Country ice creamery eyes opening up Oz after being voted nation’s best for second time

By Richard Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Award-winning Golden North sells around 14m liters of ice cream a year.
Award-winning Golden North sells around 14m liters of ice cream a year.

Related tags: Ice cream, Australia

A small manufacturer in rural South Australia hopes being named Australia’s best ice cream maker for the second year running will help open up a growing number of supermarket freezers in the more populous east of the country.

Golden North ice cream came out on top in the categories of taste, consistency, variety and overall satisfaction following an independent customer survey by Canstar Blue of more than 1,300 consumers nationally.

The survey is well-known and regarded across Australia and Golden North’s back-to-back wins will be displayed prominently on the ice cream-maker’s packaging.

People are creatures of habit and they buy the same brands every week. But if they see the Canstar Blue logo on our packs, it’s a reason for them to change what they’ve always done and try a new brand​,” said Trevor Pomery, Golden North’s marketing director.

There will be very few consumers in South Australia who don’t know of the brand, though. It is made some 240km north of Adelaide, in the town of Laura in the state’s Mid North. The company has been based there since it started making ice cream, back in 1923, and it remains a family-owned business.

The region is made up of vast swathes of broad-acre farming land. After the Bowker family arrived in Laura in the 1870s they opened a dairy from which they started selling fresh milk and cream.

It wasn’t until 1923, however, that they started churning ice cream from milk and cream provided by their own dairy herd. Even today all its ice cream flavors are palm oil, nut and gluten-free, and the raw materials are sourced from local dairy farmers.

By the 1950s the company could claim to have the world’s longest milk round, from the Barossa Valley just north of Adelaide to Tennant Creek, deep in the Northern Territory—a stretch of more than 2,000 kilometers.

Company ownership

In 1983, the Bowker family sold Golden North to the state’s Farmers Union, which in turn sold it on after nearly 20 years of ownership to a group of local businessmen. Since 2008, it has been in the hands of five South Australian families.

Five years ago, the brand was inducted into the South Australia Regional Hall of fame. Its most noticeable product is the Giant Twins range of ice cream bars, which have been sold for more than 50 years. Golden North estimates that every person in the state eats two of these a year, on average, based on a production run in excess of 2m units per year. But it is determined to take that strong brand recognition eastwards.

In South Australia, Golden North is a very, very strong brand, but it is nowhere near as strong in the eastern states. We’ve only been going into the supermarkets in the eastern seaboard for just under two years​,” said Pomery.

Compared to its home state, where the brand is available in every supermarket chain, only independent IGA supermarkets stock it in other states. Pomery said gaining national distribution with big Australian chains Woolworths and Coles is a priority “but they are a bit harder to crack​” than the local supermarkets.

While South Australians have known and loved Golden North ice cream for almost 100 years, we’re still a reasonably new brand elsewhere, so to have interstate consumers rate our ice cream so highly is a real thrill and enormously satisfying for the entire Golden North team​.”

Back-to-back titles

Canstar Blue commissions professional market research companies to ask Australians about their experiences across a wide range of products and services.

Golden North creamed other much larger producers including Peters, Bulla, Connoisseur, Blue Ribbon, Aldi and Ben & Jerry’s to defend the Canstar Blue title it won last year.

It also ranked highly for value for money and packaging to clinch back-to-back titles for the first time as Australia’s number one ice cream.

For a relatively small producer like Golden North to mix it with the biggest brands on the national stage and win is fantastic. To do it two years running is absolutely incredible​,” said Pomery.

We’re ecstatic and see the award as wonderful recognition for Golden North and for South Australia more broadly as a world-class producer​.”

Its growing sales are approaching 14m liters of ice cream a year with vanilla its most popular flavor, followed by honey and boysenberry.

Pomery said the award was an endorsement of the company’s commitment to using fresh milk and cream from local South Australian dairy farmers to make its products.

Getting this tells us internally that we must be getting something right, that using fresh milk and fresh cream will always gives you the best ice cream​,” said Pomery.

At the same time it has its eyes on developing overseas markets. Its ice cream is now present in China and several smaller Asian markets, including Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. And now it is preparing to enter the Vietnamese market in the next two months.

There are quite a few people in China and Vietnam, so they old a bit of potential for us. We already sell take-home tubs in China, which also helps to balance production when it is winter in Australia and summer in the northern hemisphere​.”

But states like Victoria and New South Wales will be the biggest prize as Golden North claims its second consecutive Canstar crown as the public’s favorite, even if most of the residents in these states do not shop where its ice cream is available. Until it manages to get a foothold in the major chains, it will just carry on doing what has done it well over nearly the whole of the last century.

We are growing every year and we getting more distribution outside of South Australia​,” Pomery said. “Every supermarket owner has to look at what the public wants and the Canstar award is voted by the public. So surely the supermarkets have to take note of that​.”

Related topics: Manufacturers, Ice Cream, Emerging Markets

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