Island entrepreneur lets out a scream for traceable ice cream

An Island-raised entrepreneur has taken a step back to Victoria and the family farm to propel her young ice cream company forward.

Lori Joyce, who launched Betterwith Ice Cream two years ago while living in Vancouver, is back home and more resolute than ever to establish Betterwith as the top premium ice cream brand in the province.

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That’s a bold statement, but Joyce is convinced it’s possible given her product — a premium ice cream that uses “traceable” cream from one Abbotsford farm and ingredients anyone can spell and pronounce.

Joyce, who grew up on a six-acre, organic farm and as a child had her own cow, said the idea for the ice cream came after having her two boys. She started reading labels more closely and realized what was going into the ice cream they would be eating.

“As I read, I noticed this is really full of junk,” Joyce said, noting she realized she had been a little spoiled as a child when it came to the food she ate.

“My parents were doing the organic, farm-to-table lifestyle before it became a thing,” she said. “It was all they knew.”

Joyce, now ensconced on the family farm, is intent on driving home the fact that her ice cream is made with that philosophy in mind — knowing the source. She said the fact all her cream comes from Lavender Farm in Abbotsford, where they know how the farm operates and how the cows are treated, and that her other ingredients are simple, easy to spell and pronounce, will resonate with consumers.

“Right now [the company] is about ice cream, but it’s deeper than that. It’s about the integrity of the company I’m developing. It’s about transparency, it’s about honesty, traceability and purpose,” she said. “That’s what the company stands for.”

Joyce said consumers trust companies less and read ingredient labels closer than ever, and that should play to her strength. She hopes that will help set her apart from the players such as Nestle’s Haagen-Dazs.

That’s no mean feat given the ice cream market is an estimated $100 million space in B.C. alone, and as much as $75 billion worldwide, and small players tend to get overshadowed in cramped freezer space.

Joyce points out her ice cream tends to be on the lowest shelf in the freezer — she can’t compete in the game of paying for premium space — so she has to stand out as a product and win over customers one taste at a time.

Her six flavours — vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry, caramel and cream — are in store freezers around Western Canada, including Thrifty Foods and Whole Foods, but she is not yet hitting her sales targets. That’s down to product awareness, she said, noting that’s why she is tirelessly doing in-store demonstrations and handing out samples.

It’s also why she’s back on the Island and no longer faced with the higher cost of living in Vancouver.

“I am that boot-strapping entrepreneur. I am so devoted to what I’m doing with this company I will not compromise on my company, but I will compromise on my lifestyle,” she said.

Being home has also given her a new perspective on the business and the marketplace.

Joyce, who was one of the founders of the Cupcakes retail chain, which spawned a reality TV series called the Cupcake Girls, says she is more grounded here.

Being “out of the bubble” of Vancouver, she said, allowed her to walk away from a plan to raise capital, give up equity in her firm, and spend a lot of money on advertising. “Being here I realized no one would have noticed that commercial, and I doubt it would have converted to sales,” she said.

At the same time, she has seen an opportunity on the Island itself. “The big guys don’t focus on Vancouver Island. But this market is totally my customer,” she said. “They choose to live here and they really are protective of this environment which generally means they are supportive of local.

“[My] narrative is more interesting to them.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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