NO doubt about it, Bangkok is awash with ice cream. From big international brands pedaling their wares in luxury malls, right down to little old ladies pushing carts on the street, the most delicious way of cooling down is always within easy reach. But it wasn’t always this way.
Roll back twenty years and the options were limited to say the least. With premium gelato a luxury found only within five-star hotels, frozen coconut milk was the closest you’d get to the creamy Italian-inspired goodness now ubiquitous to department stores and supermarkets throughout the city.
So in 1998, after leaving his job as a Marketing Research Analyst for Montefluos, in Milan, Italy, Paulo moved to Bangkok and proceeded to make that dream a reality by establishing Gelathai.
The decision wasn’t made just on a whim. Prior to working for Montefluous, Paulo spent nine years with Trans Bussan Singapore, developing sales of its Carpigiani ice cream machines in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – so he knew the industry well. And he got off to a cracking start in Bangkok.
“The response was fantastic,” he says, “and after establishing our small ice cream factory on Sukhumvit 31, we quickly began opening Grand Italia kiosks around the city, including the first of its kind on Sukhumvit road. Our unique flavours and high quality ingredients meant we were a big hit.”
However, as many entrepreneurs in Bangkok have discovered, the City of Angels can be a demon when it comes to doing business. And logistics, staffing issues, and a turbulent economy following the global financial crisis in 2007, all soon threatened to rip the bottom out of Paulo’s operations.
“Faced with such issues, I decided to restructure,” he says, “so I closed the kiosks, of which we had about 10, and decided to focus more on supplying hotels and restaurants, developing flavours, and stocking new products (including top Italian ice cream machines from Icetech and Gelmatic).”
Today, Paulo supplies over 30 five-star hotels and many leading restaurants with his premium gelato and sorbets, and soon will make a push into local supermarkets, where he plans to showcase his goods in innovative fridges, with touchscreen technology, that allow consumers to place orders and interact with his company directly via a video link.
“For me, ice cream is a real passion,” says Paulo, “and I also love the technical side of things, the innovations in ice cream making machines and related technology. It’s all part of offering a premium product.”
He’s also proud of that fact that Gelathai offers one of the most comprehensive range of flavours on the market – over 150 – all made with fresh, top quality ingredients.
“We have everything from Hazelnut Italia, Chocolate, and Toffee, to Campari, Kiwi and Green Tea (the latter of which is made using premium leaves imported from Kyoto, Japan). We occasionally produce limited edition flavours for special events, such as the Obama (dark chocolate, almonds, and pieces of brownie), a big hit offered during his presidential campaign, and we also have new desserts called Monoportions – balls of gelato with various toppings and fillings.”
But what about chefs who don’t know anything about gelato? Especially those who want to make a good product themselves?
“Well again they can turn to us,” laughs Paulo. “Our mission as a company is to provide high quality gelato to all. So alongside our vast selection of ready-to-eat gelato, we also offer a gelato making kit which comes with all of the ingredients needed to make a premium gelato. Combined with one of our machines, and training we organize, it’s basically idiot proof. No pasteurizing, no bacteria – simply great gelato that’s extremely easy to make, and comes out perfect every time.”
For more information about Gelathai and its products, see www.granditalia.co