Pure Imag­i­na­tion

Caterer Middle East - - Feature -

The equip­ment is ab­so­lutely gleam­ing. Glint­ing sil­ver as far as the eye can see, ex­cept when you catch your own re­flec­tion in the pol­ished steel. While we are slightly dis­ap­pointed there is no choco­late river, it’s hard not to be ex­cited in an ice cream fac­tory.

Chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer (i.e. the Wonka of this fac­tory) Vasco Sousa is our golden ticket to the sights and sounds of a real, work­ing ice cream fac­tory. Tucked away in Dubai’s in­dus­trial area Al Quoz, the build­ing it­self is unas­sum­ing, but con­tains ev­ery child’s dream.

Two dreams per­haps. As more than just an ice cream fac­tory, we’re in the world’s first Jelly Belly Ice Cream fac­tory. The pop­u­lar Amer­i­can jelly bean beloved by US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan and le­gions of chil­dren since 1897.

To un­der­stand just how big a deal that is, Jelly Belly Ice Cream COO Paul Ra­son tells us “it’s the first time that Jelly Belly has outsourced an edi­ble prod­uct since

Like Char­lie en­ter­ing the choco­late fac­tory, Caterer Mid­dle East took a trip to a Willy Wonka-es­que ice cream fac­tory in

the heart of in­dus­trial Dubai. This is what we found

1897 to a third party com­pany. We’re an Emi­rati com­pany mak­ing a new gourmet ice cream prod­uct and ex­port­ing it to the world from Dubai”.

In un­der two years, Jelly Belly Ice Cream has gone from an idea to a ful­lyfledged con­cept with mul­ti­ple stores and 50 flavours of ice cream – all ap­proved by the Jelly Belly team in Amer­ica.

Sousa, known as Dr Ice by the team, is the cat­a­lyst for the trans­for­ma­tion. Bring­ing over three decades of ice cream mak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the com­pany, in­clud­ing at big boys Mag­num and Ben & Jerry’s, he has pro­duced a level of gourmet ice cream un­seen cer­tainly in the Gulf – Caterer Mid­dle East did our best Au­gus­tus Gloop im­pres­sion as we tried a large num­ber of them to check. Fa­mous Jelly Belly flavours like Very Cherry and Panckes and Maple Syrup are among the 50 ice creams on of­fer, while com­pletely new cre­ations from the mind of Sousa give it an orig­i­nal feel.

When it comes to cre­at­ing an ice cream flavour, even one based on an ex­ist­ing Jelly Belly bean, Sousa ad­mits that he doesn’t stick too strictly to the flavour of the bean.

He says: “If you ask me are they ex­actly the flavours of the jelly bean, or the tex­ture? No, not re­ally. What we re­ally took from the Jelly Belly world was the gourmet fac­tor. Jelly Belly in the con­fec­tionary world is the gourmet jelly bean.

“So when I think about a new flavour I think about the real thing. You have some iconic Jelly Belly flavours like Very Cherry but if I do an ice cream I’m pro­fil­ing the taste of the real cherry, a true to life in­spi­ra­tion.”

The ex­tent to which Sousa and Jelly Belly Ice Cream go to to achieve that qual­ity is sur­pris­ing. That car­rot cake flavour ice cream? It con­tains real car­rot cake. The ap­ple pie flavour? They bake ap­ple pies at a lo­cal bak­ery and work them right into the mix. Us­ing lo­cal sup­pli­ers and real pro­duce, the flavours are as close to life as you can imag­ine.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, get­ting that stan­dard of qual­ity was vi­tal for Jelly Belly. Her­man Row­land, chair­man of Jelly Belly Candy Com­pany was ac­tively in­volved in the cre­ations, Ra­son tell us.

“Her­man ap­proved all the flavours pretty quickly. He was very happy that we got the im­mer­sive flavour ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause Jelly Belly as a brand is all about depth and breadth. Vasco did an amaz­ing job, he got that right very quickly and un­der­stood what we needed to get it right. So Jelly Belly are very happy about it.”

The same stan­dard goes from the ice cream it­self to the par­lours where they sell it. From the be­gin­ning, and after ex­ten­sive mar­ket re­search, Ra­son says he “wanted to make it a quan­tum leap above the stan­dard. We wanted to make sure that it res­onated well with mil­len­ni­als and that it didn’t look like a fran­chise.”

By the end of 2018 there will be eight Jelly Belly Ice Cream stores in the UAE, with an­other eight al­ready con­firmed for 2019 – but with Ra­son telling us that the to­tal num­ber is ex­pected to be “closer to 20 out­lets by the end of next year”.

He adds: “We want to look at other mar­kets out­side of the UAE and our ob­jec­tive is by Q1 or Q2 next year to an­nounce a new mar­ket for the brand” within their al­ready agreed ter­ri­tory of MENA, Tur­key, In­dia, and South Africa. How­ever, Jelly Belly Ice Cream also has first re­fusal on open­ing fur­ther stores un­der the brand glob­ally, so the po­ten­tial to make it a world­wide op­er­a­tion is a very real one.

As it stands, de­spite their am­bi­tious growth plans, Ra­son says that the cur­rent fac­tory will last them “at least a good solid five years eas­ily”. But thoughts are al­ready turn­ing to a new ded­i­cated plant that would al­low for eas­ier ex­port to other coun­tries in the re­gion.

It seems Jelly Belly Ice Cream is on the great glass el­e­va­tor to suc­cess.


Jelly Belly Ice Cream COO Paul Ra­son

Chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cerVasco Sousa

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