Norwich business is the cream of the crop after 90 years
Ninety years ago, it wouldn't have been an arduous task to decide which flavour ice cream to choose from Mr Christmas Aldous.
Then, the choice was simple: vanilla. Today, the business which celebrates its ninetieth anniversary this year has a sweet selection of mouth-watering flavours, from raspberries and cream to fruits of the forest, butterscotch to rum and raisin, pistachio to stem ginger and coffee to chocolate.
'A lot of people remember the Aldous family and they've remained loyal to the company ever since,' says managing director Chris Coughlan, as he looks at a picture of brothers Ronnie and Chris Aldous, sons of Christmas Aldous, beaming down from the wall.
'Although today we produce lots of different flavours, we still produce ice cream in the traditional way and we stick to the recipes that were used 90 years ago.
'For us, it's all about the flavour – using the very best ingredients, local if possible, and taking real pride in what we do. We love our ice cream and we want everyone else to love our ice cream, too.'
The creamery's office is based at the old Aldous family home, where ice cream has been produced for decades since the company's humble beginnings in King Street in 1921. The business then moved to Cricket Ground Road before locating to Trafalgar Street, off Hall Road.
With a loyal local customer base, the Norwich-produced ice cream is also enjoyed across the country and is stocked at top class department stores such as Harrods, in addition to a host of East Anglian farm shops and delicatessens, Waitrose, the Sandringham Estate, Zaks restaurants and BeWILDerwood.
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The company makes Norfolk County Gold ice cream in the traditional batch method, using fresh cream, egg yolks and an array of 24 delicious flavours and eight flavours of Aldous traditional ice cream using full-cream fresh milk. It also produces Eileen's Diabetic Ice Cream in three flavours.
Now the proud owners of 120 industry awards, including 19 Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Foods, the small-but-perfectly formed factory has undergone renovation in recent years, although you can still spy some of the original black and white tiles from the 1950s.
Between the factory floor and the former Aldous house is a shop where passers-by can pick up a tub of their favourite ice cream and, if they're lucky, catch the scent of ice cream in the air as it is produced.
'When the Aldous family started selling ice cream, ice cream meant vanilla, and that was the case for years. Other flavours like strawberry and chocolate eventually crept in, but the real explosion in the industry came about 20 years ago,' says Chris, who bought Lakenham Creamery in 1992.
'People started to want more unusual flavours. They began to have a greater awareness about cooking and suddenly were able to easily get hold of fruits that had previously been fairly unobtainable.
'They were travelling to places where they were tasting new flavours and when they came back home, they wanted to taste them again.
'We try and avoid copying what the Americans do; for us it's about being a traditional British ice cream company producing the kind of ice cream you'd enjoy in a cone at the seaside or for dessert.
'I think some ice cream is too over-the-top – it's as if everything possible has been thrown into the tub whereas we tend to prefer clean flavours.' The newest flavour available from Lakenham Creamery is blueberries and cream, devised by operations manager Carl Wright ('blueberries are a super food, aren't they? And they're even more super in ice cream,' he says) and other flavours are under consideration, such as a return of the popular pink grapefruit ice cream and vanilla with chilli and chocolate chip.
Top-sellers are, in order, vanilla, Belgian chocolate, rum and raisin, raspberries and cream and strawberry, but every flavour has its own loyal devotees who will travel miles for an icy fix.
'We're a close-knit team at the factory and my staff have been here a long time and are experts at what they do. It shows in the final product – we wouldn't send something out unless it was perfect,' says Chris.
'There aren't many people who don't love ice cream, so we very much hope that the company will still be as healthy as it is today in another 90 years.
'We're proud to carry on a fine tradition. People say to me that we must have the best job in the world, and they're right.'
Lakenham Creamery is at 2 Trafalgar Street, Norwich. Telephone 01603 620970 or visit lakenhamcreamery.co.uk