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5 fantastic independent ice cream brands

We look at five independent artisan ice cream companies that are helping to set the benchmark with top quality products.

Opting for the cheap and cheerful is sometimes sensible when times are tight, but the fact that people are often prepared to spend a bit more on products of superior quality provides a big opportunity for smaller businesses.

Last week on this blog I wrote about Britain's growing thirst for craft beers and independent breweries, and it appears there is similar hunger for artisan ice creams.

Here are five impressive ice cream ventures that are competing with the corporate giants and proving it's possible to grab a share of the spoils if you get things right.

1. Yee Kwan Ice Cream & Sorbet

Yee Kwan Ice Cream & Sorbet

Inspired by her family's Chinese heritage and a trip around south-east Asia, Yorkshire-born entrepreneur Yee Kwan decided to set up in the ice cream trade in late 2009.

Based in Sheffield, the company now supplies ice cream to more than 100 restaurants and retailers in England - including the likes of Harvey Nichols.

A focus on quirky flavours (Black Sesame Seed and Wasabi are notable examples) quality ingredients and handcrafted production methods has helped Yee Kwan to stand out in the market place and attract widespread attention. The company is set to go to the next level in November this year when it opens its first permanent retail space in Sheffield's brand new The Moor Market.


2. La Grotta Ices

La Grotta Ices

Founded by Kitty Travers, La Grotta Ices is based in an old greengrocer's in Bermondsey, South London - and with offerings such as cucumber and dill flower ice cream, it's easy to see how Kitty distinguishes her menu from her competitors.

One of the most important features about La Grotta Ices is that they shun a practice known as 'over-run', which involves whipping high volumes of air though ice cream and effectively enabling less to be sold for more.

This is a method used by many of the mass producers, but rejecting the technique is a way for smaller producers to position their product, showing they favour quality over quantity.


3. Sorbitium Ices

Sorbitium Ices

Sorbitium Ices was started by Zan and Pedro - a couple with a mutual love of ice cream. Much like beer brewers are inspired to make their own ales in pursuit of richer tastes, the pair were inspired to produce ice cream in order to create something better than the artificial options available in the mainstream shops.

They only use fresh produce for their ice creams, sorbets, sherbets and granitas - so their flavours change with the seasons. Combinations such as hazelnut praline & bitter chocolate and pink gooseberry & blackcurrant leaf don't come cheap, but the early success of the brand again indicates consumers' desire for a top-end product.


4. The Modern Pantry

The Modern Pantry

Based in Clerkenwell, east London, The Modern Pantry is first and foremost a restaurant - but chef Anna Hansen's knack for innovation means her ice cream range makes the list.

Having used everything from galangal and elderflower to lemongrass and turmeric, the emphasis on originality when crafting ice creams is something to be admired - and diners are happy to pay.

Anna's approach is one that helps give the restaurant a distinctive image and keep diners coming through its doors.


5. Billy + Margot

Billy + Margot

This is a luxury ice cream brand with a difference. Not designed for human consumption, Billy + Margot manufactures frozen treats for pet dogs.

Owner Marie Sawle developed her product last year and initially launched it at Crufts where she gained valuable publicity. Things really took, however, when she pitched her product on the BBC show Dragons' Den and secured investment from venture capitalist Deborah Meaden.

With a strong social media presence and goods that appeal to a huge market in Britain, Billy + Margot's ice cream for dogs is perfectly positioned to boom in the coming years.

» Read a feature in The Sunday Times about how Make It Cheaper saved time and money for Yee Kwan Ice Cream & Sorbet