Fifteen minutes with Jane Lear, Director of Lacock Dairy
Find out more about Lacock Dairy and why not add some to your next order for your customers to try. Lacock dairy gelato is available for our wholesale customers.
Tell us a bit about Lacock Dairy and why it’s so special?
It’s special because we are all friends with the same vision, which is to make great gelato ice cream! My business partner Tony Doel is part of a farm partnership (5th generation) with the last dairy herd in Lacock. Lacock Dairy was born because of a discussion about how primary producers can take back control of their distribution chain – and a bottle of wine too many!
Your background is biology and marketing – what started you on the journey of gelato making?
After 2 years of ‘retirement’ from a Life Sciences company I was so bored. I am a Farmer’s daughter from Kent and so recognise the problem for primary producers: to gain some level of control over pricing and distribution, one must either sell direct or add value to your product.
Getting from an idea to a small business is a lot of work! When did it first sink in for you that ‘this is really happening’?
Pretty quickly! As a scientist this was a bit of a challenge – but I did think that making gelato would be easier than making a vaccine for malaria. I now know that this is not true!
Did you go to learn with someone to make gelato or did you research and learn how to make it yourself?
We realised that we needed some good equipment and purchased some Carpigiani machines which are considered the Ferraris of the gelato world. Luckily, they are built to last a lifetime, so we managed to buy some pre-loved machines and part of the deal was to be given some recipes. I quickly realised that these were not going to be enough, and I now find myself with a large library of books entitled: The Science of Ice Cream, The Perfect Scoop, Icecreamists and Gelato Messina. I also found out what Linkedin is all about and we have a great Italian gelato chef called Paolo who helps us out when we get stuck!
What are the essential skills for making gelato?
Attention to detail and enthusiasm! Our Production Manager Denise has both in large quantities and is a great partner-in-crime when it comes to testing new flavours or different ingredients. It’s endlessly surprising how really small changes can have such a big impact on texture and flavour.
What are your most popular flavours?
This depends a bit on the customer. Pubs and Restaurants just love our Madagascan Vanilla and are quite conservative in their choices, whereas our direct customers are always after the more unusual flavours such as Stem Ginger, Peanut Butter or Sweet Cinnamon. Our dog gelato is very popular with our canine friends!
Out of all your products, which is your personal favourite and why?
My personal favourite is Peanut Butter. Strangely my palate is more savoury than sweet which is why our gelato are less sweet than traditional ice cream – and I get to make the recipes!
Have there been any disaster flavours you’ve made that just didn’t work or unusual flavours you thought wouldn’t work but have?
Disaster flavours abound! Mulled wine sorbet was absolutely horrible and we did try a matcha green tea one for a customer which again is not something that I would like to repeat!
What is the difference between gelato and ice cream?
Gelato has LESS fat: it uses more milk than cream – ice cream uses more cream than milk. That also means that you get more flavour and a cleaner mouthfeel with gelato.
Gelato has LESS air: it is churned more slowly in small batches
Gelato has a very smooth texture: smoother than ice cream
…and Our Gelato has less added sugar
Tell us a bit more about how you are focussing in on sustainability when making this product?
Our 120ml and 500ml tubs are fully recyclable and from the start we requested wooden spoons in the lids of the 120ml – this has taken the Italians a while to sort but they are now fully on board. We chose 2/4 Litre tubs instead of napolis as chefs generally re-use them for food storage and this means that they are not single use as are the napolis. Wherever possible we recycle our cardboard outers. The vanilla that we buy is the ‘real’ thing and comes from Littlepod, a sustainable source.
I’ve noticed you’ve opened a vending machine at Mile Elm? What other plans and ambitions for the brand do you have for the future?
The vending machine was only the second in the UK and is at Milk@Mile Elm which is owned by my neighbour Jane Lewis: there is a milk station there and other locally produced food e.g., eggs, honey & potatoes. Our strategy for the next 6 months is to develop the B2B market and longer term we just need to grow – but we are not interested in taking over the World!
What future flavours are on your make list?
If anyone has any suggestions, please send them on to me. I am just working out the costings on a White Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple option, but I think that we do have rather too many flavours! We are particularly proud of our two alcohol-based ones that we developed for last Christmas: Cointreau & Orange and Venetian Tiramisu. And we are just starting to make our Christmas Pudding Limited Edition.
What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?
I am a pretty curious person and enjoy the creativity of running a successful business. Part of the intrigue of setting up Lacock Dairy was to see whether it is possible to create a successful brand today without very deep pockets or celebrity endorsement. A successful business is always based on the people, so melding an effective team that works well together is an important part of my motivation.
What is a typical workday for you?
Checking on production, putting orders on the system, visiting customers, doing sales calls – and anything else that needs doing! I am also networking more and looking at developing our social media: we need to make people more excited about gelato and particularly Lacock Dairy gelato.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future, eg gelato making workshops etc
Our production kitchen is on a working farm and the machinery used is pretty huge, so safety is an issue and we do not encourage visits. I would love to do some workshops, but we would need to find an appropriate venue. Other exciting plans involve doing more events in 2024.