Although they may not be based in Bristol (they’re actually just outside Stroud), family-run Winstones Ice Cream are the subject of this latest Local Spotlight post. Their products *are* stocked in Bristol, as you’ll find out later on, but it’s the ethos and history of the company that appeal to me. I had a chat with Ben Vear, whose family owns the company, and who has a book coming out later on in the year…
Based on National Trust common land near Stroud, Winstones Ice Cream was founded in 1925 by Ben’s great grandfather, Albert Winstone. He would produce ice cream on a cast iron stove using simple Victorian recipes, the likes of which are now used by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal. Distributon-wise, things were quite different back then: according to Ben,
“Albert would use an old BSA motorcycle and sidecar packed with ice to distribute the ice cream, pottering around the Severn valleys of Gloucestershire until he had sold out – luckily he was a speedy driver and as such would sell out in just an hour or two, to make it home before the ice melted.”
As you’d expect, the business has changed significantly since then, but is still family-run. Ben’s mother Jane Vear took over directorship of the company a few years ago and has made massive changes: implementing a new energy efficient production system and a recycling system that has seen around a 60% reduction in waste, as well as the creation of an organic partnership with Woefuldane Farm, less than a mile from Winstones.
I honestly don’t know how Ben finds the time to fit everything in – he’s currently finishing his degree at De Montfort University and also looking after the marketing efforts at Winstones:
“With my brother Tom and father Colin, I have helped oversee the repositioning and rebranding of the company and look after all of our marketing efforts on a day to day basis. Currently I strive to ensure that where possible all of our ingredients are sourced from within 30 miles of the factory and that we continue to help small, artisanal businesses find a route to market which is a real passion as we have such great producers in the South West such as Cotswold Gold and Woefuldane Organics and brilliant stores such as Arch House Deli and Papadeli.”
In addition, Ben’s been spending a lot of time writing the book that I mentioned earlier: “Make Your Own Organic Ice Cream”. He’s obviously passionate about the subject and has really done his research into the market: a fact that was obvious when I asked him how his book was different to those already out there…
“It’s quite simple – I found that the bulk of the books on the subject are generally shipped over from the USA, the flavours are often bland, somewhat 1980’s and uninspiring. Dont get me wrong I love the 1980’s, theres nothing wrong with big hair, dungarees and Spandau Ballet but it has its place and I felt that the subject needs to be brought up to date. David Lebovitz has made a great effort with his book ‘The Perfect Scoop’ but the flavours just dont push the boundaries enough and there is little or no advice on using organic produce, supporting local high streets and town centres, a distinct lack of provenance and no in depth advice on foraging for fresh seasonal ingredients – which is a keen interest of mine.”
The book itself does sound amazing: 70+ recipes, including semifreddos and toppings in addition to ice creams and sorbets. And don’t expect your bog-standard vanilla/strawberry/chocolate selection either…Ben’s included a range of exciting flavours such as Wasabi, Orange Marmalade, and even a Gin and Tonic Sorbet.
You’ll have to wait a little while until you can get your hands on it, though: the planned publication date is October 28th 2011. A strange time for a book about ice cream to be published, no? Not according to Ben:
“Chapters are split into seasons and a number of the delicious Autumn and Winter recipes are just delicious, as such the book will make a fantastic Christmas present!”
You can pre-order the book on the Amazon and Waterstones websites already, though – do so from Amazon by clicking this link. It’s also due to be stocked in a large number of independent retailers, priced at £14.99. You can also keep up-to-date with what Ben’s up to by following his blog: click here to read “Making Organic Food At Home“.
If you can’t wait for the book but still want to try Winstones Ice Cream, it *is* available in Bristol, but Ben and the family are currently looking for more stockists…
“Currently Bristol is fairly untouched by Winstones but can be found in Zen and suprisingly Asda who have supported us since the mid 1990’s before any other supermarket started stocking regional producers. However we are available right across South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxford and London our sales team are hoping to add more to the Bristol list soon – please get in touch if you’re interested in stocking us!”