Dairy Dialog podcast 132: Ice Cream Van of the Year, Fooditive, Kerry

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy Dialog 132: Ice Cream Van of the Year, Fooditive, Kerry
Dairy Dialog 132: Ice Cream Van of the Year, Fooditive, Kerry

Related tags Kerry Dairy alternatives Nutrition Ice cream alliance Ice cream Cheese

There are three conversations on this week’s podcast: Richard Troman, senior development and application chef, Kerry Europe and Russia; Jimmy Robinson, owner of Robinson’s Ice Cream; and Moayad Abushokhedim, food scientist and founder of Fooditive.

We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton at StoneX.

Ice Cream Van of the Year title goes to Northern Ireland for first time

Jimmy Robinson, owner of Robinsons Ice Cream in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, has won Ice Cream Van of the Year 2021.

The competition is held every year by the Ice Cream Alliance (ICA), the trade association for the ice cream sector for the UK and Ireland. Robinson has three vans and three trailers operating in and around Craigavon, Portadown and Lurgan and in parks in Lisburn and Belfast.

He is the first winner from the island of Ireland in the 43 years of the competition.

“This is an absolutely fantastic honour and I’m delighted,”​ Robinson said.

ice cream van of the year
Pic: Ice Cream Alliance

“I have spent 36 years running and growing this business and all the hard work had paid off. And it’s a family effort with both my sons, my wife Carmel and my brother-in-law all working with me.”

Jimmy is the third generation of his family to sell ice cream. It started in the 1950s when his grandmother, Cora, arrived in Northern Ireland from Lucca in Tuscany to make and sell her ice cream. In the 1960s, his father, also called Jimmy, took the business over, followed by his brother Michael. Today, Robinson employs 11 people, both full and part time.

The young Robinson was a full-time Irish International table tennis player and coach when in 1985 his father persuaded to him to change direction.

“Dad helped me buy a CF Bedford van for £800 and we turned it into a makeshift ice cream van with a pop on roof and old fridge. I still remember my first day out and how much I loved it, being my own boss. I even remember, my takings of £76, and thinking this was great.

“Promoting Robinson’s Ice Cream is very important to me It's been more important than ever with Covid-19. We were one of the first operators in Northern Ireland to Covid-proof our entire operation to ensure the safety of staff and customers with the erection of screens, providing PPE to staff, and ensuring social distancing at our park sites with the inclusion of hand sanitizing stations. Winning Ice Cream Van of the Year makes all that hard work worthwhile.”

Ice Cream Van of the Year, also known as the Mobiler of the Year, is awarded annually. Entrants are judged on a range of business attributes and are whittled down to three finalists who are interviewed by a panel of ice cream industry experts – this year undertaken via Zoom. 

The ICA said Robinson took top spot because of his passion for the business and the service he provides, his work in the community and his standards across everything from health and hygiene to presentation.

The story of Fooditive

The challenging year 2020 saw growth for the Netherlands-based plant-based ingredient manufacturer Fooditive BV through upcycling third-grade and side-streams of fruit and vegetables into natural products.

Having experienced scarce availability of food during his childhood in Jordan, founder and food scientist Moayad Abushokhedim vowed to work on creating healthy and affordable food for all. In recognition of his drive for success in the food and beverage industry, Abushokhedim was named as one of the Food100 2020, an award that celebrates changemakers who are working towards transitioning to a sustainable food system.

“For a Jordanian guy like me, who cannot believe he is living his dream of changing the world, receiving this award made me realise that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. And it reminded me that I am not alone in this endeavor because there are so many others in the world who believe in making a difference,”​ Abushokhedim said.

Fooditive’s first product, a zero-calorie sweetener made from apples and pears, was the beginning. Since launching the sweetener, the company has expanded its range of products, including a thickening agent made from banana skins, a carrot-based preservative, and an emulsifier made from potato extracts.

The innovation behind Fooditive’s products led to the company being nominated for the Foodvalley Champions 2020 award in the category Food & Health. The new collaboration with Frutco AG in Switzerland, which will use Fooditive’s unique continuous fermentation process to produce a sweetener from banana side-streams, is the company’s latest step towards making the world greener and more sustainable.

Fooditive’s actions also appealed to Gary Clarke, former general manager of Mars International Travel Retail. With more than 20 years of consumer-packaged goods experience, Clarke felt “as a next step, joining Fooditive as a partner seemed like such an obvious thing to do. 

“When I learned about Fooditive’s approach to developing a circular economy and producing foods that are better for you, I really thought they were leading the charge to evolve the food industry. I believe that Fooditive really can drive the industry to a new future for food. One that is not only good for people but also good for the planet, and should we be able to scale this idea then the difference can be enormous.”

Later this year, the company will share its new products: a healthy fat replacer and a vegan milk formation.

Kerry creates ‘realistic’ plant-based cheese alternative slice

The challenge for sliced plant-based cheese alternatives is multi-faceted. It needs to be flexible enough to be separated from other slices, it needs a good melt, and it goes without saying it has to taste good. If it doesn’t fit the bill, it’s not suited for the QSR (quick service restaurant) space.

To make the meltable Kerrymaid Vegan Slice, which debuted last month, a global team of food scientists at Kerry combined dairy heritage with plant-based protein innovations.

Richard Troman, senior development and application chef, Kerry Europe and Russia, told KerryDigest recreating the quality of a dairy cheese product versus in a vegan format has always been an issue, specifically the taste, aroma and texture in application as well as ease of use operationally.

“The behaviors of dairy cheese under heating and cooking, as well as palatability, require very specific attributes that are difficult to replicate. Traditionally, most alternatives attempt to achieve both, which creates a good deal of internal tension in the development process.”

Troman said often the heightened level of processing and the increased demand on raw materials, means vegan products can be more expensive.

“Dairy cheeses often occupy a position as a core ingredient. In part due to cost, vegan alternatives do not occupy the same menu space and therefore need to deliver more value than the standard product they are replicating,”​ Troman said.

He said the new slice was formed on a roller, like a conventional dairy-based burger slice.

“We use less starch than the block-formed process used by most of the competition, which leads to a far more pleasing texture in both cold and hot formats,”​ he told KerryDigest, adding the vegan slice folds and peels like a conventional slice, allowing it to be handled without fear of breaking.

Troman said the melt is in line with the standard processed slice and will form to the shape of the core it is applied to, conforming to what the consumer would expect.

Siobhan McNickle, senior marketing manager, Kerry Europe and Russia, told KerryDigest, “After all the hard work from the wider teams in Kerry, we are excited to bring the Kerrymaid Vegan Slice to market. The product will be available in Europe from the beginning of April in pack sizes of 56. With the slice-on-slice format, it is easy to handle in busy QSR kitchens and our testing shows the great melt means they are perfect for vegan burger builds.”

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