Following on from my interview with Julian from Bubble Brothers, I decided to move from drink to food. Kieran Murphy from Murphy’s Ice Cream was kind enough to do an email interview for this blog. Thanks Kieran. Next I’ll try and get a chocolatier and a cigar emporium owner. Please do not read this interview on an empty stomach as you’ll be dying for ice cream by the end.
So why the ice cream business? Is this some kind of childhood dream come true?
I have always liked sweet things, and when I moved to Ireland, I missed good ice cream. At the time there was very little in terms of gourmet ice cream. It also is a happy business â€“ no one NEEDs an ice cream. Itâ€™s a treat. People come in because they are happy or because they want to be cheered up. Either way, there are many more smiles than most other businesses. In a way it is a dream come true â€“ after working in the corporate world, itâ€™s a joy to be out of it, living in a beautiful place, and spending days doing work thatâ€™s much more meaningful.
You have two shops and a trade business, which is the main area of business, do you forsee a much greater expansion into supplying restaurants and shops? Will you move into other areas of taste bud temptation since you’ve posted some great recipes for hot chocolate?
The retail and trade business is a balance, and the Killarney and Dingle shops are supporting the wholesale at the moment. The split is about 80% retail and 20% wholesale. The biggest challenge for the latter is distribution. Ireland has a small population spread across a big area, and there are few distributors that cater to ice cream, which has to be colder than normal refrigeration.
As for new products â€“ weâ€™d like to go into ice cream cakes, filled ice cream chocolate truffles and possibly the sauces. We will work on those this autumn and winter.
What sets your ice cream apart from the rest?
We use almost entirely fresh ingredients, which is a rarity when it comes to ice cream. In addition, our recipe is high fat and high over-run (a lot of air whipped in), which means that itâ€™s very creamy without being too heavy.
I remember watching a documentary before where some ice cream taster had a spoon made of gold. What’s the taste test for Murphy’s? Is it a taste test or is there some science involved too?
We donâ€™t have a gold spoon, but taste is the most important test. We taste every single batch that comes out of the machine. Although we do regular scientific testing for food safety, there is no scientific test for good taste!
You mention you have 16 flavours in the shops. How many flavours do you regularly have though? Are there special ice creams for events like Valentine’s, Patrick’s Day and Christmas? Have you ever had requests to make odd flavoured ice cream? Such as? Any of them that you’ve considered producing?
We have literally made hundreds of flavours over the years. Out of the sixteen flavours, four change regularly. We donâ€™t tend to do too much for special days since we think every day is special. We get suggestions of flavours regularly and we often make them. Some of the odder flavours:
1. Carrot, orange, and celery.
2. Mango chilli pepper
3. Goats cheese and caramalised fig
4. Bloody Mary sorbet
What about the non-sweet tooth or the diabetic, anything they can have besides a coffee?
Someone without a sweet-tooth would be a little lost in our shops! But you canâ€™t be everything to everybodyâ€¦ A long time ago, we decided we would never sell anything savoury.
Weâ€™ve struggled to find a natural option for diabetics. We will not use chemical sweeteners. We have talked to the diabetic association and doctors, and the current thinking is against foods labelled â€œdiabetic.â€? The feedback we get from the health professionals is that diabetics should monitor their sugar intake â€“ they can eat a normal ice cream but will have to compensate for itâ€¦
I’ve seen it around the web a few times that you have the most expensive ice cream, can you explain? You even have a quote on your site about it.
We are expensive. Itâ€™s a fact of life for a small artesian producer that you will have to charge more, and we do. Our market is people who appreciate quality.
How does a company that makes something like ice cream or other foods get someone to distribute your goods? Is it a hard sell even when your products are fantastic? Is the market very competitive? How important are trade shows?
I talked about distribution above, and itâ€™s very difficult. The multiples are difficult to get into and hard to work with. For us, the retail business gives us a base that makes us less dependent on that side of things. We will just let our distribution grow organically. As for trade shows, we havenâ€™t ever done one. They are very expensive, and weâ€™re not sure itâ€™s worth the money. Weâ€™d rather find out smaller independent shops and work with them.
Why did you decide to blog? Have there been benefits so far with this? Any plans to further expand? Videos on YouTube etc?
I decided to blog because I thought it would be interesting to create a more interactive forum for customers as well as satisfy the huge amount of requests we get for recipes and tips of various sorts. A website is much more static. I like the fluidity of a blog and following where it takes youâ€¦ It would be interesting to try podcasts or YouTube, but perhaps thatâ€™s a project for the winter.
As for benefits, itâ€™s gotten us some press and customer contact. Iâ€™m not sure if the benefits balance the time required to blog, but itâ€™s still early days, and I enjoy it!
What’s the best ice cream you’ve had, apart from your own? Ice cream excluded, the best desert you’ve had? Are you a big foodie in general?
Berthillon in Paris is probably my favourite, especially for fruit flavours. I also love the tartufo at Tre Scalini in Rome. The best dessert I ever had was a pumpkin crÃ¨me brulee in Boston at a restaurant called Salamander. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s still there. Usually I would go for the chocolate option, but this was divine. And yes, I would consider myself a foodie. Food was a great invention!
Lastly, pimp your goods. List some of the best things on your menu and give us some prices.
Some most popular things on our menu are:
1 scoop of Murphys Ice Cream: €2.90
Titanic Banana Split: €7.50
Chocolate Sundae: €7.00
Caramel Sundae: €7.00
Murphys Milk Shake: €6.00
Selection of Murphys Ice Cream: €7.00
Wiebkeâ€™s Cakes: €5.00