There are no plans to resurrect the upmarket Hill Station ice cream brand, the boss of Loseley Dairy Ice Cream (formerly Hill Station plc) has confirmed.
Speaking 10 months after leading a management buy-in (MBI) at the Cwmbran-based ice cream maker, chief executive David Lavelle said: “We won’t resurrect the Hill Station brand, I’m not sure where it really fits in the marketplace anymore. The focus now is on own-label products and our other brands: Loseley Dairy Ice Cream, which we have just relaunched; Thayers, which is big in Wales; and Yorkshire Dales, which has been taken up on an exclusive basis by one of the major multiples.
“We’re also launching new products for the winter and for 2010; we’ve got some very interesting upmarket fruit-based new products in the pipeline. The multiples make their ranging decisions in March and September, so we’re currently in the thick of it, preparing.”
The firm was in a much better position financially after last year’s ‘‘annus horribilis’’, he added. “The cash flow situation has become a lot easier - we’ve more than doubled our previous record in terms of summer sales this year and the most important thing is that we’ve picked up a number of major multiple accounts and built up to the target turnover we planned for.”
He added: “There is still some work to be done on costs; operationally, we’ve identified a lot of areas for improvement, but the multiples are starting to knock on our door again - they need an alternative to R&R Ice Cream. We have also been through a lot of audits and passed them all without any problems.”
The firm - which is still the third largest ice cream producer in the UK by volume after Unilever and R&R with a capacity of 240,000l of ice cream a day - has had a lot of success with its Loseley brand in theatres, pub chains, leisure centres, sporting venues, airlines and smaller outlets. However, the big prize was securing contracts with the major multiples, said Lavelle, who led the MBI last October with backing from Acuity Capital - an asset management company specialising in alternative investment products and services.
The factory, which was commissioned in 2004 and includes a production area of 7,432 square metres and six production lines, can produce tubs of 100ml to 10l plus a range of impulse products, lollies and choc ices.
Hill Station, which was set up by former investment bankers Charles and Gina Hall in the 1990s, became a significant player in the UK ice cream market in 2006 after clinching a £5.6M reverse takeover deal to acquire rivals Loseley Dairy Ice Cream and Granelli McDermott. However, it struggled to integrate the firms and was hampered by cash-flow problems - eventually calling in the administrators in October last year.