Natural’s Ice Cream, India’s leading home-grown artisan ice-cream brand, has a lot more than just great tasting ice cream to offer. An excellent example of how a sustainably run food manufacturing company can be hugely profitable, Natural’s shows us that good food need not be expensive, adulterated or out of reach. Started in 1984 by Mr. Raghunandan S. Kamath, today it can be found in over 125 outlets spread across the country.
In conversation with Siddharth Kamath, Mr. Kamath’s youngest son, I came to learn how the company has evolved and adapted to the changing demands of the market and aggressive competition. Their conscious decision to expand slowly, stay away from product diversification and constantly ensure quality has given the brand a distinctive edge over the years. With re-branding in tow, the story of what makes Natural’s Ice Cream so unique is one that needs to be paid close attention to.
Why is Natural’s Ice Cream Sustainable?
Natural’s Ice Cream cannot be found in any kirana stores, grocery shops, hypermarkets or online stores. They sell their products only out of licensed franchises to ensure customers are served with only the freshest of produce. With one central manufacturing unit located in Mumbai, they produce all 20 flavours every day, 365 days in a year. All the ice-creams are packed with ice-packs made to their specifications to ensure no spoilage, and transported through the central railway system across the country.
In their production process, they stay away from using any form of preservatives and additives and rely on traditions methods instead. Their milk is sourced from farms they control, which is then pasteurised not homogenised and only Pharma grade sugar is used. A connoisseur of fruits, Mr. Kamath ensures the quality of fruits used for his ice-creams through personal inspections and contract farming.
Why should we being paying attention?
Natural’s make their ice cream using only three simple ingredients: milk, sugar and fruit / chocolate, with their most important being milk. Unlike other dessert makers in India who use vanaspati / dalda / hydrogenated vegetable fat, Natural’s uses only fresh buffalo milk, which is naturally high in fat content, for all their ice creams. This shortens their shelf life to only 15 days and reduces their profit margin, a small price to pay for quality in the eyes of the company.
They stick to using sugar even though it is conceived to be unhealthy for a number of reasons. After experimenting with various natural alternatives like honey, stavia, sorbitol, etc. the makers were not happy with the quality of the end product. Sugar acts a natural preservative, gives the ice-cream shape and allows for re-freezing. No sugar substitute, no matter how healthy, can replicate the chemical bonds of sugar. Therefore, the alternative to using sugar is adding synthetic additives and preservatives that are much more harmful to our body than sugar.
Natural’s Ice Cream is a tightly run ship, with a strong brand integrity making up its core. With less than 1% of their revenue going into marketing and advertising exercises, Natural’s is an exemplar of honest success and an inspiration to millions hoping to set up something of their own.