Iceland pledged to make its entire ice cream range organic within the next 12 months and announced that a Cheshire farm has scooped the contract to supply its own label range of standard organic ice cream tubs.
With effect from this month, all Iceland’s own-label standard ice cream tubs have been converted to organic. As part of the company’s pledge to sell organic food at nil price premium, the products are being sold at a lower price than any conventional dairy ice cream under other supermarket own-labels.
Iceland sells over 13 percent of ice cream in the UK. Its standard ice cream tubs will now be produced by Cheshire-based Harvest House Foods, a company formed by farmers, Jonathon Middlemiss and Tom Fell, who developed Iceland’s first organic ice cream last year. The new contract has enabled the two to invest £1.5 million to build a dedicated organic ice cream processing factory at their Tattenhall Dairy, producing seven ice cream flavours and creating 30 new jobs.
The announcement follows Iceland’s decision to take whole ranges of its conventional food organic at affordable prices. The company is investing nearly £1 million in reduced ice cream margins during the next 12 months in order to give the best deal to both the consumer and the producer.
Just three percent of UK agricultural land is currently dedicated to organic farming*. There are around 100 organic dairy farmers in the UK and Iceland is seeking to talk to them about supply. The vast majority of milk from these farmers currently supplies the liquid milk market, therefore, there is insufficient double cream available. Because of this lack of availability, Harvest House can only source a third of its organic cream requirements from this country and has to import the other two thirds of its cream requirements from Austria.
Iceland and Harvest House Foods are planning an advertising campaign aimed at farmers and are working in conjunction with the NFU to talk to UK dairy farmers about opportunities for supply. Meetings have already taken place with Cheshire dairy farmers to discuss the possibility of converting to organic production based on guaranteed contracts.
Russell Ford, Iceland’s managing director, says: “It is our aim to convert ranges of our products to organic at affordable prices and the conversion of our standard tubs of ice cream seemed like the next logical step. Ice cream is a popular summer food and we are delighted with the products which we have developed in conjunction with Harvest House Foods. We’re bringing premium dairy ice cream, which also happens to be a totally organic, natural product, to the market at a sensible price.
“Our aim is to source ingredients from UK farmers but there just isn’t enough organic cream in this country to satisfy our requirements. We are now working together to talk to UK dairy farmers about supply and have already held the first of a number of meetings planned for the next six months. We are also planning a follow up to our national advertising campaign asking farmers to come and talk to us about organic supply and we hope our existing relationship with The National Trust will help develop organic acreage in this country.”
Farmer Jonathan Middlemiss of Harvest House Foods, says: “Our contract with Iceland means that a new market for organic products is being created, which will give dairy farmers a real incentive to convert to organic. We are now working in partnership with Iceland and the NFU to share advice and give support to UK dairy farmers about organic conversion and supply.”
Iceland recently announced that it will be converting its range of frozen vegetables to organic this year, with an investment of £8 million in reduced margins. It is also investing £1 million in a unique partnership with the National Trust to encourage the charity’s tenant farmers to consider environmentally friendly farming and the potential for organic conversion.