A flaky future for Lancashire’s beloved ice cream vans?

Maurice Murray
Maurice Murray
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Research has found the number of ice cream vans has been falling for years. Wes Holmes speaks to a number of Lancashire vendors who say there is still plenty of life in the trade just yet...

Fears that the familiar jingle of the ice cream van could soon fade away forever have prompted debate between Lancashire vendors.

An article published by the BBC this month claimed ‘the number of ice cream vans has been falling for years’ - and while some ice cream manufacturers agreed that the familiar sight of a painted Mr Whippy could be in danger, others branded it ‘nonsense’.

Ice Cream Alliance director Maurice Murray, argued that the ice cream van industry was not failing, but changing as van owners now depend on carnivals, food festivals, weddings, birthday parties and Christenings to bring in the cash.

He said: “To say ice cream vans are dying out is nonsense. Yes, in the 1970s and 80s you would see a couple of vans two or three times a day, but now you will only see one - so the frequency of vans going round has declined, but the ice cream vans are still out there and there’s still a profit to be made.

“I run a Facebook group for mobilers with well over 1,000 members, and most of them have got two or three vans each.

When I was a kid everybody played in the streets, and now everybody plays on their XBox.

“There is less to be made on the streets because of competition from supermarkets, fuel stations and corner shops. Events are what everyone is turning to these days - weddings and birthday parties.”

Maurice, who has run a small fleet of ice cream vans since 2007 with the help of his two sons, currently sells ices at Cala Gran caravan park and Freeport Fleetwood, and was awarded the title of ‘Mobiler of the Year’ in 2016.

He added: “Special events are the future of the ice cream truck.”

However, Ethan Dowson, manager at Mrs Dowson’s Ice Cream in Salmesbury, said he believed traditional Mr Whippy vans could face an uncertain future as discerning customers turned to more organic alternatives.

He said: “People are now a lot more health-conscious and want to know exactly what goes into their food.

“We are an artisan company. As a business we are definitely getting more and more attention as people want high-quality ice cream.

“Over the past 14 years the success of our mobile vendors has increased tenfold at least. Without question we get a lot of invites from people who are doing events. We were at Clitheroe Food Festival and it was our most successful year so far.

“However, the Mr Whippy vans might be in danger since people are buying ordinary ice cream and lollies at the supermarket. For a Thursday night ice cream for a child, parents will go to the freezer, not an ice cream van. I think that’s why they may have seen a decline.”

Sally Sitzell, owner of the Feisty Cow ice cream shop in Penwortham, felt the potential decline in ordinary ice cream vans was a sign of changing times.

She said: “When I was a kid everybody played in the streets, and now everybody plays on their XBox.

“It’s a totally different generation.

“You used to see vans all around the neighbourhood, and you don’t see them any more.

“When you drive down past your local park, they’re never full like they were. There are trampoline parks and play centres for children instead.

“Years ago people would make their fun at home and then you’d hear the ice cream van and run out to it.

“I think it’s a sign that the times are changing. I do think it’s a shame.

“People have forgotten about them.”

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