Why Ice Cream Production Is So Significant To California

The first known recipe for ice cream may have evolved from one taken by Marco Polo from the Far East to Italy, but America has undoubtedly elevated it to dessert-divinity status. At least three early U.S. presidents embraced its presence on American soil as far back as the 1700s, per the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), including George Washington spending what was then an extraordinary amount of money on the new icy sweet treat in the summer of 1790. Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream recipe, written in his own hand and archived by the Library of Congress, dates from the 1780s. By 1813, strawberry ice cream made its way onto the second inauguration menu of President James Madison, whose wife, Dolley, doled out it out to guests attending the banquet, according to the IDFA.

Today's world of ever-present ice cream may lack the curious delight of our founding fathers, but it's an institution, nonetheless. Delish cites a Harris Poll showing that two out of three Americans choose ice cream among their favorite summer treats. But are all U.S. states equal in their ice cream fervor? Apparently not, at least when it comes to production. 

Here's the intel on which part of America produces and innovates the most when it comes to ice cream.

West Coast for the most

In a state known for over-the-top film and theme-park productions, it's hardly surprising that California holds the most significant connections to the world of ice cream, more than any other U.S. state. Data released by Statista in April 2022 shows California leading the way in hard ice cream production in the 10-year period stretching from 2011 to 2021. It churned out a stunning 77,000 gallons of ice cream on its own, compared to about 475,800 thousand gallons by all other U.S states combined. That's a lot of ice cream.

And that's not the only tie that binds on the frozen culinary scene. The world's first hot fudge sundae hailed from Hollywood in 1906, per California Dairy. Almost 80 years later, the largest ice cream sundae ever constructed emerged from Anaheim, home of Disneyland. If that weren't enough to stake a claim as America's ice cream queen, then here's one more bit of trivia: Former California Governor Ronald Reagan named July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984, while serving as the 40th president of the United States, per the United States Census Bureau. The third Sunday in July is also National Ice Cream Day.

Decades later, nobody seems to be complaining. In fact, the Census Bureau reports that ice cream companies support at least 26,000 U.S. jobs, generate $1.6 billion in wages, and inject over $11 billion into the national economy.