"Here to constantly push industry standards": Joseph Eyre, co-founder of vegan gelato company Beau's, on its "unique" subscription model

As demand for vegan food options rises, North East ice cream parlour Beau’s has been working on expanding its offering.

Joseph Eyre, co-founder of Beau’s, launched the vegan ice cream subscription service as a way to push industry standards and connect with customers across the country.

Bdaily spoke with Joseph about the decision to create a “unique” subscription service and the “leaps and bounds” that vegan food has taken, as well as hinting at the company’s new launches this summer.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself - what is your role at Beau’s and what does it entail?

As Beau’s CEO I have responsibility for our strategy, the management of our operations and resources, and I tie together our stakeholders.

At the same time, we’re still a small company and so I’m very hands-on with the day-to-day operations, which can entail a bit of everything. You’ll find me in the kitchen working with our NPD team, pitching to prospective customers, discussing partnership opportunities or sometimes just trying to find the right packaging solution!

What led to you setting up the company?

In 2015 I was working in finance in the city and my wife and co-founder Amber was an intensive care nurse for the NHS. We’d both been vegan for several years and had talked for a long time about putting our energy and skills into something that was more closely aligned to our values. Our little girl, Autumn, was due that September and I think her arrival made us focus in on how important it was to be involved with something we believed in, to set an example.

We’ve always loved how food can bring people together to create occasions and we thought it would be wonderful to make an impact in that space.

We felt, as consumers, that one thing which was lacking from widely available vegan options was quality – and we knew from our travels that this quality certainly existed, just not always in the UK, necessarily. So we set out to learn our trade – including training at the Gelato University in Bologna – and create exceptional gelato that could be enjoyed by everyone.

How did you get the idea for a subscription service, and why is it a good model for your business?

We knew that food subscription services were gaining in popularity and we’d enjoyed signing up to some ourselves. With subscription services you have the opportunity for direct engagement with your customer in a way that’s really unique; you have the opportunity to take what is normally a simple transaction or act of consumption and make it a more elevated experience.

We create very premium gelato that is not designed to be consumed in large portions; it’s a dense, creamy, flavourful experience, and having trained as vegan gelatieres we just love to create new flavours! We felt that this combination knitted very well into the idea of a subscription service where we could bring to the customer both our elevated classics and innovative and fun new products.

We’re here to constantly push industry standards and there’s not many better routes to doing that than by having a direct and meaningful feedback loop with your customers. It gives us the opportunity to test flavours and concepts and get an understanding of developing trends in tastes, while also keeping us in touch with the consumer. We like to think of it as being a nationwide ice cream parlour! It’s all the friendliness and bespoke skill and care of an ice cream parlour – brought to your doorstep.

Have you observed any trends around vegan foods? Why do you think they’re becoming more popular?

Vegan food has come on leaps and bounds in the last five or six years. It’s been wonderful – as a consumer – to see the growth of the sector and the choice that’s now on offer. I think one of the most important trends within vegan food is the shift toward prioritising and promoting taste. That’s not something that always went hand-in-hand with the increase in popularity in the early stages of the movement. On the flip-side, sometimes taste is being prioritised at the expense of health and we need to be careful to not equate any vegan option as automatically being healthier.

I’ve always felt that the exciting thing about vegan food is how accessible and inclusive it is. When we started the business and were looking for early financial support one of the commentaries that would keep coming back on our business plan was that vegan was a niche market and too exclusive. And we kept remonstrating that – no, you have that the wrong way round, it is the vegan food that is inclusive and non-vegan food that is not tolerated by, or suitable for, a large portion of the global population.

Vegan food has so many access points to it and I think a lot of these have gained in public conversation all around the same time – and that’s created a real tidal wave of demand. You might eat vegan food because of a belief-system, or because of your views on animal welfare. Perhaps it’s a popular documentary you’ve seen, an environmental stance, a lifestyle choice, or it may be because of allergens or intolerances that the diet is now a preference. Or it might just simply be that, as for so many people, a large portion of their diet was already vegan (even if it was not acknowledged as such) and the improvement in availability and quality of these foods has meant that they’re more inclined to devote a greater portion of their diet to it.

We’ve always tried to present our products as products which transcend the vegan and non-vegan binary – it’s just great gelato! What will be really exciting is if we start to see a trend that identifies the non-vegan items rather than the vegan ones. It seems that would be a more sensible arrangement in terms of food groups that we are suited to consume and those we’re not so suited to consume.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

I find that there tend to be a long series of little challenges rather than big challenges, and perhaps the biggest challenge of all is to hold on and to keep tackling those little challenges again and again and again. There are so many obstacles when you’re starting up a business, so many different hats to wear and so many responsibilities you’d not envisaged would ever befall you. You have to keep an appetite to tackle those. It helps if the reasons for creating the business are closely connected to causes and beliefs that you hold and aspire to, and it makes a massive difference who you surround yourself with.

What has been the highlight of working on the company?

Hands down the highlight of working on the company is the people – both those that I work with and those that we work for. Ultimately, my role is to be responsible for this group of people and there is nothing better than seeing our team enjoy their work and sharing in the challenges, and the wins, with them.

Likewise, it’s lovely to be a part of the journey that our customers are on – as a consumer I’m on that journey with them! Those moments where you discover something new, or have a treat you’ve not had for so long, I know those moments so well and they never get old when you see others enjoying them.

What does the future hold for Beau’s? Any exciting plans?

We’re really excited to keep pushing the boundaries when it comes to product options, industry standards and routes to market. We’ve several launches lined up into some great retail and food outlets from this month and throughout the summer so we can’t wait to announce those and get Beau’s out to more areas of the country as everything starts to open up again.

We’re also building on our B2C offering and are going live in June with an online store where customers will be able to pick and choose the flavours they want and have them delivered on a weekly basis.

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