Everything Made Fresh

Jamaican Marlon Davis scoops ice cream success in the USA…

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When Marlon Davis left the Jamaica Observer in 2007, starting an ice-cream venture was the farthest thing on his mind. Indeed, climbing the corporate ladder was his focus.

Seven years later, Davis is a budding entrepreneur with ice cream as his latest venture.

Davis has introduced the United States to the unique flavours of Jamaica. "In early 2012," he begins, "I suddenly started to develop a real craving for Jamaican stout ice cream. I couldn't find any so I decided to try and make my own. I bought a little home-made ice cream maker on Amazon and started to experiment.

"Of course everyone laughed at me as I hardly knew the way around the kitchen and was certainly no chef on the rise!

"It dawned on me one day, though, that over three million Jamaicans live in the US, mainly in New York and Florida with a total Caribbean diaspora of approximately 10 million people (depending of course, on whose statistics you use) and they all basically live in the same communities and zip codes. Then I thought, Oh I bet a lot of these people are having the same cravings that I'm having. That's how the business idea emerged.

My next step was to really focus on research and learning the business and product development." A chance encounter with some Italian ice-cream experts in New York proved fortuitous as they taught Davis the business, including the pitfalls to avoid. Today, Davis refers to them as his mentors in the ice-cream business as they also helped him to perfect the consistency and quality of Nesberrys ice cream. Davis opened his first store in November 2012.

What started out as a passion to satisfy his own cravings soon developed into satisfying the cravings of not just fellow Jamaicans but many, many lovers of ice cream, and has become a veritable business opportunity.

"It's a competitive business and America is the #1 consumer of ice cream in the world," explains Davis. "However, Americans also like new and different so we created the brand not just with Jamaicans in mind -- our mission is to introduce the world and all cultures to the joy of Caribbean ice-cream flavours.

"This is why we started looking for locations that would afford us traffic from all socio-demographics and ethnicities including Caribbean nationals. A mall was naturally uppermost in our minds but we also knew it would be a tough sell. God was certainly with us... I picked up the phone and called the leasing number for the Green Acres Mall which happens to be the second-largest mall in New York. Incredibly, the VP of Leasing (the man himself) happened to answer. I immediately went into my sales pitch. I remember him saying 'but we already have Baskin Robbins in the mall.

"However, when I explained our differentiation, our Caribbean and Jamaican uniqueness, flavours and style he immediately fell in love with the concept as he thought it would bring value to the mall."

When pressed further about his product's competitive advantage Davis is quick to reference differentiation, quality and customer service. " We manufacture our premium ice cream at a plant we built from the ground up. As a result, we have flavours that no other American ice-cream brand carries or produces at our quality eg soursop, Jamaican rum cake, Irie Jamaican stout, rum and raisin (the Jamaican way) mango, Blue Mountain Coffee, grapenut and sorbet flavours that include guava, passion fruit and melon. Naturally, we do traditional flavours like vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, etc, as every ice cream brand must have those".

There is, too, a complete range of milk shakes and smoothies that are made from our ice cream and sorbet flavours done to order. The company's tagline is: Everything Made Fresh.

There's no getting around asking Davis about the 'wrong spelling' of the word Naseberry. "The name Nesberrys was a deliberate part of our marketing strategy," says Davis. " We needed a name that would immediately resonate with Caribbean nationals, especially Jamaicans. I also noticed that a lot of frozen dessert chains used fruit names. The one fruit that had a nice ring to it, that was decidedly Jamaican and easily identifiable, was a naseberry.

"I also realised that it's pronounced either knees-berry or nase-berry. The spelling that best matched either pronunciation was nes-berrys.

The name has really worked, people take notice ostensibly because of the name."

No idle boast: we certainly did!


Did you know that the ice-cream industry in the US is valued at eight billion dollars?

Did you know that vanilla ice cream is still the most popular ice cream flavour?

Did you know that 70% of Jamaicans in the US say grapenut is their favourite flavour?

You might be surprised to know that Trinidadians like soursop ice cream more than other traditional flavours.

Davis’ US$12,000- LOAN

Marlon Davis secured a US$12,000 loan from Lendio to increase his storage space by more than 50 per cent and to buy 10 new freezers for supermarkets and restaurants across New York State.

Starting the business was easy and fun. The difficult part came in finding the money to grow the business. That's where Lendio came into the picture -- a free online service that helps businesses find the right type of loan within minutes. Lendio works with small business owners across the country to help them find the financing necessary to grow their business and succeed.





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