National

Italian gelato maker aims to tickle taste buds of Chennai’s ice-cream lovers

Swathi Moorthy Updated on January 10, 2018

Francesco Carboni

Puducherry-based Gelato Factory plans expansion

There is nothing more heavenly than savouring guava flavoured Italian gelato that gives you respite from the blistering Chennai heat. Even better if there is an Italian to explain the nitty-gritty of gelato preparation.

“It is not your regular ice cream, mind you,” emphasises Francesco Carboni, the founder of Gelato Factory in Puducherry.

Carboni, who was in Chennai for a food-related trade fair recently, was a fair trade merchant of natural and herbal products and used to run an apothecary in Rome. He has been to Auroville in Puducherry many times and always made it a point to buy natural products made there to sell in his shop.

After over 25 years of being in fair trade, he wanted to do something more than business. He wanted to find a vocation that could combine his love for natural and organic products and also be creative. Now he sells gelato in Puducherry, which he says is his calling.

Carboni did a three-month course in Italy to learn how to make gelato and sell commercially.

Unlike regular ice creams, gelato’s base is natural fruits and milk with fat content less than 10 per cent. “How could I find a calling more perfect than this!” exclaimed Carboni, who started Gelato Factory in 2015 with a capacity of 10 litres per hour, at Auroville.

Indian experience

But it was not easy to make it work in India, Carboni confesses.

“I had to modify the Italian gelato recipe for India,” he said. Italian gelato uses four kinds of sugar — sucrose, liquid glucose, dextrose and honey. But it was hard to find raw materials that could give the same thickness in India. “I did a lot of research to improve the taste. Finally, I reworked the quantity of sugar needed to bring about the same taste,” he added.

Once that was in place, Carboni began to slowly experiment with flavours, especially vegan. “We offer more than 20 varieties of vegan gelato,” he said.

Turnover

After two years and cumulative investment of ₹50 lakh, the venture is now profitable with an annual turnover of ₹80 lakh. There are two Gelato Factory outlets in Puducherry and one in Chennai. Carboni is now ready to take up more.

Carboni is in talks with franchise partners in Chennai. But he is cautious about who he is associating with.

“Also the power cut is frequent, which means I have to shell out more on electricity,” he added. Current production capacity is about 25 litres an hour. Carboni said, “We are planning to increase it to 50 litres per hour.”

The company is looking to partner with around 10 franchisees this year.

The company is also looking at select retail chains, hotels and restaurants in the South to supply gelato. Currently, the company supplies gelato to three retail outlets in Tamil Nadu. “Looking at the range of consumers I find in Chennai, there is a huge market for gelato. So I want to take it to 24 outlets this year,” he added.

Published on September 13, 2017
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