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Published: Sunday, 5/13/2001

Price of basic ingredient goes up

Higher cream prices mean ice cream is likely to cost more this spring, both in seasonal stands and grocery stores.

Half-gallons in grocery stores probably will sell for 50 cents to 80 cents more than they did last year, and the price of a cone or sundae at a stand might be 20 to 30 percent higher, said Joe Risdon, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Country Fresh LLC.

Wholesale prices of half-gallons are 30 to 40 cents higher than last year's, he said.

Country Fresh increased its prices last week for the ice cream mix it sells from its Toledo office to area stands. Smith Dairy Products Co. in northeast Ohio, which locally sells soft ice cream mix to stands and hard ice cream to convenience stores, increased its prices about the same time.

Both companies blame the increase on higher - although far from record - cream prices, largely because of competition from butter makers. Usually, butter used for fall holiday baking is produced in the first third of the year, and then cream goes to ice cream makers. But low milk prices early last winter led some farmers to reduce production, leaving less cream for butter, cutting into ice cream supplies and boosting prices, experts say.

For Jim Matuszak, owner of Toozer's Time Out in Maumee, last week's increase in soft-serve ice cream prices was the third since he opened his stand for the season March 1. A 2.5-gallon bag of soft serve cost $10.79 when he opened and now is $13.12. He paid $8.75 for a comparable supply in the spring of 1999.

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