Regulars to the blog will know that we did a series of interviews with Northern Ireland food personalities last year to celebrate the year of food and drink here in NI. We’ve been quiet on the interview front of late but hope to make it a regular feature once more in the blog, and we kick off our new series of interviews by catching up with one of Northern Ireland’s most loved brands.
With the summer months now behind us, there’s a fair chance that many of you reading this will have sampled a Morelli’s or two, so we caught up with Daniela Morelli, the Sales and Marketing Director of Morelli’s to find out a bit more about this famous ice-cream, a hit with locals since 1911.
Getting To Know Morelli’s Ice-Cream
1. How has your ice cream making process evolved over the years?
The process has evolved greatly. When my Nonno (grandfather) started making ice cream it took around eight hours to produce just one batch and involved laborious tasks such as collecting big blocks of ice off the Belfast train. Now, our production methods are semi-industrial so we can make substantial quantities of ice cream pretty quickly.
The demand for different flavours is also much greater than it was all those years ago. Nonno only made vanilla ice cream and now we make over fifty different flavours.
2. Has your recipe changed much from the original recipe in 1911?
The base of the recipe hasn’t changed much at all but the ingredients have changed a great deal. Modern ingredients are much more advanced and that means we can make a superior product with better texture and better longevity.
3. With the Morelli family being involved in the company from its foundation in 1911, just how important is the family in ensuring the brand continues to prosper?
The involvement of our family in the business is the key to it’s success. Our parents and grandparents instilled a very strong work ethic in us which still holds very strong. We are all extremely hands-on in every aspect of the business and we definitely wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. You’ve won lots of awards and gained plenty of recognition over the years. Is there anything in particular that stands out?
2011 was a very special year. Our centenary celebrations took place then and we had lots going on, however, the highlight was definitely gaining a Guinness World Record (which we still hold) for the longest chain of people licking ice cream at the same time – 2,728 people! Later the same year we also won two first prizes in the National Ice Cream Competitions for our Double Cream Vanilla Ice Cream.
5. You’ve recently branched out in the Republic of Ireland; have you any plans to expand further?
We are still very much concentrating on our home market. We would like to further expand into the Republic of Ireland, and have plans to open a new franchise store in North Dublin in autumn so watch this space…
6. What has been your biggest challenge in recent years?
The biggest challenge has been the fluctuation in the price of our core ingredients. A lot of our ingredients are sourced from Italy so the strengthening Euro has not helped. We also prefer to use local dairy ingredients, but again, the price is steadily increasing.
7. What tips would you give to anyone making ice cream at home?
Use the best quality seasonal ingredients that you can find. Eat it quickly too, the fresher, the better!
8. Ice cream goes with so many desserts, but what is the perfect accompaniment?
George Clooney, I would say! It’s the simple things really though – ice cream to us is the main event. I like to pair our Parma Violet ice cream with a really good quality melted dark chocolate or our Double Cream Vanilla is really good in an Affogato as a dessert.
9. The Morelli’s Double Cream Vanilla flavour has won countless awards, but what is your favourite ice cream flavour/ combination?
I love our Chocolate ice cream – it’s a really lovely flavour, just like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. I’m also going through a ‘nutty’ phase at the moment and I’ve been eating lots of Pistachio and Caramelised Hazelnut throughout the summer.
10. What is the most unusual ice cream flavour that you have tried to make?
My brother Marino likes to experiment with some weird and wonderful combinations. He once christened a new flavour ‘Piggy in the Middle’ that consisted of chocolate coated bacon mixed into our Double Cream Vanilla. That one didn’t get the thumbs up!
More recently we have made a couple of savoury flavours – Olive Oil and Caprese (mozzarella, tomato and basil). It’s great to experiment for fun but our new flavours also have to be commercially viable.
11. What is your process for developing new flavour ideas/products and how often do you launch something new?
We are always on the lookout for new ideas. We visit the main ice cream trade shows in Rimini and Harrogate at the start of every year and then draw up a shortlist of ideas and make the flavours we want to try. In the spring, we have a taste panel to critique the flavours. We also enlist the help of the University of Ulster’s Consumer Studies department which gives us valuable feedback and tests the flavours in its sensory suite.
We launch five or six new flavours at the beginning of every summer but we also launch limited edition flavours at seasonal times like Halloween or Christmas.
12. Finally, who is the most famous person that you have served Morelli’s ice cream to?
We won a contract to supply the food hall in Harrods for a limited period of time. I was there for a few days sampling in-store when I got chatting to a very incognito Michael Caine, who apparently is a regular. He tried the ice cream and gave it his seal of approval.
Anyone For A Morelli’s Ice Cream?
We’d like to thank Daniela for taking the time to share with us some insights into what makes Morelli’s tick. It’s certainly got us salivating about ice cream so we’ll be sure to call into the Morelli’s ice cream shop in our hometown of Newcastle this weekend.
You can keep up to date with all the goings on at Morelli’s, including their limited edition flavours for this Halloween and Christmas by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or visiting www.morellisices.com. One thing is for sure, it will certainly put you in the mood for an ice cream, and we all deserve an ice cream treat regardless of the time of year.
More Interviews In The Pipeline
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