Zero-waste start-up uses surplus food to make artisan ice creams and treats

New Innovator: Chef Giselle Makinde Pereira Goncalves set up Cream of the Crop in 2020

Consumers don’t like “wonky” food. Knobbly vegetables, fruit with less than perfect skins and even steak that doesn’t “look” the right shape won’t cut it with picky shoppers, and food producers end up sending viable produce to landfill. When chef Giselle Makinde Pereira Goncalves realised the scale of the waste, she challenged herself to develop a new product from what others were throwing away. The result is a range of ice creams and sorbets which Pereira Goncalves’s Cream of the Crop artisan gelato company makes from surplus ingredients it collects from farmers, growers and food producers.

Cream of the Crop sources the unwanted produce from large organisations such as Fyffes and Total Produce and from smaller companies including the Irish sheep’s milk and yoghurt producer, Velvet Cloud. Some producers (such as Fyffes) donate their surplus for free. Others have paid carriage costs or charge a nominal amount for theirs.

Pereira Goncalves developed her recipes from scratch and the products contain no additives or artificial colourings or flavourings. The 12-strong range includes dairy, non-dairy and sugar-free varieties, and the flavours change weekly with options such as roasted plum and mascarpone, sea salt and caramel, strawberry oat milk and vegan chocolate and pumpkin seed. Prices are typically between €7 and €8 for 500mls with some flavours on special offer.

Brazilian-born Pereira Goncalves moved to Ireland in 2018 and set up Cream of the Crop in September 2020. She started the business from home, but it quickly grew legs and she relocated to a production unit in the city centre. However, as her company’s relationship with Fyffes developed and she was being offered more surplus product than expected, the company moved to larger premises earlier this year.

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Pereira Goncalves’s vision for her company is to transform it from “just” an ice cream maker into a food tech business that turns unwanted foods into a range of healthy treats. The first product to launch as part of this initiative is Bananitas, dark chocolate coated banana pieces which have been dehydrated before being enrobed in 70 per cent cacao chocolate.

“The idea came from the volume of bananas Fyffes could provide us with every week and the fact that only using them to make ice cream wasn’t going to be enough,” Pereira Goncalves says. “Sweets made out of banana were something very familiar from my childhood, so this was the inspiration. We are aiming to use around 800 kilos per week to make the Bananitas which are a 100 per cent natural, gluten-free snack. Dehydrating the bananas makes the texture creamier, almost like a jelly, and the chocolate and glaze add a crunchiness that gives a new taste dimension.”

Bananitas is the first in a line-up of snack products Pereira Goncalves intends to produce (peanut butter and açaí flavours are also on the way) and she says that having an ambient product in addition to the frozen range will allow the company to start looking at export markets in the near future.

Pereira Goncalves started her business, which now employs six people, with a personal investment of €16,000. This was followed by a further €180,000 which came from a combination of personal and angel funding and support from Fingal Local Enterprise Office. A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign earlier this year raised the money to fund the purchase of the specialist equipment needed make the Bananitas and Pereira Goncalves is now looking to raise €200,000 to scale production.

Cream of the Crop delivers to doorsteps in Dublin and surrounding counties and its products are stocked in a number of health food and independent food stores mainly on the east coast due to the logistics of distributing a frozen product. However, the move to bigger premises means the company can increase its volumes and start using a distributor to get nationwide coverage.