What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
It’s no longer a simple case of vanilla or chocolate, with dozens of businesses offering something that bit different.
Mint chocolate chunk, because lets be honest, we want more than measly chips.
Or maybe you fancy a scoop of earl grey tea combined with vanilla, following by a helping of cherry bakewell.
This is certainly the thinking for budding ice cream makers, Louise and Martyn Brooks, who officially launched Mad Cow Ices from their kitchen table in Portlethen earlier this year.
Their focus may currently be on small batches, but their old school cardboard tubs have proved so popular that a shop may be in the pipeline.
Society caught up with the couple to find out how a lockdown hobby has turned into a soaring business.
It’s difficult for Louise and Martyn to find a spare moment, but find it they do in a bid to explain what has been happening this past year.
Ice cream could not be more different from how it all started, after the pair met while working for Oceaneering – where Martyn still juggles his role as a global inventory planner and supply chain manager.
The company provides engineered services and products to the oil and gas, defence, entertainment, logistics, aerospace, science, and renewable energy industries.
So what does such a serious sector have to do with ice cream?
Well, not an awful lot, which was exactly the point for Louise.
“I worked there for 20 years, and I really loved my job,” she said.
“But I found that after lockdown, I just wasn’t as passionate about it anymore.
“I had been there a long time, and I decided to hand my notice in and take some time to work out what I wanted to do next.”
The answer was sitting on the kitchen table, after Louise and Martyn brought a basic ice cream maker last year.
“I’ve got a beer kit and all kinds of stuff like that, so we decided to give ice cream a go,” said Martyn.
“It was something to do and we figured that with the money we had saved on fuel from not commuting to work, well why not.
“We started giving away tubs and that’s when our friends and family told us that we should start a business.
“So we launched in January, the perfect time of year!”
Not even cold weather could stop the success of Mad Cow Ices, especially with such a quirky name.
“We were looking for a name which was memorable and sticks out,” said Martyn.
“Where we stay, we’re surrounded by fields and mooing cows.
“Obviously during lockdown, going for a walk was really the only thing you could do. We’d see cows charging about and say oh, there’s the mad cows.
“It just kind of stuck.”
Each tub is made from scratch, with around 40 to 60 tubs churned out each week.
Eager customers originally placed an order via social media, but Martyn and Louise launched a website in a bid to prevent disappointment.
“People would DM us on Instagram and then be added to a mailing list,” said Martyn.
“But we found we were running out before we could get down the list, and people were half joking when they said they weren’t getting an opportunity.
“So now people can order via the website for collection, or we can deliver on certain days.”
The sell out success flavour is Scottish tablet, but there is also more intriguing flavours.
“Scottish tablet flies off the shelves,” said Louise.
“We’ve got mint choc chunk, chocolate orange, marshmallow, bubblegum.
“We’ve also got a flavour called Hillside Harr, so named because it’s always foggy around here.
“It’s Earl Grey tea mixed with vanilla. People are a bit wary about it until they taste it, it’s quite popular.
“We’ve also got cherry Bakewell and cappuccino, our neighbours are our chief taste testers.”
The business has not come without its challenges however, as it’s not all fun and flakes.
“We had to shut down production for a large period of time, after we decided to get a more grown up machine,” said Martyn.
“We ordered it in February and it didn’t arrive till May. Then it shut down after just five days.
“It took a further two months to get a replacement, which arrived damaged. So now we are on machine number three, which is behaving so far.
“Louise now does the bulk of everything. She gets all the ingredients, gets the flavours made and does the finances. I’m more sales and social media.
“Before she left her job, it was a lot of early starts. We weren’t finishing until 11 at night, it was rinse and repeat.
“It was quite full on, so Louise leaving her job was a bonus for our own company.”
Louise has no regrets, and enjoys having free rein.
“It’s so different from what I did before, I loved my job for years and years,” she said.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t go any further, and I was looking for a change.
“I’ve always been a really a really keen baker, I love making cakes and cheesecakes. It’s the same kind of elements.
“I’ve loved seeing a hobby become a business, because people are so interested in what you’re making.
“When I see people posting about us on instagram, I get such a good feeling.
“Seeing all the feedback makes us think that we must be doing something right.”
Keeping things simple has stood the couple in good stead, as their packaging is compostable and can also be recycled.
“We didn’t want something fussy, but it had to be eye catching,” said Martyn.
“Our packaging comes from a company in Dyce, and our labels are made in Portlethen.
“It has that added benefit of being environmentally friendly.”
The future is looking bright, with potential plans for a small shop.
“It would be really cool to have a little shop, and we’re heading in that direction,” said Martyn.
“We’re getting limited in a domestic kitchen, and we’ve been contacted quite a lot by people wanting to stock us.
“That’s why we need to take that next step with a commercial kitchen, it’s pretty exciting.”
A round of questions with Martyn Brooks
What ice cream flavour would you be?
I’d have to say chocolate orange, you’ve got to be your own favourite.
What are the key ingredients to making ice cream?
Cream, milk and sugar. We do custard bases, although we also have options without eggs.
What flavour would you serve to a Scottish celebrity, and who would you choose?
Oh, it would have to be Billy Connolly. I’d opt for Scottish tablet, to give him a little taste of home.
What’s a cupboard staple for you?
Crisps, chocolate and beer. I’m a fan of dark chocolate. It gives you that chocolate hit without the need to demolish the whole bar.
What would your advice be to anyone thinking of starting up a similar business?
Go for it. Get as much advice from as many people as you can. You don’t have to follow it, but it’s good to do your homework.
Most big companies see people as numbers, and lockdown has given people the opportunity to re-evaluate what they want to do.
If it’s something you’re passionate about and feel interested in, build a plan and soak up as much knowledge as possible.