Bold new look for successful local farm ice cream maker

John Drayne, driving force behind Draynes award-winning ice cream and sorbets in Lisburn, is understandably looking forward to seeing the bold new identity for the product appearing in shops across Northern Ireland ahead of the busy spring and summer months.

The farm-based producer, among Northern Ireland’s most successful over more than two decades, is benefiting from a major investment by the Co Antrim family in the thriving business.  The company is a FoodNI member.

“We’ve been planning to upgrade marketing and branding of our ice cream for some considerable time,” says John. “It was time for a sharper look. It’s given us a bold and colourful brand in what is a busy marketplace especially here in Northern Ireland,” he adds. “It’s a very strong and eye-catching brand that’s already producing great feedback from retailers and customers.”

The farm has just undergone its biggest investment in over 30 years, continues John. The family, in a bold move towards greater efficiency and sustainability, invested extensively in equipment which has doubled its pasteurisation rate, leading to a massive reduction in overall energy consumption. “Old, inefficient equipment is being phased out and replaced with much cleaner state-of-the-art machinery in this major milestone in our sustainability journey,” he explains.

The investment also included the installation of new solar arrays to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and the introduction of electric vehicles. “We’re accelerating on the ‘Road to Zero’.”

Last year saw the launch of ice cream deliveries to Dublin, “meeting the need for high quality dairy products in the Republic”.

A series of awards for ice cream and sorbets was also won last from the UK Great Taste and Blas na hÉireann, the Irish National Food Awards in Dingle, Co Kerry. These awards helped boost the image of the products and increased awareness in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The business there was with a chain of luxurious hotels and several restaurants especially in the greater Dublin area for gourmet ice creams and sorbets.

Draynes has won business for a range of gourmet ice creams and sorbets including retail packs following a decision to explore opportunities identified within the hospitality sector in Dublin and other parts of the Republic.

Experienced dairy farmer John continues: “We were extremely excited to deliver our products to high-end hospitality customers in what was a new market for us. We look forward to establishing a strong presence in this important region for our luxury ice creams and sorbets made on our farm.

The exciting business followed its presence at the CATEX trade show in Dublin for the catering sector in Ireland. This gave the company excellent exposure to the Republic’s hospitality market. Draynes also had a strong presence of the recent IFEX hospitality show at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre.

John is confident the smart new identity will help the business grow sales further there in addition to expanding its already strong presence in the Northern Ireland market.

“We take pride in crafting a diverse selection of ice cream flavours and sorbets in a variety of packs,” he adds.

He brings a vast experience of the 300-acre farm with its 250-strong herd, including around 150 milkers, of Holstein Friesian cattle known for high quality milk output. He monitors the performance and health of the herd closely using a sophisticated computer system and has developed an experienced team.

John started developing the ice cream business as part of the farm’s successful milk processing and distribution business more than two decades ago. The farm has been producing, bottling and distributing milk and cream for almost 100 years in Lisburn, Belfast and other surrounding areas.

Draynes is recognised as being one of the most technologically advanced milk processing businesses on the island of Ireland from an extensive investment in robotic milking systems. A nutritionist regularly monitors their feed and adjusts it accordingly to ensure consistently high quality milk.  The farm began producing milk and cream in the 1930s. It was then run by brothers Seamus, Aidan and Dermot who used a horse and cart to deliver the milk around their home, near Lisburn.

Milk is supplied to other local food processors especially the multi award-winning Abernethy Butter which hand crafts butter for leading restaurateurs including Heston Blumenthal.

Excellent standards of animal husbandry and hygiene underpin the business and its commitment to ensure a stress-free environment for every animal.

“We maintain a comfortable and hygienic living environment for our herd,” John continues.” I believe happy cows make great–tasting ice cream,” he says. “The result is some of the richest, creamiest ice cream imaginable, freshly made every day, in our own modern creamery. We believe this is ice cream the way it’s supposed to be.

 “Doing everything on-farm means we can get ice cream to customers quicker and fresher, so it has a longer fridge life with less wastage,” he adds.