Bluebell Dairy, just a 15-minute drive from Derby city centre, has revealed how its luxury artisan ice cream business went from an idea around the kitchen table to scooping worldwide recognition.
The Brown Family, who have been producing the ice cream onsite at their micro-dairy and farm park in Spondon since 2007, have big dreams for the future of the business as they add another four Great Taste Awards to the cabinet – sitting alongside its Italian Gelato Festival and ICA National Ice Cream Award wins.
Having previously won 13 Great Taste Awards over three years, Bluebell Dairy continues to wear the badge of “Great Taste Producer” and has set its sights on becoming the crème de la crème of artisan ice cream producers.
With an impressive variety of 29 flavours, Bluebells ice cream and sorbet is stocked across the East Midlands in popular tourist attractions such as 15 National Trust properties, Chatsworth House, Nottingham Castle, The National Memorial Arboretum, Derby Theatre as well as many Farm Parks, local restaurants, cafes, pubs, theatres, garden centres, farm shops, cinemas and local convenience stores.
Rosemary Brown, Director at Bluebell Dairy, explains how it all started: “It was over 15 years ago when milk prices began to fall and we were looking for ways to sustain and revitalise the farm for future generations. As the family sat around the farmhouse kitchen table one night eating mass-produced ice cream we thought, ‘why don’t we make our own?’ And the idea of delicious, homemade Bluebell ice cream was born.”
The new enterprise began when the family converted half of the redundant buildings in the farmyard. Milk was then carried from the dairy 20 metres across the yard to the tiny new production area.
Rosemary added: “We are so proud of how Bluebell Dairy has expanded over the years to become a household name within the region. We pride ourselves on being more than just a brand and doing things differently - every process from cow through to cone is carried out on our family farm, something only very few ice cream companies can say.”
The micro-dairy sets itself apart by making its ice cream in small batches using fresh milk and fresh cream. They are known for using basic ingredients where possible, such as melting chocolate and using real strawberries, and pride themselves on not using any artificial flavourings, colourings or preservatives in any of their products.
Earlier this year, Bluebell stepped away from some traditional farming practices to boost efficiency and productivity with the introduction of its new Robotic Milker. Making the switch offers its cows a more regular milking service and visitors are also able to see first-hand how cows are milked.
Rosemary said: “Ensuring our cows have the very best life is incredibly important to us, upgrading our milking facilities is just one of the ways we are able to do this. Not only does this mean our cows are able to be milked whenever they need, it also means visitors can see first-hand how cows are milked.”
The production of the ice cream is then overseen by a team of six, who work closely with wholesale customers to bring new flavours to fruition.
“We host a trade day every October to welcome our wholesale customers on site and show them first-hand where our ice cream comes from” continued Rosemary. “It’s a great opportunity to listen to their ideas for new flavours and create new products which we know our customers in the region will love.”
Bluebell’s broad range of luxury ice cream is developed each year by the team, with new flavours released regularly, including seasonal specials such as Christmas Pudding and Mini Egg.
Each flavour goes through a rigorous testing process before it appears on shelf, trialling 30/40 flavours at a time. The judging process then begins, scoring each flavour on elements such as taste, scoop-ability, colour and texture.
To celebrate the spooky season this Halloween, ice cream enthusiasts can look forward to sampling the return of Deathly Mallows and brand new flavour Sour Apple.
Rosemary continued: “There is so much that goes into making each of our ice cream flavours – they are truly made with love! Bringing out new quirky flavours and seeing the excitement from our customers reminds us why we started this venture. As we continue to grow Bluebell Dairy, we hope to keep adding more awards to our belt, expanding across the region and beyond, and continuing to bring a sprinkle of joy to someone’s day.”
To find out more about Bluebell Dairy Ice Cream and plan your day out to the farm, visit https://bluebelldairy.co.uk