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Cream & Country Ice Cream

Mak and Jo Murphy

Published 4th February 2016

Ice cream is so good, so delicious, that it’s seemingly impossible to get it drastically wrong.

People have tried. In America – naturally – they’ve invented ice cream flavours including bacon, hot dog, garlic, lobster and crocodile egg. There’s even a grass flavoured ice cream at one New York restaurant. People still eat it.

Ben & Jerry’s once created a special flavour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s album, Legend. It was disappointingly called ‘Satisfy My Bowl’, when surely ‘Truffalo Soldier’ or an authentic sounding ‘Redemption Bong’ flavour might better captured the public’s imagination.

Yet, as wonderful as ice cream is, Horsham couple Mark and Jo Murphy could not find the right flavour to satisfy their palette. So, with the help of business partner Glenn Goodling, they have taken the bold step of creating their own!

Mark said: “We were shopping and realised that there were no ice cream brands in the freezer that grabbed our attention. It was all very mainstream with traditional flavours and the same old packaging.

“We started thinking about what we could do differently and that led to the idea for Cream and Country, our very own ice cream company.”

The Murphys had been looking for a new project after Mark had spent 18 years working as a chef, at Buxted Park in Ashdown Forest and Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield amongst others.

Initially, a pub or restaurant were potential options, but having been inspired by an apparent lack of fresh ideas in the industry, Mark and Jo committed themselves to ice cream. But they needed an identifiable brand, and someone to make it!

Mark said: “I started looking at flavour profiles and developing the product, as my background as a chef helped me. Initially, we started talking to big manufacturers but we quickly realised it wasn’t possible for us to work with them, as they were looking for minimum order quantities way in excess of what we were proposing.

"Then we stumbled across New Forest Ice Cream Limited, a family-run firm in Lymington. We went to see them and they were lovely people. It felt as though the stars were aligned. “We chatted about our brand and they were happy to support us, and they’ve been fantastic since day one.” 

When it comes to ice cream flavours, seemingly anything goes. So what flavours were Mark and Jo going to produce?

Would it be a worldwide favourite? Cookie dough, mint choc chip, rocky road, vanilla, chocolate marshmallow or coffee?

Actually, it would be none of the above…except vanilla!

Mark said: “We wanted to avoid mango, pineapple, grapefruit or any tropical fruit as there are great ingredients in the UK. So we have focused on re-producing the taste of classic British desserts.

“We have six flavours now including New Forest Gateau, rather than Black Forest Gateau, and Salted Caramel. We have an English Sparkling Wine with Elderflower Sorbet, made in collaboration with Jenkyn Place Vineyard in Hampshire. We wanted to create a Champagne sorbet using English sparkling wine and Jenkyn Place already had a good relationship with our manufacturer in the New Forest.

“They saw it as a bit of fun, outside of their regular work on the vineyard, so agreed to the idea and loved doing it! “Still, we nearly dropped the sorbet because we didn’t think it sat well in our line-up. But our marketing agency carried out research and discovered it was a good lighter option for women.

“As a result, we kept it and it’s one of our best-selling flavours. Then we have Rhubarb and Stem Ginger, which is one of Jo’s ideas, and a Cream Tea ice cream. We had come across a few green tea ice creams but we wanted to recreate an authentic British flavour.

“We did come across one or two cream tea ice creams, but we didn’t think that they had captured the true flavour. As a chef, I like to think that I understand flavour profile and with our product you can taste the jam, the biscuit flavour of the scone, and certainly the clotted cream base that we use.

“There is a lot of tweaking that goes on with New Forest, but they’ve been brilliant in helping to develop the right combinations.

“When we first came up with a list of flavours, we didn’t even discuss costs with them as we knew that conversations about money would stifle creativity.  To find a company that talked solely about the product first was just fantastic. As it turned out, the sums added up for us. Instead, our biggest problem was that, when we started out, we did not have anywhere to sell them.” 

