Ice cream man; Norco factory manager Mark Harrison. Photo Andy Parks / The Northern Star
Ice cream man; Norco factory manager Mark Harrison. Photo Andy Parks / The Northern Star Andy Parks

A Day in the Life: Just desserts for work

HE'S not quite Willy Wonka, but as the factory manager at Norco in Lismore, Mark Harrison oversees the production of one million litres of ice cream a week.

Everything including supermarket brands, gourmet labels in tubs, Mr Whippy-style soft serve and many of the ice-creams on sticks that we enjoy over summer - they all come out of the Lismore factory.

In fact at this time of year the factory is operating 24/7, producing two and a half million ice creams (on sticks) every week.

It's a huge operation, with up to 200 people working in the factory during a busy shift.

Mark remembers going to the factory for a tour as a high school student and pigging out on ice cream. He started working there in 1978 as a machine operator in the butter factory and moved into ice cream in 1988.

Every day the process starts with the arrival of 50,000 litres of whole milk from the local region that goes through a process of homogenisation and pasteurisation.

"That's the key to making a really good ice-cream; it gives it that whipping quality," Mark said.

It is then blended with a mix of skim milk concentrate, cream and liquid glucose and put into holding tanks.

From there it can be blended with all sorts of flavours, depending on what it is ultimately going to be used for.

Mark proudly tells me there is 60 tonnes of chocolate on site.

But rather than a chocolate river and teams of Oompa Loompas, the factory floor is filled with people in hair nets and protective clothing.

But the sheer size and scale of the production process and the highly automated machines make it fascinating to watch.

In one area we meet a young man who is feeding choc chips into an ingredient feeder at a rate of 10 kg every 90 seconds.

In another area we see a machine making chocolate coated ice-creams on sticks that are then boxed for supermarket distribution.

Mark doesn't have the same passion for eating ice cream that he had as a kid, but still loves his work.

"It's a forever changing business, it never stays stagnant and there are always challenges... That keeps it exciting. It's not a mundane, day to day job."



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