In every scoop of Chester and Melissa Young’s award-winning ice-cream is a dollop of love for their children.
Chester and Melissa are the founders, owners and operators of Little Liberty Creamery, which makes and sells plant-based frozen desserts at their scoop shop in the Taranaki village of Inglewood.
And it’s because of their children that their popular business exists.
“Our son, Grayson, was born with intolerances to dairy, gluten, soy and egg,” explains Chester. “As a breastfeeding mum, everything Melissa ate as a sweet treat upset Grayson.
“One day Melissa came across a plant-based ice-cream recipe – we made it, thought it was pretty good, and started tinkering and making more and more.
“It got to the point where we were giving it to our friends and then getting asked for some to give to their friends.”
Relocating to Inglewood from Auckland and with their second child, daughter Asha, also suffering the same intolerances, the entrepreneurial couple realised they might have stumbled across a niche market.
“We threw everything at it and 18 months later we opened a scoop shop in Inglewood.”
Despite initial challenges of producing at scale – “we went from a home kitchen to commercial production, which was a difficult process of research, development and tinkering” – and a pause during COVID-19 when the shop closed for several months, the business has gone from strength to strength.
This culminated in scooping several honours at the 2020 NZ Ice-cream Awards. As well as picking up two gold and three silver medals for their products, their almond mocha won Best in Category in the non-dairy section and the Best New to Market award.
“Best New to Market is the highest scoring entry across all categories, including dairy, sorbet and gelato, so to be recognised by the industry at that level was great validation and a really proud moment.”
Chester sees the irony in being a plant-based food enterprise in a dairy-centric region, but says the support from businesses and the community has been integral to their success.
“Having come from education and human resources backgrounds we had no history in start-ups or in hospitality. But Venture Taranaki put us in contact with people in the region who were able to help us with ingredients and bounce ideas off,” says Chester.
“The opportunities and potential to grow as a brand and collaborate with others here is huge. Everyone’s really friendly, willing to help out and share knowledge – you don’t get lost.”
He says Little Liberty Creamery is a small part of a growing movement of sustainability in the region.
“Taranaki can lead not just New Zealand but the world in terms of sustainability."
“It’s not just the big products here, such as hydrogen as we transition from oil and gas, but also at the grassroots level. There’s a whole movement of growers producing great produce, and things that you never thought could grow here.”
As to the future, Chester says they aim to continue expanding on their range of desserts.
“People in Taranaki appreciate a good product, regardless of what it’s made from. They like that it’s made here fresh and they get to meet the people who make it.”