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Innovative Retailers Part 3 – Where ice cream is much more than just ice and cream

The Name: The Icecreamists

The Place: Covent Garden market and Maiden Lane

The Story: Matt O’Connor is the founder and he is very, very serious about ice cream and the business of sin. Starting out with just a pop-up store in Selfridges in 2009 he has already entered the PR hall of fame with the whole breastmilk icecream (Baby Gaga) shenanigans and subsequent legal battle with Lady Gaga over the name. Oh, and that was after Westminster Council tried to ban it from being sold.

Regrets? You are joking. Mr O’Connor is a one-man publicity machine and he got huge sales out of Baby Googoo (yes, they had to change the name eventually) whilst it was on sale. It sold out on day one. And even now 15-20 people a week come in and ask for it.

Dare I ask who was buying it? Women, women and more women. O’Connor never saw a man ask for it during the whole period. One donor was supplying all the milk for it and for a while ‘it looked more like a milking parlour than an icecream parlour’ back of house. It was all very wholesome however until a certain pop star objected.

What happened? Big lawyers, big threats. O’Connor offered name changes but unaccountably she wasn’t keen. Not even on LadyBoy Gaga.

What’s a cross-dressing LadyBoy Gaga  ice cream made of? Don’t even go there.

Moving on, where does the interest in ice-cream come from? He has worked in ice cream for 25 years but is still fascinated by its mix of childhood fantasy and adult indulgence. He describes his ice cream fantasies as “bitter and twisted like a Roald Dahl story”. And he rails against the paradox of low fat health-trend ice cream.’ In these god-forsaken times people are looking for indulgence.’

So, are toddlers queuing at the door too? Well, not if they have seen the website. It’s all gothic skulls and sharpening knives sound effects. Adult only then. With names like Molotoffee Cocktail, which comes flambéed to your table, it’s definitely aimed at adults. However, his children like it – they say it’s like being in his head. It’s a heady mix of music, fashion inspired by the punk ethic. But he would have made it more x-rated if he could. Having said that, the Maiden Lane outlet is billed as a gay pop-up for over 18’s only.

Do they serve vanilla? Behave. They make all their ice cream fresh every day. They develop a winter collection and a spring/summer collection every year so they have a back catalogue of hundreds of varieties. O’Connor titles himself the ‘Quality Fat Controller’ and does frequent tastings. There will also be a 40-strong blindfold consumer tasting to launch the winter collection. According to O’Connor their popcorn ice cream made Heston Blumenthal (who also has a version) look like Ronald McDonald. He raves about the mulled wine and port sorbetto and don’t even get him on the subject of the popping candy ice cream.

Why? Because apparently it will blow your fillings out.

Crikey, how much does all this excitement cost? £4.50 for two scoops and up to £20 for the ice cream cocktails. The average punter parts with around £10.

Any news on expansion? There’s been lots of interest, from New York, Las Vegas, and Shanghai. But he does not know how it would or could be run overseas. Certainly they would only open one outlet in each country. He does not want to be Starbucks.

Supermarkets must be queuing up? But he’s not keen. In the shop he constructs his own theatre around the customer, with retailers he is stuck with half price deals and BOGOFs. O’Connor thinks allthe value has been stripped out of the premium ice cream sector by the likes of Ben and Jerry’s. He’sgot more important things to think about anyway, there is a TV series filming in October and a bookcoming out next year. And of course his winter collection.

Anything scandalous in it? He’s concentrating on hot desserts, fondues and the like. And his staff will be wearing pink/green tartan kilts – a homage to Dame Vivienne Westwood. But if its scandal you want keep an ear out for his lollies?

Pardon? He’s got a controversial ice lolly coming out. It’s rude apparently. And illegal.

Where can I find out more? Probably on Twitter. O’Connor says social media has been “absolutely critical” to his success. Any slight dip in quality for example and someone will Tweet. Then it is dealt with immediately.

Can he do the same for yogurt? Hell no. Yogurt is for choirboys. But doughnuts are a different matter.  O’Connor is poised to give the British seaside doughnut a punk makeover.

I think we’d better end there.

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JKL02395On 25th February The Icecreamists were busted on their opening day of business by the establishment.

Westminster Council declared breast milk ice cream as ‘possibly unfit for human consumption.’

13 days later we discovered…

Can breast milk kill you? No.

Can you catch aids from Mr Nippy? No.

Can ice cream really be THIS controversial? You bet.

Can humanity and the children of the world breath a sigh of relief? Yes.

Welcome to what our customers are dubbing ‘Gaga Gate’ and what we are calling Apocalypse Now with ice cream.

Kids, put down that Jack Daniels bottle you were suckling on after being told breast milk was a hazardous material and go back to mummy, because breast is best and it’s back on the menu. We are free to reproduce.

