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 The National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) holds several ice cream competitions at its annual convention and trade show each November.

This event is a great opportunity to prepare and enter your ice cream products to be judged by a national collegiate accredited facility (University of Minnesota) and also have your products sampled by the national ice cream retailer community as a whole.  Leave the annual convention with a trophy, ribbon or certificate of recognition for manufacturing superior frozen desserts.  Celebrate your success with your local community and promote your operation!

Each year, NICRA receives hundreds of ice cream samples and flavors from across the country. Many of our award winners use these accolades to promote their business locally, regionally and nationally.

We invite you to enter your ice cream and frozen desserts into the NICRA ice cream competitions.



The purpose of the Ice Cream Clinic conducted at NICRA’s Annual Meeting is to assure a reliable, consistent and credible process of evaluation for its entries. NICRA’s Clinics are based on an understanding that the members who attend the tasting sessions will participate in a safe and healthful atmosphere.

NICRA is further mindful that the judging of the entries has to meet specific stringent quality standards and encourages its members to accept good manufacturing procedures and act on the information provided by the clinic.

In summary, the NICRA Ice Cream Clinic will provide a credible evaluation in a safe environment and disseminate information that can be used for member education, self-improvement and business promotion.


The NICRA competition has two main elements, The Ice Cream Clinic and the Best New Flavor Awards. Please find the following information of these two events:


The Ice Cream Clinic

This year NICRA will offer three Ice Cream Clinic categories, including Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. Entries are first subject to Standard Plate Count and Coliform tests, which will be conducted by the University of Minnesota. Products must meet microbiology standards in order to proceed to sensory testing and scoring.

Certificates of Recognition and ribbons are awarded to entries who earn the following scores:

Blue Ribbon;  40.5 - 43

Red Ribbon;   38 - 40.4

White Ribbon;  35.5 - 37.9


An example of the Score Card is available at this link so that you will know how your ice cream is scored.

The fee is $79 for each ice cream clinic sample submitted, which covers the cost of laboratory analysis and sensory testing.



The 2020 sensory judging for vanilla, chocolate and strawberry samples will be conducted under the direction of Dr. Tonya Schoenfuss, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, a trained and experienced dairy scientist. 

You may submit ice cream, frozen custard, gelato, soft serve, or frozen yogurt, however, the sensory testing and scoring for all samples will be judged using the standards for hard ice cream, since there are no standards for judging these other products.



The Perfect Score Award will be given to those that receive a perfect judging score as determined by the University performing the evaluations. A pin stating, “My Ice Cream is Perfect” with the NICRA logo will be presented to the winning companies.

Currently a perfect score would mean receiving 43 out of 43 possible points for vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.

The following NICRA members have earned The Perfect Score Award:

  • 2016 Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Madison, WI Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream

The Grand Master Ice Cream Maker Award started at the 2012 convention. In order to qualify for this prestigious award, a company must win blue ribbons at three different conventions within a five-year period, starting in 2012. A plaque commemorating this award, with the company name, will be presented at the appropriate convention.

The following NICRA members have earned Grand Master status:

  • 2014 Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Madison WI
  • 2015 Ice Cream Club, Boynton Beach, FL
  • 2016 Karens Kreamery, Avondale AZ
  • 2016 Shaines of Maine, Sanford ME
  • 2016 Yo Yo Donuts, Minnetonka, MN
  • 2018 Daddy O's Irish Ice Cream Pub, Sugar Hill, GA
  • 2018 Over the Top Ice Cream, Pleasant Hill, IA
  • 2018 Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Madison WI (2nd Time Winner)

 Your Best New Flavor Contests

NICRA provides members two opportunities to win additional awards at the annual convention. 

“Your Best New Flavor” and “Your Best New Non-Dairy Flavor” provide members a chance to showcase new, innovative flavor concepts.  Winning flavors are selected by secret ballot during the Annual Meeting.  Flavors are judged for originality, quality, flavor and marketability.

In order to qualify for tasting at the Annual Meeting, entries are submitted for Standard Plate Count and Coliform tests to be conducted by the University of Minnesota.  Entries must meet microbiology standards.

The fee is $49 for each entry to cover the cost of laboratory analysis. Awards will be presented for first, second and third place flavors, along with honorable mention certificates.