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How can you tell it's spring in the South Okanagan? Daytime temps are above ten degrees. The Penticton Vees are gearing up for yet another playoff run.
And Tickleberry's -- we're talking the "original" location in Okanagan Falls that first appeared in 1987 and might just be the busiest regional tourist attraction of the summer -- is open.
This year, as has become tradition, Tickleberry's opened March 1st. It'll close the last Sunday before Christmas. And in between, it'll serve up its winning recipe of high-end ice cream, fashionable confections and tourist-centric gifts, doing so in a unique throwback setting that looks like it was ripped from an old-timey movie set.
But this year, there's a minor disruption in the force. There's a little less tickle in the berry. And it all has to do with something called "Peanut Butter Binge."
Let us explain.
Turns out Tickleberry's deals with a number of ice cream purveyors. Companies everyone knows like Island Farms and Foothills Creamery, and slightly more esoteric names like Ontario's "Central Smith" and Vancouver's "Bendick's Ice Cream Factory".
Tickleberry's decides which flavors it'll carry each year through a sophisticated process that involves copious sampling and excellence in categories like "mouth feel, "aftertaste," "inclusions," and of course, "taste." If a given ice cream scores high in all of the above, Tickleberry's likely serves it.
And what it doesn't buy, it makes -- in its own ice cream "laboratory." Last year, it made, from scratch, approximately 20 of the 100-plus flavours it carries at its OK Falls HQ.
And of all those flavours, its absolute best-seller came from a little business called Nestlé. It was known as "Peanut Butter Binge." It's a Tickleberry's rename of a Nestlé flavor called "Chocolate Peanut Butter".
According to Tickleberry's owner Kelsey Hoy, the three locations of Tickleberry's -- OK Falls, downtown Penticton, Skaha Lake waterfront -- sold approximately 30 (!!) tubs of Peanut Butter Binge *every single day* during the summer of 2022.
It was a monster.
But that's where things went slightly awry.
"Nestle as a company has canceled their wholesale ice cream production," said Hoy. "They no longer make scooped tubs for sale. It was quite an impact for the ice cream community. For those who deliver it, it was a huge, huge loss.
"So now we're out all their flavours, including Peanut Butter Binge. It's crazy how popular that flavor has been. People cried when we didn’t have it in. "
According to Hoy, Tickleberry's immediately scrambled to find a partner to recreate the PBB vibe. Sadly, all that scrambling ended in failure.
But all was not lost. Bruised but not broken, Tickleberry's turned internal, to its lab. They were pretty sure they could come close to PBB in a number of those key categories.
One problem. No way could their smallish facility turn out the numbers needed to keep up with the incredible demand.
Nevertheless, the DIY Peanut Butter Binge process is now in full swing. The first batch, said Hoy, "wasn’t perfect," but nevertheless "sold out in a day."
Going forward, Tickleberry's will satiate some of PBB's immense fan base, but not all.
"We're just going to keep trying to perfect it," said Hoy, "but sadly, we can’t expand the lab. So we've decided we'll make it one day a week, all day, and when it’s gone it's gone each week."
And that left us with but one question: What is it that makes the OG Tickleberry's such an incredible summer draw in what is otherwise a sleepy town?
"I feel we're still popular because people love tradition," said Hoy. "I think we offer the feeling of people being connected to traditions.
"I know so many people who are so excited to be here. Like, 'Oh my God, it's my granddaughter's first time and I brought my daughter here and now they all meet up.'
"We're like a meeting spot to feel happy."
For more info on Tickeleberry's, head here.