Vegan ice cream enthusiasts are flocking to Four All Ice Cream, a Kitchener-based artisanal ice cream brand with a cult following that was dreamed up by entrepreneur Ajoa Mintah.
The small-batch ice cream manufacturer places customers at the core of its business and creates natural, local, and mindful ice cream for everyone regardless of their dietary restrictions or preferences.
Mintah, the founder and CEO of Four All Ice Cream wants everyone looking to buy her product to have an option that would suit their needs. “We are not everything for everybody, but we want to be something for everybody,” explained Mintah.
Mintah takes a science-based approach to recipe development, bringing a unique perspective shaped by her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Each ingredient is well thought out with the customer’s needs in mind. Four All Ice Cream chooses to use natural, sustainable, intentional, and functional ingredients.
As the company saw the popularity of its vegan ice cream flavours grow, it developed a need to optimize the formulation of its vegan ice cream flavours. It was then that Mintah heard from Ian Butcher, a research facilitator at Fanshawe College’s Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) that her small business is eligible to receive assistance from the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI).
Led by Niagara College, SONAMI is a network of nine post-secondary institutions, including CRI, backed by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment to support manufacturing in southern Ontario.
Mintah chose to embark on the SONAMI project in collaboration with Josie Olaveson, a professor and researcher at CRI and the program coordinator of the Food Processing Operational Leadership program, working in the Faculty of Creative Industries.
Olaveson began researching ways to simplify the production process, improve the product overrun (the percentage of air that is held within a frozen product) by introducing a protein to the formulation, and enhance the overall taste and texture of the company’s vegan ice cream. She would create samples at the lab, then Four All Ice Cream would comment on each sample and make sure they could replicate the same formulations with their own equipment. Greg Thomas, Engineering Physics co-op student at the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University, assisted with the project.
The research results showed that the production process could be simplified by using commercial oat milk versus producing one in-house, which reduced production time and product variance, providing a consistent taste and velvety texture. Additionally, the vegan ice cream’s overrun was significantly increased by introducing a vegan plant-based protein.
Mintah was elated by the results, the research helped her company improve efficiency and perfected the vegan base formulation that is used in all their vegan ice cream flavours. Additionally, Mintah identified both short-term and long-term gains for her company, including making valuable connections to potential partners.
“When you have a company that is young and they’re focused on growth and providing the best product, you can really save them a lot of the effort in reaching two or three viable solutions,” said Olaveson.
Before bringing a sample to Mintah, she completed a sensory analysis, tried other ingredients, tasted each of them herself and prepared them using four different methodologies, and took notes on each one. She was able to recommend the best option out of ten attempts. Olaveson was able to streamline the process to make it easy to assimilate the changes to the production process, giving Four All Ice Cream time to focus on their business.
“Working on projects like these helps Fanshawe College to remain current and connected to what is going on in the industry. It helps us update our curriculum in a way that is reflective of all the innovative products that are coming into the market,” said Olaveson. She explained these projects expand students’ horizons, giving them the opportunity to see a wider range of career opportunities for researchers and to connect with employers in southwestern Ontario.
“There’s so much expertise in the (Fanshawe) college, especially in CRI and it’s an untapped resource for entrepreneurs and businesses. Businesses can get consultation services at a cost-effective rate, receive funding, and improve student experiences. Companies can resolve their issues by drawing on the expertise,” said Olaveson.
“Knowing these resources exist and tapping into them is invaluable. The cost structure is very approachable, it’s not impossible, in fact, it is a smart choice,” recommended Mintah to any other founders looking to tackle similar challenges.
If you would like to discuss your organization’s needs with a SONAMI representative, please contact [email protected].