As Tony was still ploughing on with our first VAT return,
I had to go to the Ice Cream Alliance’s Exhibition alone. As this would be the only chance we’d get to visit the show, we decided I should go on my own rather than miss it altogether – too much of an opportunity & certainly providing potential food for thought (literally!).
I left Tony to do the milking & set off for Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, going along the M4 & then up along the Heads of the Valleys road, a well-chosen route as it was a lovely, sunny day & the forests which skirt the lower valleys & further along near the lovely hills of Abergavenny, were resplendent in a tapestry of rich autumnal colour.
The show was quieter than I’d anticipated; however this meant I had plenty of opportunity to look & learn about the art of ice cream. And it certainly is turning into an art form – I was amazed at the diversity of colour, flavours & fruits, wafers, chocolate sculptures & sprinkles with which the Italians in particular, now embellish the humble cornet.
We however, are looking to travel our business in exactly the opposite direction – foolhardy or not. We want to go back to ice cream which is simple & traditional, made with just a few natural ingredients (no artificial additives allowed!) but really bringing out the depth & complexity of the flavours; married to the luscious, light creaminess of the goats’ milk. We feel that it would be completely wrong to overdress & overprocess what is a natural, healthy milk which offers so many benefits for sufferers of a variety of allergies, including lactose intolerance, asthma etc; & we are looking at reducing sugar levels without losing taste by using different types of sweetening foods, & not by pumping in chemical saccharines. Thus – in homage to my dear, departed sister Melissa; & for my father & our friend & neighbour, Lloyd – we intend to produce a diabetic-friendly food. Are we doing the right thing, going for simple freshness & flavour rather than ‘wow’ factor visual appeal?
So, with the various exhibitors, I discussed things such as equipment required, natural flavourings (some of which I am very excited about), packaging, storage & transportation; & discovered a great deal. It certainly set me to thinking very hard, on the four-hour drive back home. As I hadn’t left the exhibition until a while after it closed, having been discussing general start-up options & areas of diversification with John, the very knowledgeable & enthusiastic director of an equipment provider in Hereford who has just set up his own Ice Cream Academy, I didn’t get back on the road until almost 7pm.
After the long, dark drive home I was certainly glad to get back & relax with a cup of tea, just before 11pm, having made good time in spite of taking my leisure on the return route. Relieved to have successfully completed & posted the VAT return, Tony was relaxed & chatty despite now having to get his nose stuck back in the books to revise for Yet Another Impending Flying Exam. And so, we discussed at length the issues I came across today. We are now definitely of the convicition that we must grasp this opportunity & for the time being make ice cream our headline product: the crux of the matter, is that this is where we have the greatest market potential at present.
However, I will continue with my cheesemaking albeit on a smaller scale for now, to maintain our diversification as well as to ‘keep my hand in’ (plus I just love the alchemy of transforming foaming, creamy milk into solid little logs of crumbly Carn Ingli, buttery Budloy Brie or a velvet-smooth, semi-hard Henllys – recipes to follow….!).
Hours later & with my mind still buzzing, we retired to bed; me happily clutching an excellent book on (you guessed it) making ice cream which had arrived in today’s post, before I fell into fitful slumber, the peaks of the Preselis turning into mounds of snowy confection in my restless dreams.