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Behind the scenes at New Forest Ice Cream

PUBLISHED: 16:42 30 May 2014

Sue Jenman, David Bishop, Lawrie Jenman, Graham Jenman, Christina Veal and Niki Jenman

Sue Jenman, David Bishop, Lawrie Jenman, Graham Jenman, Christina Veal and Niki Jenman

Archant

Following a multi-million pound move to a new factory in Lymington, we sent Claire Pitcher behind the scenes at New Forest Ice Cream to meet the family from which this successful Hampshire treasure stems

Pawel Wolowski works in the production departmentPawel Wolowski works in the production department

It all started with me asking dad to make me some ice cream,” reveals Christina Veal, director at New Forest Ice Cream. “He actually went away and made me some – and we’ve been making it ever since. He would make up batches and store them in the freezer. Then he moved on and bought a small industrial unit and began supplying little post offices around the area and it just grew and grew.”

That was 31 years ago. Lawrie and Sue Jenman had always been in retail and began running the post office stores in Everton village, gradually growing their stock to include locally produced meats, veg and fruit. In the summer however, they could never seem to get a good supply of ice cream; the Wall’s and Lyons Maid treats would often quickly run out. Lawrie and Sue’s ice cream creations were therefore becoming more and more popular and before long the couple decided to focus on their ice cream production and sold the post office.

Bigger and better

With production now at Ampress Lane in Lymington, the family business has grown and expanded, as have the family members working there. A quick count includes mum and dad Lawrie and Sue, daughters Christina and Niki, son Graham and nephew David. But does working together lead to any family fueds? “We don’t necesarrily work with them as we all have our own areas of expertise,” says Niki. “Christina and I love sales and dad, even though he is director, has backed off a little now, as has mum. They are both in the 70s.”

The twin sisters decided to enter the family fold 21 years ago. Having both gone to college they decided what they really wanted to do was get into the wide world and start earning money: “We always did well at school but we’d have jobs at weekends. We’re just like our parents – workaholics,” admits Christina.

Niki and Christina bought the office (then on Bridge Road in Lymingon), right up to date: “Mum and dad had no computer system, they were hand writing invoices.”

Fancy flavours

Sambuca, liquorice, peach bellini, mojito, Turkish delight and salted caramel are just a sprinkling of the flavours New Forest Ice Cream have created over the years - some of which have won Great Taste Awards. At the last count the company had seven of these and this year they are entering another seven: Turkish delight, mojito sorbet, coconut, salted caramel, vanilla pod, coffee mocha and peach bellini.

“Peach bellini was our 30th anniversary flavour,” recalls Niki. “As it was ‘pearl’ we put in a peach ripple with Champagne base and sparkling pearl sugar balls in so it looked snazzy and bubbly.” The creation is so popular that they are continuing to produce it this year: “It seems everyone wants it,” Niki says proudly.

Taste testers

Indeed, it was Niki who came up with the flavour having been inspired when sitting at a train station in London sipping a strawberry daiquiri. “We’ve all come up with our fair share of flavour ideas; it was actually a chef who provided the inspiration for salted caramel a few years ago – now it’s one of our most popular flavours,” says Christina.

Once inspiration arrives it’s mum Sue, cousin David and long-term employee Sandra who then create the recipes; a small sample to begin with to taste and tweak before the factory is set into motion.

“We all get together to taste them once we have a sample. We need as many people as possible to try it and give the thumbs up,” informs Christina.

It’s fair to say all of New Forest Ice Cream’s flavours are delicious, but surely there’s always the temptation to put together something odd, like Heston’s mustard or bacon and egg ice cream? “Our strangest flavour was called ‘Horrid Henry’. It came from a competition for children to invent a flavour and the winner was a roast dinner ice cream. A Yorkshire pudding base with sprouts, carrots, gravy and stock in the ice cream. You know what, it actually tasted quite good,” laughs Christina, although there have never been plans to release it to the rest of the world.

Work, rest and play

The business of ice cream certainly sounds like a lot of fun, but there’s very little rest for this business’s family members. Christina is still scooping at the weekends at fairs and shows – there’s always something that’s demanding the girls’ attention. As Christina explains: “You never get away from it. We’ve had to give up certain things in our lives because we’ve got the business and we’re away quite a lot so there is a downside; but overall we look at what we have all done and it makes us very proud. We can’t let it go now, we’ve built up this reputation and we’re not about to let it start slipping.”

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The scoop

-In just one year New Forest Ice Cream produces about 1.5 million litres of ice cream.

-£250,000 a year is spent on milk to produce the ice cream

-Vanilla is their best selling flavour, closely followed by toffee crunch.

-Over the years New Forest Ice Cream has created over 100 flavours

-Of all the family members it’s Christina’s children who devour the most ice cream: “Mostly because we have an ice cream van on our driveway a lot of the year - their friends love coming to our house!”

-New Forest Ice Cream creates a very special ice cream treat for dogs. Visit www.billyandmargo.com

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Meet the team

David Bishop, Head of Production

Favourite flavor: Brownie and white chocolate

Nephew David used to own his own skate boarding shop. “I got fed up getting greasy hands; I needed a change and my aunt and uncle offered me a place here. That was 14 years ago and I have to say it’s been great working alongside my family. We’ve been producing more ice cream each year, which is very encouraging – it seems everyone still wants ice cream even if there is a recession.

***

Sandra Cummings, Production Worker

Favourite flavour: Mint choc chip

“I’ve been here for 17 years, since I left school. When I was little I used to love ice cream, who doesn’t? So when I saw that New Forest Ice Cream was so close to where I lived - literally a stone’s throw - I saw it as an opportunity to do what I always wanted. I love everything about my job here, but mostly I love the people I get to work with. At the moment this is one of the best teams we’ve had. We’re all family really, not just some of us.”

***

Lee Flannigan, Production Worker

Favourite flavour: Turkish delight

Another long-term member of staff, Lee has been with the company for 10 years. “It’s the job that’s so enjoyable, working with these guys and living so close. My typical working day involves preparing the machines so they’re ready for making the ice cream in the morning. I keep an eye on the machines and make sure they’re running smoothly. We used to do a lot more hand packing but we have had to automate everything to produce more - we needed to modernise. Every day something new and different happens and our team is brilliant.”

***

Malcolm Richardson, Warehouse Manager

Favourite flavour: Mint choc chip

“I’m warehouse manager now,” says Malcolm, “but I’ve been here 20 years. Back at the beginning I drove for them for five years then I moved into the warehouse. When we moved in to the new premises at Ampress Lane we had to help build the place and decorate it. When you have worked so hard at something you tend to take more care of it and form a real attachment.”

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