Zoe Philipson of Hexhamshire has won a very prestigious award. She runs Tyne Valley Ices, which is a stunning example of successful rural industry, and she has been nationally recognised by the UK Ice Cream Alliance as someone who is making their mark in the business; they have acclaimed her as the ‘Guido Morelli Rising Star’ of 2023.
This annual award is a recognition of young talent, and named after Guido Morelli of the world-famous Irish ice-cream company. The current CEO of the Ice Cream Alliance commented on Zoe’s successes, and named her a “very worthy winner.” Among these successes is the notable ‘Best Ice Cream Van,’ she won in the 2022 National Ice Cream Competition.
Early years in Hexhamshire
While still at school Zoe helped with the family business begun by her father in 1974. The summers of her childhood were spent working with both her parents in a mobile ice-cream van; she says, “it was truly idyllic, a child’s dream.” As a teenager helping was not a chore; she attended events and processed phone bookings, all the while revising for exams.
About twelve years ago after A-levels, a useful combination of Sciences and Economics, she took over the family business. Tyne Valley ices are manufactured in a local factory near Hexham, and Zoe has retained many of the original techniques and principles created by her father. Both ice-cream and sauces are made and sold locally by the family or wholesaled to other retailers, all the while using produce from local farmers.
Building an ice-cream business
At around the time Zoe took over, she noticed a decline in the mobile trade. Strong competition from supermarkets and other sellers of ices and lollies led her to experiment, and produce something unique. She noticed a gap in the market and began making ‘Super Sauce’ ice-cream toppings to sell to other ‘mobilers.’
Tyne Valley Ices now offer over one hundred flavours of topping sauce, sold both locally and nationwide. Zoe took on the business when it had one mobile van. She now runs five vans, two trikes, and a rare vintage barrow.
Tyne Valles Ices, ‘green’ credentials
Environmental concerns are uppermost in Zoe’s mind. She is an active member of ‘Shop Local & Tyndale Business Forum.’ The factory sports solar panels, ingredients are sourced locally, road miles and single-use items are kept to a minimum, and ices come in wafer ‘eco’ tubs (from a UK manufacturer); as she says, this fits in “with our philosophy of tummy-fill, not land-fill.”
“We are currently working with an HVO [Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil] distributor to supply bulk HVO fuel for the vans, to reduce our fuel emissions by 88%. This would make us the first ‘Clean Green’ fleet of ice-cream vans in the UK.”
Tyne Valley Ices community spirit
It’s not difficult to see why Zoe has won the Rising Star award. Tyne Valley Ices sponsors Hexham Girls under 15’s and under 12’s Football teams. She supports The Great North Air Ambulance and had a place in the Great North Run last year which resulted in her doubling her fundraising target. She regularly donates to Northumberland Food Bank, and fundraises for Cash for Kids.
She has seized the opportunity to engage children in safety campaigns, made Posters, and leaflets with a colouring sheet; each completed sheet to be exchanged for a ‘reflector’ to use in the night hours.
Zoe offers both dairy and gluten-free, diabetic and protein ice-creams, vegan products, and ‘dog-friendly ice-cream.’ Her vans can be seen round Hexham in Parks, at the Races, Sports Days, and on regular ‘Factory Fridays’ covering the industrial estates and commercial properties in and around the Town.
Both health and safety are important in Zoe’s business. She is first-aid trained, and some months ago made an impressive decision to purchase and carry a cardiac defibrillator in her Mobile. Most of all, she is hugely appreciative of her customers, and generous in her engagement with others in business, and in her community.
Onwards and upwards for Tyne Valley Ices
Zoe’s link to the Ice Cream Alliance has expanded and she is now a Northern delegate. She says this has given her the opportunity to become more active in the wider industry, and to engage with other members.
“The possibilities are endless, and I think with a little imagination and sharing of ideas we could all survive and thrive.”
Her hard work and business flair have made her business sustainable, and ready for future generations. Some special people have the gift of bestowing delight in the world; Zoe Philipson is just such a person. And, her ice-creams are delicious.