When Nicola Moore’s family sold Brymor Ice Cream she was worried for the future. She needn’t have been, as Catherine Scott discovers.
It was back in 1984 that Brian Moore and his wife Brenda decided to diversify from producing milk on their Yorkshire Dales farm to producing ice cream.
They were one of the first hit by the introduction of milk quotas, forced to look for new products to create from their herd of Guernsey cows – the only such herd in Yorkshire and one of only three in the North of England.
And so, taking his name, Brian created ‘Brymor’ Real Dairy Ice Cream, selling his luxury product first from a cart at the end of the farm lane and then to delis, farm shops and restaurants across Yorkshire.
They quickly grew out of the farm in Weeton and moved to their current site at Jervaulx in Lower Wensleydale, where they created a parlour and visitor attraction which sees 300,000 visitors a year.
Sadly in 2011 both Brian and Brenda died, leaving the business to their son Robert, his wife, and their daughter Nicola.
But three years ago Robert died of cancer, leaving the family with no alternative but to sell the farm and the award-winning ice cream business.
For Nicola, who had just lost her dad, it was a particularly difficult time.
“I had started working here when I was just 12, helping grandma in the cafe, clearing tables and eventually being given more and more to do,” explains Nicola.
“I would do everything when needed from helping out with the cows to clearing tables.
“I wasn’t very academic and when a job became vacant in the office dad asked me if I wanted it and so I did. I always knew that I would end up in the family business. I was able to learn the business from the bottom up.
“So when the family decided to sell the business I did wonder what was going to happen to me. I didn’t think I could work anywhere else. I knew the ice cream and dairy business like the back of my hand, but I didn’t know what else I could do.”
She needn’t have worried.
When the farm and business were sold, Nicola was asked to stay on by Brymor’s new owner Paul Hodgson.
Managing director James Ashford admits that he knew a lot about sales, but nothing whatsoever about making ice cream, unlike Nicola, who knew all there was to know about Brymor.
“It has been a lot easier than I expected,” said Nicola, who is now Brymor’s operations director, although, as with many small businesses, she still turns her hand to just about everything if needed from helping to make the ice cream to driving the forklift or helping with the cows.
“It was a worry at first but the last two years have been great. It is lovely to see the business progress while maintaining its heritage,” she says.
And there have been a number of changes since the business was sold.
James explained that the priority intially when the business was first bought was to stabilise it and then rationalise some of the products being offered.
“Brymor was producing more than 45 flavours of ice cream in five different sizes,” he says.
“For a business our size it was just too much. We have reduced that to 30 different flavours and three different sizes.”
But the biggest change came earlier this year when Brymor started making a ‘less premium’ brand of ice cream aimed at the supermarkets and now stocked in around 70 Tesco and Morrisons stores in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Ice Cream, as it is simply called, is made in the same way as its Guernsey premiere brand big sister, but it is made with cheaper and more widely available milk from Holstein Friesian cows, via the Hawres Creamery, which will allow the company to produce ice cream throughout the year.
“We regard Brymor as the luxury ice cream you’d have occasionally in front of a good film, whereas Yorkshire Ice Cream is something you’d have as an accompaniment with your sticky toffee pudding,” says James.
A litre of Yorkshire Ice Cream retails at around £3.50 whereas Brymor is more than £5.
“We wanted our ice cream to be a year round purchase and with Brymor mainly being sold in the parlour, at farm shops and delis and through our three ice cream vans, business really dropped off when it got to October,” explains marketing manager Laura Alderson, a new post created by Ashford to promote the brand.
Following a £20,000 investment in new space and machinery, Ashford plans to grow total production by 43 per cent this year, from 350,000 litres to 500,000.
At the moment Brymor is made three days a week and Yorkshire Ice Cream one, but that could easily grow if demand takes off as they hope.
“We are really flexible,” says James. “We had a big order last week and were able to double manufacturing quite easily.” And plans for Brymor don’t just include ice cream. There are plans for the parlour and children’s play area to be extended to make it more of a destination.
So what would Brian and Brenda have made of all the changes at Brymor?
“I think they would have been happy that the Brymor method is being protected and extended so that even more people can enjoy it,” says Nicola.