A Teesside business that’s won recognition from Sir Richard Branson is joining forces with one of the world’s leading Italian icecream flavour houses to launch its own range of handmade gelatos – with plans to sell it wholesale.
De Melo is joining forces with Aromitalia, one of Italy’s oldest flavour houses, owned by the Ferrero family, who produce high-quality gelato ingredients at their production facility in the Piedmont region within the foothills of the Alps.
De Melo husband-and-wife directors Imran and Nadia Ayoub will sell their range of authentic handmade gelato from their coffee house and dessert lounge on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road.
Since De Melo launched early in 2015 customers have enjoyed a menu that includes American-style sundaes, waffles, wafer baskets, crepes, patisserie cakes and super-sized ‘freak shakes’.
But from Friday (December 9) they will also be able to choose from a range of 16 different flavours of gelato and sorbet including traditional favourites such as strawberry and raspberry ripple containing fresh fruit and French vanilla.
For those with more refined tastes, Aromitalia’s flagship flavour, Ferrero Rocher, is expected to prove extremely popular.
Refreshing mango and lemon sorbets will also be on offer, while De Melo’s younger customers might like to try the blue and pink bubblegum gelato and even a Kinder Bueno.
De Melo will join an elite group of gelato manufacturers based in the North East – and are in advanced talks that will make them the Tees Valley’s first wholesaler of authentic gelato.
Should demand take off in the way they expect it to, Imran and Nadia have the capacity to produce up to 44 different flavours from their manufacturing unit on Riverside Industrial Estate.
The launch has been made possible thanks to a £12,200 grant from Tees Valley Business Compass, while Imran continues to benefit from being a Virgin Startup Ambassador that resulted in a face-to-face business advice meeting with Sir Richard Branson at the home of the multi-millionaire entrepreneur.
Part of Tedco’s Start and Grow programme, De Melo have already invested £15,000 into equipment including storage freezers, fridges, ovens, pasteurisers, shelving, preparation tables and kitchen utensils, while they will take delivery of a freezer van for wholesale deliveries early in the New Year.
Ahead of Friday’s gelato launch party, Aromitalia’s head technician Albert van Droogenbroeck will take De Melo’s staff through an intensive training programme that will cover pastuerising the milk, adding the right balance of ingredients and the art of gelato decoration.
Middlesbrough FC goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous, Olympic long jumper Chris Tomlinson and World 60m sprint champion Richard Kilty will be among the special guests at the launch party before customers are invited to a free scoop of gelato 7-11pm this Friday.
Dimi’s new Greek restaurant, Great, is a neighbouring business of De Melo’s, while Chris’s wife Lucia Rovardi works for one of Teesside’s oldest businesses, Greco Bros, who supply cones and wafers to De Melo.
The idea of De Melo launching their own range of gelato was the brainchild of Greco Bros managing director Tony Rovardi, who has a longstanding business relationship with Aromitalia.
Imran said: “It was Tony who convinced me that creating our own range of artisan gelato as a premium product would not only save us money but allow us to expand our range and diversify into so many different flavours of gelato, creating a new market for the product. More importantly, we will be creating a higher quality product.
“Tony put me in contact with Aromitalia and convinced them to send their head technician here to personally work with us, so I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
“After much research, I realised there was no one else in the area doing anything like this. Other dessert lounges buy in their industrially-produced icecream, as we have until now, but none of them wholesale the product.
“As one of Italy’s oldest gelato flavour houses, Aromitalia are world leaders in what they do. Albert, as Cristiano Ferrero’s number two, had been looking for someone to work with in the UK.
“To get the unique recipe and knowledge from one of Italy’s greatest gelato experts is such an exciting opportunity for us.
Imran, who is one of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Start-up Ambassadors, added: “What we are doing wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Tees Valley Business Compass, so we’re hugely grateful to them.
“The investment has safeguarded the jobs of two members of staff, but we plan to create a minimum of three new positions over the next 24 months.
“We’re now in talks to secure wholesale contracts with two big Italian franchises, so we may have to upscale very quickly and create up to 10 new jobs on top of the nine staff we already have.
“It has been an incredible 18 months for De Melo. As a Virgin Startup Ambassador, I was lucky enough to be one of only a small group of business owners – from hundreds who applied – given the chance to meet Sir Richard Branson and pick his brains.”
Imran was chosen by Sir Richard as a result of his work ethic and commitment to sharing his entrepreneurial skills with others.
He added: “Meeting Sir Richard was a life-changing moment and we continue to be in regular contact with his office. I know he will be watching the launch of our gelato range with great interest.
“We pride ourselves on being innovators that others try to imitate, so we’re really confident of continuing to grow De Melo from strength to strength.”