Ice cream entrepreneur churns ahead with supermarket presence

Ice cream entrepreneur churns ahead with supermarket presence

Observer writer

Sunday, January 05, 2020

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Larry Gardiner, the entrepreneur behind the popular Twist ice cream parlour in Tower Isle, St Mary which serves its own special brand of non-dairy ice cream, is now offering the product through the General Foods supermarkets in Ocho Rios and Kingston.

The ice cream which is packaged as Vineyard Town Premium Blend Non-Dairy Ice Cream features 10 flavours made from coconut milk, without GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or artificial flavouring.

The flavours include blue java (coffee), soursop, sorrell, coconut blitz, coconut vanilla, Peruvian chocolate, rum & raisin, grapenut, cookies & creme, guava passion and jackfruit.

Gardiner explained that the big leap forward to manufacturing for distribution in supermarkets was a step which took place ahead of its time and puts his business plan about a year and a half ahead of schedule. The early move to distribution came from a proactive approach from General Foods.

“The manager of the Ocho Rios General Foods store kept hearing about us through their employees,” Gardiner explained. “So she came up to the ice cream parlour one night to try it for herself and she was saying that the Kingston crowd would be a really good place for it.”

“We went to do an in-store promotion one Friday afternoon to see how people reacted to it,” Gardiner continued. “That was October 27 at the Kingston store and we've been selling out every week since then.”

The ice cream entrepreneur revealed that the success of the promotion led them to do one in Ocho Rios as well shortly afterwards. The plan is to add five more flavours within the next month to those already being distributed.

The earlier than expected additional demand for the ice cream means that Gardiner's company, BabyLove's C-G Foods, has to adapt quickly and will adopt a fully automated system to increase production.

“I am a year and a half ahead of my business plan so we are trying to become automated within the next 90 days,” he said. “We are putting in a complete ice cream plant.”

It is another big step in what has been an interesting journey for the businessman. His Twist ice cream parlour has pulled curious customers from St Mary, St Ann, Montego Bay, Kingston and various parts of Jamaica.

Through word of mouth, Twist's traditional ice creams, sundaes, smoothies and shakes have become well-known for their taste and special appeal as non-dairy alternatives.

“When I retired and came to Jamaica I had a five year plan,” Gardiner said, revealing his business objectives. “I really wanted to do manufacturing of the ice cream.

“My wife and father-in-law said you should do retail because, one, you can't have a product and not have it readily available to the public and then, two, how do you know manufacturing will actually work for you until people buy the product. So at least if you have a retail outlet, they can come and sample the product and you can sell and go from there.

“So I gave in to the retail thing which is the best thing I ever did but I still wanted to do manufacturing. I figured in about two or three years from now, once things are set up, I would probably be building a name to do manufacturing. But now we're kind of full speed ahead.”

Gardiner expects that once the production of the ice cream is fully automated, further expansion of distribution will follow increasing the exposure of his exotic and unusual brand of ice cream.

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