In 2002 Theo Mezger immersed himself in an unusual retirement project: creating the finest ice cream using local ingredients, which he lovingly named after his wife.
What started as a hobby in his home just outside Winchester impressed family and friends so much that he began to supply local pubs, starting with The Chestnut Horse.
Word spread and Jude’s won the first of many Great Taste Awards for its vanilla ice cream.
Demand became such that Theo’s two sons, Chow and Alex, joined the business. Small independent food specialists across the county began to stock Jude’s, and when Waitrose took its first order in 2010 other leading supermarkets followed. Today Jude’s has expanded with a Twyford HQ and is stocked in Sainsbury’s and is also available on Ocado.
“At the start it was just a bit of fun,” Chow says. “But it soon became apparent that there was a real market for quality British-made ice cream, and it wasn’t long before we were supplying many of the top restaurants in London too.”
Local ingredients have been key to Jude’s success. Hill Farm supplies Jude’s with apples, Summerdown with mint, and milk comes from Matterley Farm – just a few miles from Jude’s HQ.
Jude’s salted caramel ice cream, inspired by ice cream Alex discovered on holiday in France, was the first of its kind to be launched in the UK, as far as the Mezgers know, and remains its best-seller. “It was a big gamble at the time,” Chow says. “The idea of combining salt and caramel in ice cream just hadn’t been done before.”
Other innovative flavours have included Gin and Tonic, using Sipsmith gin, Black Coconut, Hot Toddy, Ginger Spice and Flat White Coffee.
Inspired by the arrival of their own children, Alex and Chow launched Little Jude’s last year. The Milk Lollies range contains 30 per cent less sugar than the competition and far less sugar than most children’s yoghurts too.
“We’re still very much a young and friendly company, trying to do things differently,” Chow says. “Ten per cent of our profits go to charity and we love what we do. We work hard together, have fun together and celebrate a job well done together.”