From 99s to decadent sundaes: Leeds' Mr Whippy sees shift in more expensive taste for ice cream
A second generation Yorkshire ice cream van man has seen a shift to a more luxurious ice cream offering as the new favourite for the public during the pandemic, Ruth Dacey reports.
Ian Smith, 52, followed his father's footsteps into the ice cream trade.
As a youngster he spent days out in Mister Softee vans in Leeds with his father Ian Smith Sr, who was an ice cream man in Leeds from the early 1960s.
Now Mr Smith, who has run his own ice cream business for 35 years, can often be found serving up ice cream from a van in Roundhay Park
Mr Smith Jr, from Cross Gates, runs three modern ice cream vans around the West Yorkshire park, where he has had a spot for more than 20 years.
He has also been selling at Temple Newsam for three years as well as various events, carnivals and weddings, while also owning another three vintage vans, which date from 1957, 1959 and 1980.
Mr Smith said: "I was born into this and I have done it all my life.
"I'll never do anything else, I wouldn't want to - I love the job. I have a real passion for it."
He added: "Roundhay has a close place in my heart. I love working here.
"When I was young as a kid my parents used to sell ice cream here and I grew up playing in the park."
But in March last year Mr Smith, who runs his family ice cream business Mr Whippy Leeds, with wife Tracy Tracy, 52, and daughters Leanne,and Stephanie, parked up his vans for three months, in the depot three miles form the park, due to the pandemic.
In that period all the vans were emptied, defrosted and given a deep clean.
Mr Smith said: "Usually if we have a day off and the sun comes out - you feel so guilty not being out, because we are usually always out in the van if the sun is out.
"To spend three months not doing that was really strange."
But since the vans returned in June 2020 Mr Smith said he has enjoyed a “record year” at the Roundhay site, with a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.
He said: "In 20 years of being at Roundhay Park we've never been so busy."
He said it was due to working through the winter and extending to 12 hours a day for most days.
Mr Smith added the taste from the public had changed - with a 'dramatic' rise in demand for the three new ‘super sundae’ creations - kinder bueno, oreo and biscoff flavoured.
He said: "The 99 has always been the number one seller - with some sprinkles on.
"But what we are finding is we seem to be selling more premium products this year.
"We thought we would make a special indulgent creation with the sundaes - they are more expensive but everybody seems to be going for the luxury items.
"Everybody used to want the cheapest item but that seems to have gone out the window."
And Mr Smith said he and his team will be out in force for the rest of the summer in a currently "unpredictable" ice cream market.
He said: "It's very unpredictable at the moment. On days where you think it would normally be quiet you can get bombed.
"There is no real consistency at the moment with it - you do not know. You just have to go out every single day and see what happens."