Howdy Homemade expands retail presence, furthers mission to create jobs for people with disabilities

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Howdy Homemade
Image Credit: Howdy Homemade

Related tags Ice cream diversity and inclusion

Ice cream brand Howdy Homemade is expanding its retail footprint and mission of employing people with individual intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs) beyond its homestate of Texas, brand founder Tom Landis told FoodNavigator-USA.

"We're overjoyed to extend our reach and share the love of Howdy Homemade ice cream with even more communities. Our partnerships with these retailers have been invaluable in making this expansion possible, and we're grateful for their unwavering support,​" said Landis in a press release. 

Building an ice cream brand to empower those with IDD 

Currently, Howdy Homemade is available​ by the pint at H-E-B stores in Texas and Louisiana and nationwide through its partnership with KeHe at Albertsons, Tom Thumb, Safeway, and Randalls stores. Flavors include Chocolate As All Get-Out, Cookie Nom’Ster, Salted Caramel, Strawberry Milkshake, Birthday Cake, and Cold Brew & Cookies.

Landis started Howdy Homemade after reading the book Another Season by football coach Gene Stallings and the challenges he faced with having a son with Down Syndrome. Using his experience in the restaurant industry, Landis came up with the idea to start franchise of ice cream shops that employee people with IDDs, which then led to the creation of its retail business. 

Howdy Homemade employee are a crucial part of spreading the word of the brand through in-store sampling, Landis said. Howdy Homemade works with the local community to find people with IDDs who want to be samplers, he said.

"We just want to be nothing but positive," ​Landis said. "Our job is to create jobs for people with special needs, frankly, people that are overlooked in every way, shape, or form. And nobody was further alienated during COVID than those with special needs.​" 

From the state fair to H-E-B grocery stores

To expand distribution beyond the ice cream shop, Landis said he took his product to the Texas state fair.

If you study a lot of retail products, they got their big boost at a state fair or the World's Fair -- and everything from Dr. Pepper to the ice cream cone. In fact, those where on the same fairgrounds, basically about nine months apart where they both took off.​”

Next, Landis turned his attention to the retail space and submitted his company for the H-E-B Quest for Texas Best competition, a program that awards Texas-based CPG companies with placement on store shelves and a grand prize​ of $25,000. 

"The only way you can really get into retail if you're a small guy with nothing is this H-E-B Quest for Texas Best competition. So, I entered it in 2015, [and] I entered in 2016, and I can tell you we were going to win. I knew it ... and I lost. But H-E-B gives you some ideas and encourages you entered again.​" 

After several attempts, Howdy Homemade took home third place in the 2021 version of the contest, receiving $10,000 in prize money and placement on H-E-B shelves. To support the launch into retail, Howdy Homemade worked with Texas-based dairy product Highland Dairy to manufacturer its pints of ice cream.

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