Jude’s ice cream: The Hampshire company trying to change the world, one spoonful at a time

Or, possibly more likely, you may have seen it in the freezers of many supermarkets in the area, perhaps in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, or the Southern Co-op.

Its low-key but stylish striped tubs are beginning to be recognizable, as it grows and grows.

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Chow, Theo and Alex Mezger. Jude’s ice cream is based in Twyford, Hampshire

However, few people realize it’s a Hampshire company, and one that is aiming to make the world a better place, one step at a time – and not just by creating new flavours. While it prides itself in the taste of peach and champagne, and its mint choc chip, and Jude’s very much has its sights set on the health of the planet.

The Jude’s story starts 20 years ago when Theo Mezger, after years working in the City, decided to start his own company.

Being surrounded by cows, he settled on ice cream, and after mastering the basics, created a miniature factory in a barn in his home at Easton, near Winchester.

Inside the Jude’s factory near Twyford

Starting with supplying the village pub, things soon grew. His sons Chow and Alex and their best friend James joined the fledgling enterprise, and in time it moved to its current home – a beautifully bucolic industrial estate just outside Twyford.

And it was at that point that things started to take off. The recognizable stripy tubs came in around this time, and the retail – rather than supply – section of the business exploded, leading to an expansion that now sees between 50 and 60 staff on the books. This – and the large factory space – is a far cry from the early days, but one factor that has remained the same is the business’s social conscience, although that has evolved too.

Just as it was the first business in the country to make salted caramel ice cream, it has continued to try to innovate in other areas.

‘Since the beginning our approach has been that business is not something that is separate from the community, or separate from family life,’ says Chow. It doesn’t stand alone.

The Jude’s team

‘Literally it was like that in the beginning. Our team was from the village and we were based in the village where we grew up.

Jude’s is fully integrated in the lives of all our team. It impacts the families of our team, and the community in Twyford and the community where our team lives. It impacts our supply chain, it impacts the environment and our customers.

The point is that business is not something separate from life or community or people. That’s been our approach. That’s why “business is a force for good” is a no-brainer. We are absolutely determined that Jude’s purpose is “to bring life”.

Fine words perhaps – but words that have some evidence and proof behind them.

Inside the factory

Apart from ice cream, the focus at Jude’s is firmly on the environment, with de-carbonising the central plank.

‘In the life of Jude’s the most important thing we can do is reduce our carbon footprint,’ said Chow. ‘There are not enough offsets in the world to carry on emitting carbon.’

And to help with this Jude’s employed the services of carbon expert Mike Berners-Lee (the brother of Tim Berners-Lee who is credited with inventing the world wide web).

Prof Berners-Lee and his Small World Consulting team gave Jude’s targets to reduce the amount of carbon it used. Marginal gains became the mantra – where efficiencies could be made in packaging, in transport, in energy supply and in ingredients.

Jude’s has committed to a 43 per cent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 and reduced the carbon footprint of its ice cream by 20 per cent in 2022 alone. Hand in hand with this is a decision to offset 110 percent of emissions.

Chow says that the aim isn’t just to feel worthy but to exert pressure on the rest of the food industry.

Jude’s lower calorie salted caramel and double chocolate

‘Everything we do is seen through the prism of the best possible ice cream and carbon intensity,’ he said.

Also we are asking all our suppliers for ingredients with a carbon footprint of everything. ‘Lots of people have not done that work yet, but if we are asking that question then everyone will do that work.

‘Our sales pitch is demonstrating to customers how we are reducing their carbon footprint through the supply chain.’

The company has been named a B Corp, a scheme run by B Lab, which describes itself as a ‘nonprofit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet’. In short, businesses have to be audited to show they are behaving responsibly in five areas – governance, workers, customers, community and environment.

And environmentally, one area which has exploded is plant-based ice cream, moving away from dairy.

Pointing to the emissions ramifications of animal products, Chow said: ‘Seventy per cent of the world’s agricultural land is set aside for animals grazing or growing feed. We should be running out of reasons not to eat plant-based.

‘With our approach – we are always about quality indulgence first. Our plant-based products are so good. They taste excellent – that’s the number one goal. But it’s clear that plant-based is better for the environment.’

The general swing in society away from meat and dairy-based food is replicated at Jude’s – seven years ago Chow said one per cent of their products were plant-based, and by 2024 it’s forecast to be half.

‘All the younger generation coming through get this,’ he said. ‘We want to pioneer that and develop products.’

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