28 Sep, 2023

From Farm to Freezer: The Sweet Success Story of Boulabán Ice-Cream in Co. Tipperary

Boulabán is an ice-cream producer based in Co. Tipperary owned by husband and wife, Michael and Kate Cantwell. ifac’s Stephanie Walsh and Avril Wallace spoke to the couple to find out more.

The business was originally a farm and in the early

2000’s the couple decided to explore other options of diversification. In 2006, a decision was made to venture into the ice-cream category of “Ice-Cream and Sorbets”. The journey began with a small 10-litre batch production in a repurposed old farmhouse. The transformation of this space into a production facility required concerted effort and support from friends, family, and LEADER.

Over time, the business has grown requiring expansion to meet customer demand across Ireland. With a focus on producing ice-cream and sorbets for hotels and restaurants, a valued partnership with La Rousse Foods facilitates nationwide distribution.

Boulabán originally started to supply into La Rousse in 2012. Boulabán attended an event at the Tipperary Food Producer group, this gave Michael and Kate the chance to talk to the La Rousse buyer. The company won an artisan food producer award the same year which helped to accelerate their growth and partnership with La Rousse. They now work with the new product development team developing various products.

“Our first order was just 30 cases!”

Serving food service can create distribution and logistic challenges. Originally Boulabán agreed that the products would be collected by La Rousse but as the business developed this was no longer viable. The team now

have their own van and deliver products to La Rousse’s distribution centre.

Scaling up has been challenging for Boulabán but taking a staggered approach has worked for them. The main challenge with expansion is the cost involved, LEADER grants have helped in this regard. Having specific knowledge about equipment was also a challenge, Boulában spoke to industry experts for advice to help their decision making.

Boulabán’s main advice for selling into food service is that the numbers behind your business is crucial for growth. This will ensure profitability and turnover are at the forefront of every decision. Ask industry experts for help, opinions and advice.

“Don’t waste time when there are experts there that can advise and support.”

This article was first published in our 2023 Food & Agribusiness Report.