Frujii Ice Cream

How a passion for ‘natural’
ice cream grew into a business success

Ice cream is everywhere, but not the kind of ice cream that John Marshall creates and sells. He carved out his own approach to a new untapped sub-market of dessert lovers who want to consume natural products.

The result was success by the scoop load – and the formation of Frugii Dessert Laboratory.

At 12, John was given a famous French cookbook – ‘Larousse Gastronomy.’ It was the beginning of his fascination with desserts. He bought himself an ice cream machine, did some research and experimentation, and discovered the art of the perfect ice cream.

With so many ice creams on the market, John needed a point of difference. He realised there was a gap in the food sector market for businesses brave enough to stay away from artificial colours and flavours.

He decided to tap into the trend of eating ‘natural’ foods. None of the big ice cream players were servicing this sub-market in a compelling way – so John found a way to create healthier desserts for his niche buyers.

John’s business idea took shape in the humblest of ways. “I started to make ice cream at home, giving the products away and asking for feedback,” he recollects. “One of the key drivers was the lack of natural ingredients. When you buy ice cream from the supermarket, it can sometimes be unnerving to see colours and flavours for sale that simply don’t exist in the natural world.”

Customers wanted natural ingredients, not over-processed products with artificial flavours, so Frugii started to supply a few restaurants and hotels. They then sold their ice cream at a local farmers’ market using social media to promote their products.

As their brand became better known in the marketplace they received great support from local television, radio and newspapers.

As John says, “we never paid for any advertising – and we still don’t!”

John and his wife, Edna, make ice cream, sorbet, chocolate and gelato. They use their own organic extract for their vanilla ice cream, and they’re the first company in the world to produce chocolate gelato directly from the cocoa bean – their self-titled ‘bean to scoop’ process.

Having now opened their first store, the plan is to move into a larger commercial kitchen and open more stores locally – and eventually nationally.

John has the following tips if you want to pursue your passion and turn your dream into reality:

  • Stay true to your vision – ensure it makes sense in the scale of everything, and will deliver in a cost-effective manner. Keep in touch with your accountant and bank manager to get their opinions on the feasibility of your vision.

  • Have a point of difference – so customers have a meaningful reason to choose your product over another. In Frugii’s case, the natural quality of their produce stands out amongst the competition.

  • Do not compromise on your dream – “You’ll have to put in long hours and question what you’re doing at times but if you continue, the rewards will come,” says John.

  • Identify a growth trend no one else has – especially if you’re in a crowded market. Frugii is currently experimenting with Paleo ice cream, which is gaining worldwide popularity as a diet choice.

  • Develop an angle you can build on – “For us it’s the laboratory analogy where we’re experimenting with natural ingredients. It resonates with our customers, my website’s image shows a test tube, and it’s in our business name – it all fits our story.”

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