The dense cloud cover over the Isle of Arran temporarily dispersed for the Brodick Highland Games on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug 4. The 60-something degree temperature seemed pleasantly cool for the St. Louisans in the crowd, but to the natives, it was hot.
Patrons of the games weaved through the game and food booths, the flying cabers, the pipe band and the dancers, to join the queue awaiting a cold scoop of ice cream from Isle of Arran Dairies.
“I want to provide great Scottish food and drink and make it easy to buy,” Alastair Dobson, Isle of Arran Dairies’ managing director, said.
Dobson’s father, Russell, started the company in 1978. The Dobsons raised their own dairy cows on a family farm until 2004. Dobson, who inherited the company in 1985, now runs the business with the help of his wife, Susan, and their three children, Ross, 10; Matthew, 20; and Hannah, 19.
Though not on their own farm anymore, the Dobsons source the milk for their ice cream within the 167-square-mile island. The milk—which Dobson dubbed “mountain milk”—is pasteurized differently than that of the average supermarket, giving Isle of Arran Dairies’ ice cream a distinctive taste.
“It's this special Arran milk churned in batches of 200 litres into ice cream, which makes the Italian-type ice cream refreshingly cold yet with a satisfying creaminess,” according to the company website.
In addition to the hyper-local milk, Dobson uses some local fruits in the ice cream, and carefully chooses other fruits and chocolates from Italy, for flavors including traditional flavors like Scottish tablet and raspberry ripple. He also trained in Italy to properly make ice cream.
“We know exactly where it comes from,” Dobson said of his ingredients.
When Dobson took over the company in 1985, he did so with the hope to ensure that he could continue to provide the Isle of Arran with good dairy products, because at that time, all the other small dairies were closing, he said. More than 25 years later, Isle of Arran Dairies is still providing the island with milk, cream, cheese and other dairy products. Many shops on the island carry Isle of Arran Dairies’ ice cream. Dobson said small shops on the island love to support other local businesses, and the tourists have come to expect it.
Over the past two years, though, Dobson said he has seen a decrease in sales of his products. The Isle of Arran, which is a very small island, depends upon tourists for their trade. Dobson said up to 70 percent of the island’s business comes from tourists. With a poor world economy, the island has seen fewer tourists than usual. He said business is just beginning to pick up again.
“I want our company to be sustainable, innovative, creative in creating a world market,” Dobson said.
In the future, Dobson hopes to expand Isle of Arran Dairies to reach other countries, including the United States. He is working towards getting his ice cream sold in supermarkets overseas. For now, though, the Dobsons are focusing on making high quality products that people of Great Britain have come to enjoy.
“We live in a very beautiful place,” Dobson said, “with little pollution that makes the taste of our products special.”