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Upscale scoops: 'Craft' ice cream and the hefty price that comes with it

Last Updated Aug 28, 2018 at 8:12 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Flavours like honey lavender, dark chocolate licorice mostly for adults, but kids are getting used to the 'good stuff'

High price for gourmet ice cream largely due to labour costs and skyrocketing vanilla prices

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Once upon a time, we had four ice cream flavours — and one was neapolitan. Now, you’ve got honey lavender, london fog, dark chocolate licorice, and even sweet corn blueberry!

Josie Fenton with Rain or Shine Ice Cream admits flavours like those are mostly for adults. But parents have said high-end vanilla ice cream has ruined the stuff from the grocery store for their kids.

“My friend’s little boy got a big tub from the grocery store and he said, ‘That’s not vanilla!’ after pretty much only only having Rain or Shine in his three years of life. She said, ‘You’ve ruined my son!'” she laughs.

“He’s wanting elevated ice cream that most kids didn’t have when we were kids. Now, that’s what he’s used to.”

SFU marketing expert Lindsay Meredith says given the popularity of craft beers and craft hard liquors in Vancouver, it’s no surprise that “craft” ice cream is doing well here.

“This is a continuation of the trend,” he says.

Meredith adds even if the kids don’t go for the “craft flavours,” it makes sense for shops to get kids used to the prices.

“Are the kids going to pick up on this? You betcha! Nothing like trying to sell ice cream to a kid — not a big problem.”

Gourmet ice cream comes at a gourmet price

“Craft” ice cream does come at a hefty price: A small tub will cost you about $10.

Fenton says a good product means getting back to basics with quality ingredients. And with a global shortage of vanilla, that doesn’t come cheap.

“Our vanilla [costs] have just skyrocketed,” she tells us, noting vanilla is added to the majority of their flavours.

“At least a cup [of extract] goes into a batch… And then the beans — even wholesale — are now $3 each. And we’re using about 20 vanilla beans per batch of vanilla.”

She adds labour costs can be high.

“It doesn’t take too long to churn it, but the prep and process of all of our flavours is very time consuming. Especially with berries — we’re washing them, smashing them, adding sugar, boiling them, roasting them — we’re doing all sorts of things in the process.”

“I calculate the cost of my ingredients per batch, but then I should also be thinking it took maybe four hours for four staff [members] to get through the boxes of oranges that we peeled,” Fenton says, adding that labour includes things like juicing and zesting the fruit.

Flavours with cherries are some of the most time-consuming ones to make.

“The pits! There are so many to pit! It’s a lot of effort,” she laughs.

As more families flock to these shops, Meredith says kids may start picking up on gourmet flavours — and that could set parents up for a world of pricey ice cream.

“Look, if junior and the gang get used to those high-end flavours, pretty soon this could get very expensive for the parents. It gets tough to sell a kid vanilla once he’s been into some of the more exotic flavours out there.”

 РWith files from Kurtis Doering