “Recently our company won 7 awards at the American Cheese Society competition,” says Jackie. “The Avonlea Clothbound was 1st prize in its category and then also won 3rd ‘Best in Show’ out of over 1900 entries.” In the future plans for different kinds of cheese are in the works as well as a flavoured butter line.
The Linkletter family has also invested in a line of oysters on the side called Raspberry Point Oysters. This line has expanded like crazy with oysters being shipped across Canada, USA, Japan and Denmark. The oyster line started as a bit of a hobby for Scott Linkletter, who used to harvest oysters with his father near his summer home in New London Bay.
With their increasing expansion off of Prince Edward Island into new Canadian and global markets, there is no doubt that the popularity of the brand, along with its famous whimsical cow, will continue to increase, and be a family tradition for visitors to Prince Edward Island and beyond.