Monday, May 20, 2024

MSU entrepreneurs mix healthy and sweet at the Dairy Store with ‘Protein Pints’

May 8, 2024
<p>Co-creators of Protein Pints, Paul Reiss and Michael Meadows, pose for a portrait outside of the MSU Dairy Store on April 25, 2024.</p>

Co-creators of Protein Pints, Paul Reiss and Michael Meadows, pose for a portrait outside of the MSU Dairy Store on April 25, 2024.

Paul Reiss and Michael Meadows have been friends since childhood. Growing up in Hudsonville, famous for ice cream across Michigan, the two were used to eating the sweet treat all the time. 

As the pair grew older and more involved with athletics, they realized they had to cut back on their ice cream intake and look to healthier food items. However, they quickly grew tired of chalky protein powders and bars, and wanted to make something both healthy and delicious that they and others could eat every day. 

The answer? Protein ice cream. 

After applying for jobs at their local ice cream shop, Love’s Ice Cream, the two learned how to make ice cream from shop owner Chris McKellar. From there, Reiss and Meadows established a formula, developed packaging and prepared to launch their own brand: Protein Pints

Meadows said the duo got busy with market research — standing outside gyms, trade show events and asking people to try early flavor samples. According to the co-founders, public outreach was an imperative component of developing their brand and building out their product.

"We found out that people would buy protein ice cream," Reiss said. "It would just have to taste just as good, if not better than traditional ice cream."

Reiss said the product could be an "opportunity to help other people" deal with the intersection of healthy and comfort food. 

In 2022, Reiss and Meadows launched the first Protein Pints. Originally created with an at-home ice cream maker in Reiss' kitchen, the company currently serves four flavors of protein packed ice cream — Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Peanut Butter Chip — with 30 grams of protein in each pint. 

Now, Protein Pints is made in the MSU Dairy Complex.

On July 30, 2023, the pints were launched in its first store in Grand Rapids at Bridge Street Market. Not even one year later, the healthy treat can be found in 10 Mejier locations around the state, bringing the total to 15 stores across Michigan — one of them being the MSU Dairy Store.  


Both Reiss and Meadows are a part of MSU’s staff, working in the MSU Dairy Complex. Reiss, a transfer student from Aquinas College, is also currently earning a minor in entrepreneurship at Michigan State. 

Reiss said he and Meadows were always coming up with ideas for businesses as kids. However, the school year would come around and interrupt their summer plans. "We always had ideas," Reiss said. "And we’d work on them during the summer … and then school would come and it would die down."

However, working at the MSU Dairy Store and support from The Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Michigan State has allowed the two to tackle both at once. Reiss said the opportunities offered through MSU’s Burgess Institute have been incredible, and a prominent support for the growth of Protein Pints. 

"Michigan State was so cool because if you’re part of entrepreneurship here, you’re getting incentivized to do that sort of thing," said Reiss. "They pay you to go on trips, to meet with people, to work on your company." 

Protein Pints has received around $30,000 from the Burgess Institute alone. 

Meadows agreed that the Burgess Institute has been an amazing connection to the community, and it was how the pair heard about working at the MSU Dairy Store in the first place. 

"It immediately intrigued us that they had a whole minor for entrepreneurship (and) such a vibrant community in entrepreneurship … and through that event we also heard about this place: the MSU Dairy Complex," Meadows said.

Protein Pints has not only received money from The Burgess Institute at Michigan State, but also The Rice Business Plan Competition in Texas, Start Garden, Western Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship, The Center for Dairy Research, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan Founders Fund, and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan.  

Meadows said he didn’t expect the company to be where it is now. The community at Michigan State has proven to be an incredible spot for ice cream production and consumption. 

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Protein Pints also caters for MSU athletics, the university providing the company with a high concentration of athletes and fans to sell their product to. 

Meadows said the best part of the job is changing expectations. 

"When we’re sampling, or someone tries it for the first time, they always expect it to not be good, but then it is," Meadows said. "So I love the mis-match of expectations and then them realizing that the product tastes really good. I like that little magic little light up when that happens. It never gets old."

Reiss said the challenge of the company is the most rewarding part of the work. 

"It’s really challenging, but I think that’s also what makes it fun," Reiss said. "And it’s never the same … every day is different. We’re our own bosses so we get to choose what we do which is nice."

Looking ahead, Protein Pints is testing equipment to create Protein Pops, a protein ice cream popsicle bar the team is hopeful to launch early next year. Meadows said the upcoming year will be full of "new products, new flavors, more stores, new team members."

Reiss said he’s excited for people to be able to get it at their local stores. 

"I think it’s so exciting when people get to use it and try it," Reiss said. "And now we’re getting feedback of people who are buying it, and they’re sending us messages like 'I love this, it’s helping me' … and that’s so rewarding." 

From an at-home ice cream maker to the MSU Dairy Complex, advertising outside of gyms to the NFL Draft in Detroit, and collecting grants from MSU’s campus to Dallas, Texas, the duo is excited to keep expanding their brand, and are thankful for the community at Michigan State. 

"We are very appreciative of the State community," Reiss said. "We love being here, we love working here, being students and working with students … everyone here."



Share and discuss “MSU entrepreneurs mix healthy and sweet at the Dairy Store with ‘Protein Pints’” on social media.