SELLING products is never an easy task, but when it’s something as delicious as Isle of Arran Ice Cream, well, it isn’t hard to sell at all.

Couple this tasty, uniquely flavoured ice cream with the tremendous marketing skills of the business’s owner, Alastair Dobson, and you have a very successful set-up indeed.

With just two dairy farms left on the Isle of Arran, Alastair was keen to look at how he could utilise the milk that was right on his doorstep, and what better way to do that than turn it into ice cream. But, this business didn’t just appear overnight, and it took a bit of hard work to get it to where it is today.

A fourth generation family-run business, Arran Dairies, which makes Arran Ice Cream, was established on Arran in 1978, but, at that time, Alastair wanted to go elsewhere, as a lot of island youngsters do.

“I left the island to go and do other things, because, you know, that’s what a lot of the young people here do – we think we can move off the island and find bigger and better things.

“You know what it’s like, too, when it’s your parents’ business, you’re too cool to be a part of that,” joked Alastair.

However, he did come back, in 1999, and by that time he was ready to take over Arran Dairies, and start producing handmade, Italia-style, ice cream.

Located on the shores of Brodick, Arran Dairies exclusively uses milk produced by Arran’s two remaining dairy herds, which graze of the island’s lush, green pastures, which, Alastair explained, “gives our ice cream its distinctive creamy taste,” and after trying it, you cannot deny how distinctive, and moreish, it is.

On offer is a variety of different flavoured ice creams, as well as sorbets, and these are handmade, in small batches, by the skilled Arran Dairies team.

“We are all passionate about the ice cream, especially me,” commented Alastair, who excitedly showed the SF team around his ice cream production room, offering a sample straight off the production line, which tasted exquisite.

“Our passion means that we produce our ice cream to a high quality, and to be honest, if you aren’t passionate about something, then the quality isn’t the same,” he added.

Most people would assume that vanilla, or even maybe chocolate flavoured ice cream would be in the highest demand, but surprisingly, that is not the case.

“A lot of our orders, particularly for hotels and restaurants, are for the traditional flavoured ice cream, which is as plain as you can get it – literally frozen milk, and I would say that’s so that it complements desserts.

“People aren’t always keen on particularly sweet ice cream, and so that’s when the traditional recipe is more suitable,” Alastair said.

Three ranges are available from Arran Ice Cream, and that includes the Impulse range, the Take Home retail range, and the Scooping Napoli range. The Impulse range offers 120ml tubs, which comes with a handy little spoon inserted in the lid of the tub, and which is great for a “wee taste” on a warm day. This size comes in seven flavours. For sharing, the Take Home tubs are suitable, which offer 750ml of ice cream, and this is perfect for having at home. This size offers eight different flavours. As for the Scooping Napoli range, these tubs are 4.5litres in size, and are perfect for caterers and ice cream shops. A number of different flavours are available in this size, and bespoke flavours can be created on request.

And on the topic of ice cream shops – does Alastair have plans to open his own?

“I am planning to open an ice cream shop and café in Brodick soon, and that will be somewhere to go for a sweet treat during the day, and a light bite and a drink at night.

“That sort of style of eatery is becoming more popular, and it’s the sort of place you would find in Italy, so that’s certainly the vibe I’ll be going for, and one that I really like, as I love Italian ice cream shops,” he explained.

Although he is very busy with his ice cream venture, Alastair then started to think about other ways Arran food brands could be marketed to the rest of the world, and that’s what started A Taste of Arran.

“Although Arran is only 20 miles long, with a population of 5000, the range of food and drink is impressive.

“We’ve got traditional Scottish oatcakes, a whole host of cheeses, fruit preserves and mustards, real ales and malt whisky, and of course our ice cream and sorbets, and so I started to think, why don’t we create a brand which helps to sell these products further afield,” Alastair said.

There was just once stipulation for Arran’s food producers: all Taste of Arran products had to be made on the island, using as many natural ingredients as possible.

“Our products are handmade by people who care about food, and the wonderful environment in which they’re lucky enough to live and work, and I believe that each product captures the essence of Arran, and every bite gives a taste of island life, and I was keen for people elsewhere to experience that too,” he added.

Taking Alastair’s comments into account, there is no denying that the Arran brand is becoming more recognised in the food world, and some products are beginning to appear regularly on the menus of some of the country’s leading restaurants, including Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, and at The Kitchin.

With Alastair’s level of business intelligence, and his excitable and passionate personality, both Isle of Arran Ice Cream, and A Taste of Arran, are in very safe hands, and both enterprises surely have a bright future ahead of them.

A Taste of Arran represents: Isle of Arran Cheese Shop; Wooleys of Arran oatcakes; Arran Haggis and Arran Black Pudding; Handmade Arran Tablet; and Arran Fine Foods chutneys, mustards, and preserves.