‘I really wanted our product to be indulgent, almost like a naught treat’
An ice cream brand with a conscience is how I would describe Mama Dolce. Not only content with producing ice cream that is made from all-natural ingredients and is free from dairy and allergens, they are also a business whose values, aims and beliefs are based around sustainability and social enterprise.
My interview with Jane Visram, Founder of Mama Dolce, discusses how she is a lawyer by day and how she has transitioned to become the founder of a new food business and she also discusses what the future holds for Mama Dolce.
What is your background?
I am a lawyer by day and have been working as a lawyer at an asset management firm in London for about three and a half years. I have been working on Mama Dolce for about a year and a half now. I initially started it as a side hobby, but now I am pursuing it more seriously. Making ice cream is a new venture for me, as I had never made ice cream before starting Mama Dolce. However, I have always had a passion for baking and had previously made free from style cakes and biscuits.
How did you come up with the name and idea for Mama Dolce?
The idea was really born out of a pain point from myself and my husband when we were eating out. Places that served vegan or allergen free desserts, either did not exist or were not easily accessible.
We would go out and enjoy a lovely meal and then when it came to dessert, there would be a combination of embarrassment and annoyance. The majority of the time the only alternative offered was a fruit salad. Not that there is anything wrong with fruit salad, however when you are at a restaurant and the people around you are enjoying treats such as cream cakes and profiteroles, we would definitely get food envy.
I just became really tired of having to go through this experience and this is how it all started. I began producing batches of ice cream in my kitchen and the rest has progressed from there.
Being a lawyer, you have to be organised and to have an element of project planning skills. Therefore, I knew the basics on how to go about starting a business. However, on the other hand lawyers are typically quite risk adverse and I had been previously procrastinating in pursing Mama Dolce.
Nevertheless, after taking our product to different venues and restaurants, and asking friends, family and work colleagues to try, from the feedback we received, there seemed to be less reasons as to why I should not pursue Mama Dolce.
We chose the name Mama Dolce as we wanted our brand to be synonymous with creamy, luxurious ice cream. The meaning of Dolce in Italian is sweet and when I think of Italian ice cream, I think of creamy gelato in all its glory! We also wanted to use the word Mama to illustrate the products simplistic and artisan roots.
How many people are part of the team?
I have been really fortunate to have six interns at the moment who have been working really hard to get Mama Dolce out of the prelaunch phase. They have been fantastic working on everything from web design, to the design of our packaging, to communications and working on our social enterprise initiative. However, it has been difficult as I interviewed and hired all of my internship team during lockdown and therefore I have not had the chance to meet them in person as yet.
What can we expect from the menu?
When I think of ice cream, I think of something that is bursting with flavour that you can enjoy as a treat. Therefore, I really wanted our product to be indulgent, almost like a naught treat. This is why our product is a luxury ice cream, as I particularly love an indulgent dessert.
A lot of vegan or plant-based ice creams substitute cow’s milk with nut-based milk. However, by doing this, you lose the audience who are also looking for a free from nut product. This is where we have a unique composition as we use coconut.
There was a lot of trial and error in the process and it is a lot harder to make luxurious free from ice cream due to the lack of fat. Normally ice cream is made from cow’s milk and has a high percentage of fat, which makes it easier to get a creamy taste and texture. When you are substituting cow’s milk with plant-based ingredients, you have to work hard to get the correct combination to mimic that creamy luxurious taste and texture.
With Mama Dolce we want to break the stereo typical mould, that free from food is not particularly nice or luxurious. We want to produce ice cream that would attract people who are not dairy intolerant or do not have a food allergy, but who could still enjoy our ice cream.
I worked extremely hard to make sure the recipe would do this and appeal to anyone. When I would take it into work, I wouldn’t tell people initially that it was free from dairy or nuts etc. They would be very surprised once they had tried it and realised it wasn’t made from dairy, but was still fantastic.
With the menu, we wanted to have a mixture of traditional flavours, but to also branch out and experiment with some unique flavours. We have some typical flavours such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and raspberry ripple. Our flag ship flavour is banana and lime, which is unique and as I have not really seen this combination anywhere else. We will hopefully be launching competitions to gain feedback from our followers, to discover which flavours are most popular and that they think we should make.
Our followers will be able to buy a half a litre tub of our ice cream for around £5-£6. This is priced at the luxury end of the scale, as the quality of our product and ingredients are of the highest standard. We do not use any chemicals and our ingredients are all natural. This is something that I missed growing up and going out to eat at restaurants. Therefore, I want to now be able to share our product for people to enjoy and bring back the magic of free from ice cream.
What values & beliefs distinguish Mama Dolce?
Our values really reside in making a positive impact locally and we hope eventually on a global scale one day. It is important for me personally to make a lasting impact and to inspire future generations.
We are now seeing a trend moving towards sustainability and the environment, and from our perspective, it is important that our product is of the highest quality. Therefore, we only work with suppliers that have the same beliefs as us in terms of sustainability and looking after our planet.
From a social conscience element, we are continuing to provide opportunities to underrepresented groups and we will aim to ensure we stand up for what’s right and just. I think it is important for companies to function by thinking about the greater good and this is why Mama Dolce seeks to be at the forefront of social change in the food and beverage industry.
Although Mama Dolce is a product-based company, we are serious about amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups in the food and beverage industry. This is something that is really important to me. We are working on formalising our internship programme and establishing our Dolce Fund. The Dolce Fund will aim to provide grants to young people who are hoping to make the transition from sixth form or college into further or alternative education.
When do you officially launch?
We do not have an official date in mind, but it will be in September. We have some developments that we are working on, such as launching a crowd fund campaign with NatWest that we are really excited about. It will be the first opportunity for those who have been supporting us, to try our product and for us to be able to raise the initial capital investment to run our first commercial batch of ice cream.
We are really excited by this. At the moment our business will just be online, however we are very keen to start looking at partnerships with other restaurants and businesses. I think once companies are a bit more certain as to what their future looks like, we will start to launch in various restaurants and independents businesses too.
We hope that through this crowd funding process, that we are able to get the feedback and the data that we need from our fan base and followers, in order to be able to refine and perfect our product. I want to be in the position that when we are able to launch into restaurants, that we will have as perfect a product as possible.