Our Food and Drink Editor, Katy Watson chats to local business owner Stef, who shares her exciting plans for York’s new ice-cream parlour – listen up vegans!
A little while ago I met up with York-based business owner Stef Blair. Stef and her wife have been running the quirky pub, Thomas’ of York (rated four stars on Trip Advisor) for eight years. She very recently bought LICC- located on Swinegate and the most adorable ice-cream shop to have ever existed- and is planning great things for both businesses. We met in Thomas’ and talked about the future of food, sustainability and hopefully a local festival to celebrate delicious, more eco-friendly food.
Stef jumped straight into saying that four years ago she recognised a change in demand. Vegetarian and gluten free options were becoming increasingly more popular. But the real explosion in vegetarian and vegan food came in the last year and a half. This comes as no surprise considering the number of vegans in Great Britain has quadrupled between 2014 and 2018. In 2018 there were 600,000 vegans, compared to the 150,000 in 2014. “Honestly, we sell more vegan and vegetarian food than normal food,” Stef enthused.
It is exciting to see veganism on the rise and being embraced by small businesses. Thomas’ of York has many interesting vegan and vegetarian options to choose from (I certainly will be back to try a few, especially as they do student discount!)
But what we discussed mostly during our meeting was the future of LICC. LICC was established in 2010 but its original owners sold it to Stef a few months ago. Stef promises vegan ice-cream days and more ice-cream made with fresh ingredients instead of PreGels- which may be more expensive for the business but will use less packaging.
We talked about how we both felt big businesses do not care about their environmental impact. “They have too much money to care,” Stef pointed out. But local and independent businesses see their products from creation to customer. The more we purchase from companies that take steps to prevent excess waste, minimise negative impact on the surroundings and uphold values that extend further than serving itself, both big business and individuals will be inspired.
Stef aims to have an ice-cream shop with twelve vegan ice-creams (not just sorbet, actual gelatos!) and twelve vegetarian flavours. That’s a fifty-fifty split. The vegan chocolate gelato sells really well; but more exotic flavours like kiwi and lime are in the pipeline (and Stef is very open to further suggestions!)
I personally hope to see more businesses selling vegan products. Not just because veganism is a selling point appealing to a still relatively new, grossing market. But because people are starting to understand the positive results of a plant-based lifestyle. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to two thirds. Naturally, not all vegan products are environmentally friendly or healthy. But what this shift to veganism represents is the consumer’s consciousness of the world outside the ice-cream parlour, so to speak.
What else does the small business do? Stef described how they don’t buy-in plastic but rather re-use the plastic containers the food deliveries come in. What’s more, their ice-cream is going to be served in biodegradable cups.
As we finished our conversation, I looked around at the eccentrically decorated pub; there was hardly any plastic about. No straws, salt and pepper were stored in old bottles, nuts served in bowls not individual packages. We must not underestimate the ‘little things’ that are done by small business owners- it will all add up.
WILD and LICC are planning to join forces for a food festival celebrating small businesses and more sustainable practices. Keep an eye out for more information about this soon!
Thank you to Stef Blair for the interview.
About the author: Katy Watson is our Food and Drink editor and an English Literature Masters student at York. She loves reading, badminton and her two guinea-pigs.