To continue its artisanal ice cream production with gusto, Britain’s Simply Ice Cream completed a long-awaited move to larger premises near Ashford, Kent this summer.
The ice cream brand – which is sold in more than 450 locations in South East England including in supermarket chain Waitrose – was founded in 2005, initially supplying one farm shop before adding five more outlets the following year. “It wasn’t until 2007/early 2008 after Waitrose had approached us that we converted a third of our house into a ‘factory’ and decided to see where we could take the business,” Simply Ice Cream’s founder, Sally Newall, told DairyReporter.
“The site move has been a long time coming, and over the last five years it’s been a case of ‘let’s do it’ - only to be hampered by Brexit, then the pandemic. However, the pandemic allowed me time to work on the business again and implement ideas that had been in the background for a number of years.”
Made by hand
The family-run company now occupies Ouseley Dairy’s former premises in Hinxhill, and the new space is expected to allow the ice cream firm to grow the brand further. And due to the new site's proximity to the old one, relationships with local suppliers and importers will be maintained. The ice cream too will continue to be made by hand. "Our USP has always been that we use a lot more double cream than other ice cream producers and therefore the recipe doesn’t work in a machine, so we will continue to make by hand," Newall explained. "This also gives us the advantage of being able to easily provide bespoke flavors and make all our 34 flavors in a day, if necessary.
“We have taken on two additional staff to date and are hopeful that we can continue to grow - although with the landscape as it is at the moment, we are aware the growth plan might be slightly challenged.”
The new site also offers a chance for the manufacturer to strengthen its environmental credentials. “The new site had been derelict, so we were able to start from scratch and ensure that all the equipment we installed - air-conditioning systems, new freezer equipment, chillers, boilers - was as efficient as possible with the lowest emissions. We are looking at installing solar panels on the roof and also looking at wind turbines."
For humans and…dogs
At the heart of the business is the growing range of hand-made dairy and vegan flavours but also the yogurt-based Simply Pawfection ‘ice cream’ for dogs, which has proved a hit with retailers and for which the company has reported ‘overwhelming demand’. “All the outlets that had taken it have had multiple repeat orders with fantastic feedback,” reflected Newall.
Franchise scheme & e-commerce
Production aside, the company is focused on broadening its distribution partnerships nation-wide, and has launched a franchise scheme to attract interested parties. “We currently have a franchise partner in Suffolk who is gaining traction with the surrounding farm shops, delis, independents and hospitality sector and also attending lots of events and markets to raise awareness,” explained Newall. “We are hoping to emulate this across the country, county by county.”
With the new physical site came a new website, designed to appeal more to end-customers. “The previous website wasn’t set up to be customer-facing, so we felt it was time to give it some much needed TLC and make our online shopping experience far more consumer-friendly,” explained Newall. Available on the web are exclusive ‘collections’ in addition to the brand’s more established flavors.
Reflecting on the year so far and the move to a new HQ, she concluded: “We launched a franchise distribution partnership, an e-commerce site, a vegan range of ice creams and a dog range. We also have a few other things in the pipeline, so a move to a bigger site was paramount to the growth plan - albeit we hadn’t factored in a war and a subsequent energy and fuel crisis.
“We are hoping that the current climate with increasing costs and issues with the supply chain will level out a little towards the end of the year - but that might be a bit optimistic! I think it’s really important to remain positive in adversity - and if we want to continue and safeguard our employees and the business, we just have to keep going and deal with whatever is thrown into the mix over the next few months.”