The rampant developments in the spheres and sub-spheres of the food industry have led to a plethora of choices for the masses. It particularly falls true in the case of desserts and ice creams where large conglomerates, local ice cream vendors and franchises and even home-grown ice cream brands all compete for space in the crowded market. As we focus on consumers’ unending thirst to try out the various new flavours being introduced in the market, we tend to overlook the business aspect. And as the demand for more innovation rises, the pressure to meet the supply rises two folds. With newer brands entering the scene almost every day, let us have a look at some historic ice cream parlours and companies doing their best to thrive in today’s world:
Back when ice creams were a rarity, Apsara Ice Creams was started by Mr. Nemchand Shah and Jayant Shah who introduced fresh fruit ice creams, that were hand-made in wooden ‘sanchas’. Having started with only three flavours, Apsara is now known as one of the pioneers in the concept of traditional hand-churned ice creams made from completely natural ingredients.
Kiran Shah, brand manager at Apsara and nephew of Mr. Nemchand Shah says, “Our ice creams are made with real ingredients and with minimal overrun (i.e. amount of air in the ice cream).” Apsara has more than 35 flavours across various categories at any given time in their parlours. On special occasions, they introduce flavours like Thandai during Holi, Modak during Ganesh Chaturthi, while their hottest selling flavours are Guava Glory with masala, Pani Puri Sorbet (served with crushed poori and boondis), Orange Apricot, Pan Pasand and more. While their recipes and methods of preparation have stood the test of time, they have given the brand a design makeover which is in sync with today’s trends.
“We have redesigned our parlours and given it a fresh and trendy look. Our packaging has been revamped; we have even given funky names to the flavours – Scrumptious Sitafal, Ravishing Raspberry and Vanilla Vibes. Our tagline is “Can’t Get Over It” and our customers are loving Apsara’s 2.0 version!” says Kiran.
While they still make ice creams like they used to, Apsara has also introduced technology at several stages, from milk boiling to cold storage, so that the texture and shelf life of ice creams can be improved. With the motive of offering customers what they have never had before, Apsara has introduced some amusing flavours like Tamarind, Pani Puri, Targola (palm fruit), Masala Chai, Red Velvet, etc. “We also bring some innovation through our sugar free and diet ice creams, which is a growing segment,” adds Kiran.
2. K. Rustom
What started as a general merchant’s shop in Colaba somewhere in the 30s, went on to become one of the city’s most beloved and iconic ice cream parlours. After shifting and re-established as a department store in 1938, K. Rustom as an ice cream parlour started in 1953 by Khodabaux Rustom Irani. “My father had always been an innovator, someone who loved experimenting, which gave birth to the idea of the ice cream parlour,” says K. Rustom’s daughter. With having close to 52 flavours in store today, the best selling of all at K. Rustom are Walnut Crunch, Kesar Pista, Chocolate Nut (preferred by toddlers) and Rum and Raisin, Black Currant and Paan by youngsters.
Over the years, K. Rustom has been known for its high-quality ice creams, all offered at an economical price and this feature can be best used to describe their USP (Unique Selling Proposition). “The flavours that are priced at the lowest are Vanilla, Pineapple and Raspberry. However, rates for other fruit flavours is subject to change, depending on the season and availability,” she adds.
When asked about the steps taken for the parlour in order to sustain itself, she says, “Our name says it all. We are as we have been when the parlour started. However, we keep introducing new flavours that suit the mood and interests of our customers, for example, the carrot and bottle gourd flavoured ice creams that we have are loved by a lot of people,” she explains.
3. Sindh and Punjab – The Ice Cream Wallas
Sindh and Punjab can be effortlessly called one of the pioneering ice cream sellers in the city. With having over five companies and more than 200 varieties in ice creams, the inspiration behind the inception of Sindh and Punjab is particularly touching. Rohit Kundliwal, son of owner Ajay Kundliwal, says, “We wanted to establish something that could bring smiles and pure joy to our customers. And what better way to do so, than ice creams?” The best selling flavours at Sindh and Punjab are Sitafal (Custard apple), Chocolate Chips, Anjeer (Fig) and American nuts.
They are known for their engaging relationships with customers, and Rohit says they have customers from places like Charni Road as well. Rohit says that survival and competition in the market is not a concern as they have their fair share and nobody in Colaba keeps as many ice creams as they do. “To keep what we love is our secret. If we don’t like an ice cream we simply don’t sell it. However, we are looking forward to renovating the place,” says Rohit.
Initially known as Brahmachari’s, Bachelorr’s was started in the early 30s by late Mr. Om Prakash Agarwal on the serene beach of Girgaon Chowpatty. The iconic Mumbai eatery has now extended their operations to ice cream manufacturing, catering and also franchising. Aditya Agarwal, third generation of the Agarwal family says, “In general operations, we keep the food itinerary exotic with only the best items going in.” However, since some time now, Bachelorr’s has been celebrated for their seasonal fruit milk shakes, classic chocolate shakes, seasonal fruit ice creams and more. With having over 40 organic flavours and Green Chilli, Sitafal (Custard Apple), Roasted Cadbury and Salted Butter Caramel being the best ones, Bachelorr’s as a brand believes in constantly reinventing itself by introducing a range of innovations.
“We believe in continuous improvement in procurement and quality whenever the scope is discovered. While giving much importance to standardisation of procedures, we never forget to incorporate the Agarwal family tradition to our food style and concepts, which we now call it the Bachelorr’s way,” says Aditya. At Bachelorr’s, they have recently introduced full-fat, delicious frozen yogurts which are served in scoops without any toppings. Aditya says that they don’t compete; they are distinguishable and stick to their core values. “We do not market ourselves or do paid adverts; our customers are our strength which keeps us afloat the tides along with God’s everlasting grace,” he adds.
It is refreshing to see how these iconic ice cream makers are unfazed by the somewhat intimidating new tech-savvy talent that has cropped up. Even after so many years, these industry benchmarks revel in their glory, staying rooted, embracing their age-old traditions and in Aditya Agarwal’s words, “seeing nothing but their past as competition.”