UK start-up, scientists collaborate on ambient ice lolly for home delivery: ‘Mail order lollies are unique, fun and exciting’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Pola, University of Nottingham collaborate for shelf-stable ice lolly innovation / Pic: Pola
Pola, University of Nottingham collaborate for shelf-stable ice lolly innovation / Pic: Pola

Related tags Ambient frozen

Food scientist at the University of Nottingham are collaborating with local start-up Pola to develop an ambient version of the company’s frozen treats.

Pola uses whole, fresh fruit to make its ice poles, which are sold locally as well as at events and festivals. The company has launched local delivery of its frozen treats – but start-up Pola wants to significantly expand its reach by establishing a direct-to-consumer mail order business.

To this end, founder Isaac Greenway-Tambini has been working with the University of Nottingham’s Food Innovation Centre to create ambient versions of his product.

“The idea came to me whilst researching the easiest and cheapest way to distribute my (frozen) ice poles nationwide. I received dozens of quotes for frozen couriers who could distribute my product across the UK,”​ Greenway-Tambini told FoodNavigator.

“However, this came with a huge cost, not just for their services, but for the insulated and non-eco-friendly packaging that would be involved in their transportation. I began to brainstorm ideas to work around this, and as my ice poles are filled in sealed pouches, I figured I may be able to post them as ambient which would exclude costly frozen distribution and unsustainable insulated packaging.”

The collaboration with the University of Nottingham is taking place under the umbrella of the Driving Research and Innovation project - a three-year program that runs until the end of January 2023. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and run by the Food Innovation Centre based at the University of Nottingham and in association with the Midlands Engine, it is a collaboration project that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers.

“The challenges we need to overcome are achieving a safe, stable and ambient product without losing the amazing quality, taste and texture of our lollies,”​ Greenway-Tambini elaborated.

He is confident that this can be achieved without impacting the taste or texture of the final product – or by leveraging artificial ingredients. “If you look at products such as Ella's Kitchen fruit pouches they use clean ingredients and whole, fresh fruit and have achieved a long shelf life whilst still having an excellent product,” ​the start-up founder noted. “Our ice poles being naturally slightly acidic helps to preserve their quality, as well as light in-pack pasteurisation that helps extend shelf life.”

Demand drivers: local, sustainable and convenient

Pola is tapping into a number of hot consumer trends, in particular growing demand for products that are locally produced and sustainably sourced.

Many of the ingredients used in Pola ice poles are home grown or sourced from within a five-mile range, with the addition of some exotic flavours. The range varies according to the season and currently includes strawberries and cream gelato, rose and lemon, raspberry and lime, elderflower, Alphonso mango gelato, coffee gelato, strawberry and lemon.

The brand is also innovating to become more sustainable and shortly replace its plastic packaging with a compostable alternative. "We will also be the world’s first compostable ice pole which gives a footing in the eco-friendly, sustainable and plastic-free market which is growing at a rapid rate,”​ Greenway-Tambini claimed.

Pola has ambitions to capitalise on changes to the way we shop – with more consumers going online due to COVID-19 – in order to deliver growth throughout the UK.

“We are targeting consumers who are interested in convenience, sustainability and purchasing their weekly shopping online. With the rise in the convenient shopper, who like their shopping dropped at their doorstep, we provide an alternative to going to the shops and purchasing multi-packs of ice lollies, worrying about them melting and rushing home.

“Customers want to be able to purchase products with the click of a button, want it shipped quickly and in their cupboards (or freezer) as soon as possible.”

Greenway-Tambini also believes that the concept offers an added bonus: “Mail order lollies are a unique, fun and exciting way of enjoying a frozen treat as a family.”

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