Arnaldo, managing director of Morelli’s, which was launched in 1911 and is now Northern Ireland’s most successful and widely respected innovators of authentic Italian ice cream flavours, saw the company’s new caramelised hazelnut named among the most delicious products in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland at the finals of the UK Great Taste Awards, Europe’s most influential food and drink competition.
“We had been working with hazelnuts from Italy’s Piedmont region for some time and decided to enter the ice cream in the Great Taste Awards to see what the experts thought of it,” Arnaldo explains.
“I’ve always loved hazelnut ice cream. While it’s probably my favourite flavour, hazelnut on its own never sold that well. I wanted to make it more appealing to the public. We all have a sweet tooth here and so larger, crunchier, caramelised nuts and a salted caramel sauce were natural additions,” he adds.
The company’s longstanding practice, he continues, is “to refresh its portfolio of ice cream flavours regularly ahead of the spring/summer season”. “We always endeavour to come up with around six new flavours especially for our scoop parlours here every year. Children in particular are always looking for different tastes,” Arnaldo says.
“Our interest in plant based flavours is on trend and has led to the launch of vegan and dairy-free ranges over the past few years.”
Arnaldo’s ‘tweaked’ hazelnut flavour captured the attention of expert judges at the Great Tastes and they awarded the company the Northern Ireland Regional Golden Fork as the province’s very best. It was the only ice cream to win an award at the finals which featured entries from across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
The experts described the ice cream as ‘a very attractive, sophisticated ice cream that has been well made. Well balanced with the sweetness that makes it so very indulgent and satisfying creating a truly excellent product. This is bloomin’ lovely!’
The winning ice cream was one of 13 products to pick up the coveted Golden Fork trophy for their respective country or region. Other winners included Scottish kippers, balsamic vinegar and craft gins.
Now operated by the fifth generation of the Morelli family, these small batch ice cream makers still use fresh double cream and butter from cows grazing on the lush green pastures of the Causeway coast. Toffee brown in colour and super creamy, this caramelised hazelnut ice cream is made with Ballyrashane Creamery’s Irish Double Cream, also from Coleraine, hazelnuts from Piedmont and swirls of caramelised hazelnut nibs and a salted caramel variegato.
Arnaldo continues: “We are thrilled to have won the prestigious NI Regional Golden Fork. It doesn’t get any better than being named among the tastiest foods in the UK. It’s a marvellous boost for the business and the Morelli family,” he adds. “I am confident that the new flavour will prove a huge success with ice cream lovers here and elsewhere.”
The Regional Golden Fork is sponsored by business development agency Invest Northern Ireland (INI). The award was presented by Michele Charrington, INI’s business development director in Britain, as part of the Speciality Fine Food Show in Harrogate.
In addition to sales throughout NI, Morelli’s supplies tubs to multiple supermarkets such as Morrison’s in Britain and Tesco here and in the Republic of Ireland.
The small business employs around 20 people and has been among the most innovative and recognised ice cream producers in the United Kingdom. Morelli’s double vanilla, for example, was named Best in the UK and Ireland in the Ice Cream Alliance Awards in 2019.
In addition to its range of quality ice creams, Morelli’s has also produced frozen yoghurt in collaboration with Clandeboye Estate, Northern Ireland’s only manufacturer of yoghurt.
It has a range of Libero branded dairy free ice cream and has also teamed up with award winning Irish Black Butter in Portrush to develop a unique flavour for scoop parlours. Its dairy free range replaced milk with ingredients that maintained the creaminess and flavour of ice cream. It featured a healthy coconut fat, a sugar replacement and plant extracts.
Another important innovation is the creation of a diabetes-friendly vanilla variety.
Morelli’s has also pioneered the development of eco tubs, edible containers which can be eaten with the ice cream. The tubs are part of its commitment to waste reduction and conservation.