Citizens of Great Britain, pick up your spoons and go back to your dessert bowls because the men in white coats at Westminster have boobed and declared breast milk ice cream SAFE after a week long cold war that saw The Icecreamists do spoon-to-spoon combat with hysterical over-reacting sour-faced bureaucrats and the ‘enemies of enterprise.’

Given that mothers milk has weaned the human race for thousands of years and there is not a recorded incident of anyone dying after suckling on their mothers breast, it’s odd that Westminster Council chose to wade in like Hans Blix UN weapons inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction.

Having seized two scoops of bio-hazardous breast milk ice cream deemed to be a possible threat to public health, these were then sent off for biological testing in a secret laboratory deep in the English countryside where highly trained scientists poured over every molecule as if they were looking to contain an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Then the politically and PR motivated folk at Westminster went to the press before they had even written to us notifying us of the situation, thus fuelling the media story and the damaging assertion that our ice cream was a risk to public health. They did this in the full knowledge that our donor had been screened to hospital standards and that our ice cream was probably the safest food in London.

Of course all this comes from a council which less than 10 feet from our front door promotes death by alcoholism, tobacco addiction and any one of a number of other dubious legal substances.

It also brought into question the reputation of our donor; the eloquent and articulate exponent for breast-feeding, Victoria Hiley, whose breasts, appearance and HIV status have been discussed online worldwide for the last two weeks. Victoria’s article for the Guardian here explains her feelings about the situation. It’s been one small lick for man, one giant scoop for motherkind.

They thought breast milk ice cream should be busted, but as it turns out in this the mother of all meltdowns, its the authorities that boobed.

As a new business we have been up close and personal with both the authorities and a global superstar, sandwiched in an indecent squeeze that threatened to suffocate The Icecreamists at birth.

Whilst we still have to deal with Miss Germanotta, its probably time for us to say thanks for the mammaries and get back to our mission; liberating the world one lick at a time with lashings of great boutique ice cream, crazy cocktails and some very bad puns.

God Save The Cream!

Matt O’Connor
Founder, The Icecreamists

BRITAIN-LIFETYLE-FOOD-WOMEN-OFFBEATWe thought it would cause a ripple, but none of us expected a storm in a D-cup. That’s our reaction SEVEN whole days later (and still pumping) to the global phenomenon that is the Baby Gaga. It started with a simple question: is it better we use bovine milk designed for calves or mothers milk which has raised thousands of years of humanity and why is it that mothers milk produces such a ‘yuk’ response from many people? After all, cows are pumped full of antibiotics, hormones (in some cases), they are impregnated every 9 months, have their calves removed from them after 3 weeks all for our benefit. Is that REALLY better for us than the milk that weened the world, that fed my 3 boys, that is the most natural, beautiful thing on earth?

Some people said STOP! Don’t go there! It’s disgusting! But women embraced the ‘miracle of motherhood.’ We ran out after one day, our Covent Garden Boutique was flooded with a tsunami of women wanting to taste the ice cream and donate to the project. One journalist suggested we were aiming for a ‘fetish’ market. As a recovering Catholic I’m not familiar with said demographic (I’m more M&S than S&M) but the proof was in the pudding, er, breast milk in that it was exclusively popular with women.

However, this didn’t stop two irate men (ironically) complaining to Westminster council saying that our ice cream contained ‘bodily fluids’. I’ve got news for these guys, cows milk is a bodily fluid. They also complained that breast milk is designed for babies not adults. More news for my Neanderthal cousins, cows milk is designed for calves, dummies.

Now Westminster Council have ’seized’ the remaining two scoops of ‘bio-hazardous’ breast milk ice cream on the basis that it might be a threat to public health in the full knowledge the milk was screened in a private clinic to the same exacting standards as blood and milk bank donors. Of course, this from a council which less than 10 feet from our front door promotes death by alcoholism, tobacco addiction and other dubious legal substances. But hey, that’s ok, because they are perfectly safe. Safe? SAFE? Are you fucking nuts?

This exposes the root of hypocrisy at play in society. Mothers milk is the safest food in the world. It’s raised thousands of generations of human beings. Our breast milk ice cream was probably the safest food on sale in Westminster but its been banned. If we’re going to live in a society that’s absurd and insane enough to think it’s perfectly acceptable to drink alcohol that can kill you, or smoke yourself to death, or take other drugs which are perfectly legal to buy in Westminster and then ban breast milk, I say to mums, empty your babies bottles, fill them with Jack Daniels and give them to your kids.

Lets raise a glass to the food fascists at the goosestepping Nanny State who think breast milk deserves to be busted.

Matt O’Connor, Founder, The Icecreamists