On The Up

Simply Ice Creams: The artisan brand which survived a packaging disaster

Hunter Ruthven | 21 December 2015 | 9 years ago

The ice cream maker places a big emphasis on quality ingredients
The ice cream maker places a big emphasis on quality ingredients
Operating in a highly-competitive market with notoriously tough margins, Simply Ice Creams has built up quite a following and is now available in a leading high street supermarket chain.

We wanted to find out more so sat down with founder Sally Newall to find out how it all began and where she would one day like to take her ice cream empire.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

My name is Sally Newall and I run a company called Simply Ice Creams. We manufacture a range of luxury ice creams and sorbets in a variety of 32 flavours, supplying into retail and food service. We are an artisan company and all our ice creams are made by hand in small batches, we hand pot and hand label so we truly are a hand made, home made artisan company.

(2) How long have you been around for

We set the business up in October 2005, so ten years now although it was a really slow start. I had been running, and continue to run, a catering business alongside the ice cream company and in 2005 I was still doing an awful lot of weddings and events. So initially our ice cream was in one farm shop in 2005 for a six-month trial. We then went into five in 2006/7 and 15 in 2007/8. By 2008 we felt there was enough uptake to try and take it to the next level, and we launched in Waitrose in April 2008 alongside around 65 further independents that year. From there we continue to grow year on year.

(3) How do you make money

The margins in food are really quite low. As a producer you are selling to the retailer who need to make a mark up to sell to the end consumer, with distributors you also need to factor in another tier, I often have conversations with other producers where margins can be as low as 2.5 per cent, we tend to try and stick to around 15 per cent. However this industry is not a get rich quick option.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice

As an artisan producer we only use the finest quality ingredients we can source, which are never cheap and our ethos is and will continue to be to buy fresh and local where possible. We don’t use any stabilisers, preservatives, additives, syrups or mixes only fresh fruit or inclusions that we make ourselves in the production unit, such as our 3* Great Taste Award winning honeycomb, batches of which are made every morning for production that day. The Brown Bread ice cream is made and caramelised when needed. Many of our ice creams are made using only four or five ingredients, cream, milk, sugar and fresh strawberries for example.

Sally Newall 2 mid res copy
Ice cream entrepreneur Sally Newall
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

I think its really important to check out all competition both locally and nationally, you then need to trial the product as widely as possible to gain valuable feedback. Friends and family will always be your biggest fans but this doesn’t always equate to success in a wider market. We were so lucky to be able to trial our product in a local farm shop from October to March, not the most ideal time to trial an ice cream across the winter months but it did show us we had a product that could be sold in retail. We also attended as many local events as possible and gained valuable face-to-face feedback.

Packaging was the next hurdle and it took us a good year to get it right, investing in a good designer early on pays dividends later, so is well worth doing. We have been self-funded throughout, I was able to do this as it was a slow start and because I was still catering so that was my income. Any income from the ice cream was ploughed back into the business and as and when we had the funds we bought essential equipment (e.g. walk in freezers, vans, office equipment(.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

I think just surviving! Each year we have built the business, we have always ensured we have a very sound financial footing and if we can’t afford to do something we wait until we can. I think the biggest threat to any business is over-stretching itself and in the current economic climate you can’t be too careful.

Simply delicious homemade luxury ice cream(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

We had a massive set back in 2007/8 when all our packaging had to be returned to the printers as it was all out of registration andall the words were completely blurred on the pots. They looked awful, and we had had to order 50, 000 pots in one hit. We were due to be launching with Waitrose so had to put that on hold. It got sorted eventually, but it did put us back about eight months.

(8)in five years? time, I will be?

Continuing to grow the business hopefully through extensive exporting alongside our continued growth in the UK.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Do your research thoroughly before spending lots of money and get expert advice in doing so. As a one-man band setting up, you have to wear so many hats so it’s well worth taking advice from the experts, especially HR.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

I think everyone running a small business are myheroes. I know only too well how many hours we all have to put in and how hard it is to grow a business so I have absolute respect for anyone out there doing it for themselves.

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