Margaret’s mind ‘not on job’ in her ice cream years

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ice cream

Was Thatcher a positive force in British politics or a divisive dogmatist? Share your views in our poll
Was Thatcher a positive force in British politics or a divisive dogmatist? Share your views in our poll
Margaret Thatcher’s mind was not focused on food science, despite being credited with the invention of soft scoop ice cream, a former colleague has revealed exclusively to

Professor Ralph Blanchfield, former president of the International Academy of Food Science & Technology, worked with Margaret Roberts (before her marriage to Denis Thatcher) at Lyon’s laboratories at Cadbury Hall, Greenford in Middlesex in about 1950.

Blanchfield told  “We worked in different laboratories but I remember her mind was definitely not on the job. Even in those years, she was politically active and was applying to be a prospective parliamentary candidate.”

Soft scoop ice cream

Claims that the former prime minister invented soft scoop ice cream – later marketed under the Mr Whippy brand were “a bit overstated”, ​said Blanchfield.

But he recalls she did make a major contribution to the creation of soft scoop ice cream. “Margaret had the job of improving the over-run​ [air content] of ice cream. Certainly, her name was the only one on a patent for increasing the over-run. But it would be stretching it to say that she invented the ice cream.”

While Thatcher worked in the ice cream laboratory, Blanchfield was busy in the cocoa, chocolate and tea laboratory.

Blanchfield remembered that she was “not very outstanding”​ at the time. But she did “send a nice message” ​on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Institute of Food Science and Technology.

Meanwhile Martin Paterson, former Cabinet Office official and former communications director with the Food and Drink Federation, remembers a kindness.

“As a young and callow No 10 press officer my very first submission to her was to recommend participation in a particular, pretty routine, press activity focused around one industry sector,”​ Paterson told

Emphatically negative

“Her response was emphatically negative – not unusual from busy ministers.  What was different was that she took the time to respond to me with a hand written exposition of the position of the government in that industry sector and careful reasoning as to why  not participating in this particular event was the best course of action.”

James Lambert, ceo and executive chairman of R&R Ice Cream told that Thatcher was “a wonderful person who changed the whole country”.

Lambert said: “She was a legendary woman who helped to rid Britain of useless management​ [by the unions and others]. The fact that Nissan now manufacturers 850,000 cars in the north east and exports half of them is a tribute to her.”

Falklands War

After her career as a chemist, Thatcher went on to become Britain’s first woman Prime Minister winning three successive elections in the 1970s and 1980s and leading the country to victory in the Falklands War of 1982.

Praised by some for reforming trade union rules and her sceptical stance on European integration, Thatcher was vilified by others for allegedly working towards the dismantling of British society.

Earlier today R&R Ice Cream announced it had acquired Fredericks Dairies​ for £49M in a deal  that gave the firm the ammunition to compete with ice cream giant Unilever.

How would you rate Thatcher’s legacy? Was she a positive force in British politics who put the country on its feet after years of undue union power? Or was she a divisive dogmatist, who set the country against itself by furthering only the interests of the elite in British society?


How will Margaret Thatcher be remembered?

  • With affection and gratitude: for making modern Britain, by saving it from the unions and Europe.

  • With regret for wrecking Britain’s manufacturing base and dividing its society.

  • With mixed feelings for good things and bad.

  • It’s too early to tell.


Related topics: People, Dairy-based ingredients, Dairy

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