Ice cream maker celebrates centenary amid Covid-19 disruption
A family-run Suffolk ice cream producer with Italian roots is celebrating its 100-year anniversary despite the ongoing disruption thanks to funding from Lloyds Bank.
Criterion Ices, headquartered in Bury St Edmunds and with a parlour – Marine Ices – and second distribution hub in London, had to close when almost all of its hospitality and tourism clients shut their doors and demand for its products virtually vanished back in March.
The £250,000 loan, via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), enabled the company to cover fixed overheads – including the high electricity costs of its ice cream storage rooms – and provided breathing space while sales slowed.
Having initially furloughed all 28 of its employees, Criterion Ices is now beginning to bring staff back as demand starts to pick up. Production is currently around 20% of pre-Covid 19 levels, up from 5% in April, and the business is hoping a few hot summer weekends will support its return to normality now lockdown is easing and shops are able to reopen.
Criterion Ices supplies household names including the National Trust, Royal Opera House, London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre and Norwich Theatre Royal, as well as restaurants, ice cream parlours, retailers and farm shops. Managing director Paul Myatt’s family acquired the company in 1995 but it was the previous owner’s grandfather who came over from Italy and in 1920 set up its first parlour in Sydenham, South London. Paul Myatt says his family still make the same authentic recipes that were first used 100 years ago.
The company, which last year reported an annual turnover of just under £3m, has been a customer of Lloyds Bank for more than 25 years.
Paul Myatt said: “Our business pretty much disappeared overnight. To put things into context, we were due to supply the 1,300-seat Norwich Theatre Royal for a month-long run of Les Misérables from Wednesday 4th March. On Friday 13th the theatre was closed. It was the same across the board – as if somebody had turned off a tap.
“Lloyds Bank has been by our side all the way through, since we were a far smaller operation making 100 litres a day to now, when we have the state-of-the-art equipment to produce 5,000 litres a day. They’ve always believed in what we’ve wanted to do and backed us, which is hugely important for a small business. We know there are still tough times ahead but we can now see the future and we know that if an opportunity comes along we have the support we need to seize it.”
Adrian Eacott, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, added: “Paul and the team at Criterion Ices have remained buoyant despite these tumultuous times for the business in what was supposed to be an anniversary year full of celebrations. They’re quite rightly confident of the quality of their products and that the hospitality and tourism sectors can bounce back. We have no doubt that they can come out of this in a strong position and will soon be looking forward to many more years of success.”