Name: Stephany Hardingham
Business: Alder Tree Cream Ice
“The key to the success of local produce is getting out there and getting people to try it. The taste and quality speaks for itself and people won’t go back to mass produced food.”
Stephany Hardingham founded Alder Tree Ice Cream in 2007, turning a treasured family recipe into a thriving local business.
She produces award-winning, ‘quintessentially British’ fruit flavoured cream ice from the family farm in Suffolk, where over half of the fruits used are also grown.
Stephany’s parents own Alder Carr Farm, and whilst running a ‘pick your own’ business in the 1980s, her father persuaded his mother to share her much-loved ice cream recipe, and made a batch with a bumper crop of raspberries. It was instantly popular and he began selling it to local farm shops and delis.
In 2004, Stephany wanted to return to Suffolk after studying in London and to create her own sustainable and scalable business. She recognised the amazing potential for the ice cream to fill a niche in the local food market, and in 2007 she launched Alder Tree Ice Cream. From small beginnings, Stephany now has a team of five, who produce 650 litres of ice cream per day and over 30,000 litres per year.
The business has been continually recognised for its quality and success, being voted one of the top 50 foods in Britain by the Guild of Fine Foods for two years running and receiving over 50 Great Taste Awards to date. It was also awarded the East of England Co-op’s Suffolk Producer of the Year for 2017.
Stephany says “I am extremely proud of our success - I am very motivated and driven, and being self-employed, I thrive on the knowledge that everything I do with the business is for me and the team.
“We are an ethically run, sustainable business with a young team who are just amazing and who produce Cream Ice in a way which is as sustainable as possible - this is something that is very important to all of us.
“The recognition from our industry awards is fantastic, but so too is the feedback we get from our customers who love the ice cream. I often print these emails out and show them to the staff as I want them to understand what a great job they do and to keep enjoying their work.”
With a background in environmental management and business, it has always been important for Stephany to plan and consider the wider impact of the business and her produce. Every part of her business processes are considered, from ingredients to packaging, to stationery and delivery, from the perspective of environmental impact and ‘food miles’.
She explains, “I hope to continue growing the business and to open my own site as we currently share space with the farm shop. I want to create a long-term, sustainable brand but it will always be important to balance this with our commitment to our environmental responsibility and to local values and quality.”
Stephany began supplying to the Co-op through the Sourced Locally initiative in 2014, with ice cream being sold in two Suffolk stores. In 2015, it was sold in 30 stores and it is now available in every store in the county, resulting in a 15% increase in their overall sales.
For Stephany, who wears many ‘hats’ within the business, doing everything from sales, marketing, accounts and kitchen work, the food industry has provided a fantastic opportunity for her, which she believes is open to anyone. Apart from occasionally being called ‘Stephen’ in emails, she has not experienced any barriers because of her gender and sees the farming and agriculture industry as a brilliant career option to anyone, as long as you identify your niche.
She says “The food and farming industry is so flexible and varied and can be a wonderful career choice. My advice to anyone would be to find your niche and target the right market. We have spent a lot of time building local brand awareness and developing a loyal customer base in the region.
“There is a tremendous array of amazing local producers, so to find your niche, identify what is missing and get people to taste the difference. The key to the success of local produce is getting out there and getting people to try it. The taste and quality speaks for itself and people won’t go back to mass produced food.”
For further information on Alder Tree Cream Ice visit www.alder-tree.co.uk.