The vanilla ice cream which laces Wetherspoon’s desserts has its origins in a farmhouse, not a factory.
Beechdean was founded in 1989 by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Susie Howard. Andrew had ‘married the farmer’s daughter’ and gone on an ice cream-making course, so that they could supply local pubs and restaurants.
Their company now produces ice creams and sorbets on two sites, including the original family farm in the Chiltern Hills founded by Susie’s father in the 1950s – and delivers some 150 million portions to caterers a year.
Perhaps best known for the Loseley brand, which it acquired in 2011, it continues to specialise in the quality end of the market, making its ices from fresh, using cream, butter and whole milk, with no artificial flavourings, colouring or additives – and less air to bulk it out.
Flavours, including vanilla, are carefully balanced to complement the ice cream itself.
Wetherspoon has gone to Beechdean for its ice cream since 2008 and is now on its second vanilla recipe – as both companies continually strive to make improvements.
Stringent quality controls are in place at both production sites, which are subject to frequent independent audits, and all ingredients are tracked right the way down the supply chain.
All the milk and cream comes from farm-assured Jersey cows – one herd of 320 grazes the fields at Beechdean’s headquarters.
“We’re still very much a family business,” says Andrew. “That involves looking constantly at doing whatever we can to limit our impact on the environment.”
That includes reducing energy use through heat-exchange technologies and cutting down on food miles.