Dreyer’s Ice Cream

How Berkeley leadership turned a local brand into a nationwide sensation

Ice cream cone with eight multi-colored scoops of ice cream.

Ahh…ice cream, that most summertime  of treats. Dreyer’s (originally called Grand Ice Cream Company) has been a mainstay of the Bay Area since 1928, when it was founded by William Dreyer and Joseph Edy. But it only became a national brand at the hands of William F. “Rick” Cronk, BS 65, and his business partner, T. Gary Rogers, BS 63 (mechanical engineering). Together, they transformed Dreyer’s from a local company with $6 million in sales to the largest ice cream brand in America, with annual revenues exceeding $2 billion. Here, a look at their journey.

Business partners T. Gary Rogers, BS 63 (mechanical engineering), and William F. “Rick” Cronk, BS 65.

1977

Rogers and Cronk buy Dreyer’s for $1.1 million.

1979

Historical photo of a Dreyer's delivery truck.Dreyer’s is introduced in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, the first steps in having it in all 13 western states. With a unique Direct Store Delivery (DSD) model, Dreyer’s controls the supply chain and stocks store shelves, ensuring quality control and variety. Dreyer’s and East Coast-based Breyers agree to peacefully coexist in the West and for Dreyer’s to market itself as Edy’s  east of the Rockies.

1981

Sales reach $30 million; Dreyer’s goes public with shares traded on the NASDAQ (DRYR). Has a $45 million IPO.

1983

Sales have increased 959%. Edy’s is introduced in St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Ohio. In each new city, Cronk and Rogers build a reputation with independent grocers and small chains before approaching major grocery stores.

1986

Edy’s enters Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan markets.

1987

Early packaging for Edy's Grand Light ice cream.Introduces the first premium light ice cream, Grand Light—what Cronk dubs their biggest success. Begins distributing Ben & Jerry’s via its proprietary DSD system to help defray the cost of entering new markets.

1994

Now in 60% of the country, Dreyer’s seeks to expand along the East Coast. Nestlé provides capital by acquiring ~22% of the company. As a strategy to prevent a complete takeover, Dreyer’s agrees to manage (and promises to double) West Coast sales of Nestlé’s struggling novelty business.

1995

Dreyer’s finally exceeds Breyers in sales, becoming the leading packaged ice cream brand in the U.S. They throw the Mother of All Parties (MOAP) in Oakland.

2002–2003

Nestlé acquires 67% of the company, with rights to purchase the rest by 2006. Cronk retires after 26 years in the ice cream business.

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