Whilst Mark was having fun with flavours, Jo used her creative skills to conjure a unique look for the product. From the start, Jo had deliberately avoided the ‘vintage look’ of red and white stripes, cows in fields or bunting, but several designers could not come up with a look that the Murphys were entirely happy with.

In the end, Jo drew the design that she wanted by hand, and it now features on all Cream and Country packaging.

Jo said: “We had eaten at MEATliquor, which is a funky burger restaurant in Brighton. They had a wallpaper featuring an array of monochrome graphics and it looked really effective. I thought that we should be doing something along those lines, as it is a totally different look for an ice cream company.

“There are brands out there – so-called punk brands – that try to do something different, but it seems too forced and lacks elegance. This design has style but is very different. Having turned down a lot of ideas from designers, I ended up sitting down and drawing something. Mark and I are quite strong-minded about where we wanted to go and we have a very similar style.

“We wanted to have a brand that attracted attention, and in the end we went with a design that was more of less what I drew out.”  

However, their ice cream dream was very nearly over before it began. Just as the Murphys were about to give the green light on a costly order of packaging and promotional items, they were informed that they would have to change their name!

Mark recalls: “A company in America had the same name, but we had not known they had a license in the UK. We had to stop everything, but every cloud has a silver lining.  I was sat in the dining room with my head in my hands, ready to call it a day, as we could not find the right name. Then I saw a seafood recipe book called Cod and Country, which got me thinking.

We then went to a trademark attorney to make sure there were no more slip-ups. We didn’t think that the company name would be available. But it was!

“In all honesty, Cream & Country is a hundred times better than the name we originally had! It sums up what we are all about, which is a company celebrating everything that Britain has to offer.

 After just a year in business, Cream & Country received a boost with CoolBrands status, awarded to the 100 coolest brands in the UK.

All of which begs the question, is Cream & Country just a little bit ‘hipster?’

Mark said: “I sit here with my top button undone, a beard and my own quirky independent food company, but hipster is a word used as a broad brush stroke for anything that is different.

“What we have done is do what we wanted to do. That is the bottom line. What we are not is average and our motto is ‘bother to do better.’ When we go to presentations, we go with a full bar carrying all of our flavours, and it shows people that we are a different.

“When we got the call from CoolBrands, it felt like every birthday and Christmas had come at once. CoolBrands is comprised of an independent panel of designers, editors, style gurus, writers, musicians, and others who are in tune with what is going on. They also poll 20,000 members of the public.

“It was one of our aspirations to make the CoolBrands listing when we launched, so I nearly put my hand through the roof of the car when I heard we were nominated.”

The first retailer to stock Cream & Country Ice Cream was Crates in the Carfax, and nearby café Pretty Things also stocked the brand at an early stage.

Mark and Jo took a big step when Brighton Dome took on their ice cream and now they also supply the Virgin Atlantic clubhouses at Heathrow and Gatwick. Mark and Jo are in talks with racecourses and other such venues across the region, as well as catering companies, as they bid to expand their business.

New flavours are on the horizon too, with possible developments of the British desserts theme and additions to the sorbet range. But what is it, aside from the British flavours, that makes Cream & Country ice cream special?

“We have been learning a lot about the texture of ice cream itself,” says Mark. “People don’t know much about what goes into it. For example, if you see a product that isn’t made with ‘dairy’ ice cream, it is probably made with palm oil.

“Some brands claim that having any ‘air’ in the ice cream cheapens the product, but for it to have the right texture, you do need some air. There are ice creams sold on the fact that they have very low air content, but what you actually buy is like a brick that needs to defrost for half an hour before you can even get a spoonful of ice cream.

“Then what happens is that ice crystals build up and form and when you put the ice cream back in the freezer - because as you can’t finish the whole tub - you’ll actually end up with a bit of frozen mess. We have a balanced consistency and we think it’s a nice, pleasant mouthful.

“It’s the real deal.”

 

For more details visit http://www.creamandcountry.co