Many of our shoppers have enjoyed Vermont Gelato for years but may not know that it has new owners. Mike and Jess Kull recently purchased the company in the fall of 2018. Since then they have worked hard to continue the consistency and delicious flavors one has come to expect over the years. Since acquiring Vermont Gelato they have taken pride in offering the finest gelato around while building on this wonderful product with new flavors and offerings, wider distribution, and a focus on customer service.
Jess and Mike met many years ago in Utah while they both worked in the ski industry. Jess worked for the ski company Rossignol and Mike for a fine dining establishment at Deer Valley. Utah allowed them to grow their love for outdoor sports and to explore canyons, rock cliffs, mountains, and deserts. While in Utah they dreamed of owning a food company or restaurant at some point in their lives and as they began to think more deeply about running a business and building a family, they decided to move back to Vermont. Jess spent her childhood in central Vermont and was excited for the agricultural food scene she grew up around. Freshly married, they moved to Vermont in 2014 to start the next chapter in their lives. Upon arriving they had their first child, Henry, and they both worked for the family business: Vermont Country Deli. Mike managed the “coffee and mac and cheese stand” (as he called it) at Mount Snow, and loved creating new menu options including a Pie à la Mode that used Vermont Gelato. As he experimented with this widely loved dessert option, he became very fond of the gelato. After a few years of working for the Vermont Country Deli they knew it was time to strike out on their own, and when they heard Vermont Gelato might be for sale they jumped at the opportunity. With both of them having backgrounds in customer service, cooking, and food service, producing an artisan product such as gelato made sense.
The origin of gelato dates back to the 1600s, when an Italian chef created and introduced it in Paris, France. From there it blossomed into a world-wide dessert favorite. With gelato literally translating to ice cream, one would think that these frozen desserts are the same, but there are a few differences. Gelato has a higher concentration of milk than ice cream which makes it much “more playful.” While all ice creams have milk, they are higher in cream, and this creaminess can often overtake the flavors. The higher milk concentration in gelato allows for the playfulness because milk melds more effectively with flavors such as blueberries, caramel, or vanilla. Furthermore, gelato churns or mixes for longer than ice cream, and has up to 70% less air (or overrun), making it denser.
One of the keys to the uniquely delicious flavor of Vermont Gelato is that they make their own base mix. A base mix is a pasteurized blend of milk, cream, sugars and gums. Once this base mix is created it then goes through an aging process, which adds to the delicious artisan flavor. Of course, the real magic happens with gelato when real fruit and flavors made from scratch are added during the mixing process. All of their processing is done by hand with real ingredients, including stickering the containers and packing the pints. They take deep pride in their gelato being an artisanal product, even fulfilling many custom orders. Most of the gelato they make at the beginning of the week is delivered by the end, allowing them to have the freshest product possible.
Jess and Mike love cooking organic, Non-GMO and local ingredients from scratch for their meals at home, and they carry this personal philosophy directly into the creation of their gelato. They feel as though purchasing Vermont Gelato was a great opportunity, with a good product that they can refine and take to the next level. The next level to them means offering as many local, Non-GMO and organic ingredients as possible. Local products such as Robb Family Farm maple syrup, Thomas Dairy and Kimball Brook Farm milk and cream, wild Maine blueberries, and organic ginger are of vital importance to them. As they build the business, they will continue to build more connections to local, Non-GMO and organic sources. All of their flavors are created from scratch with real ingredients like their Ginger which is made with cold-pressed,fresh ginger root, or their Dark Chocolate, in which the raw cocoa powder and organic hazelnut oil are pasteurized directly in with the base. New and unique offerings are being created weekly for farmers’ markets, parties, and restaurants, which allows them to experiment with potential new flavors at retail stores like your Co-op.
Upon purchasing Vermont Gelato, in addition to the existing flavors, they started immediately experimenting with new ideas. One flavor, Maple Bourbon, was changed to Maple Cream and incorporates Robb Family Farm maple syrup. Wildflower Honey from However Wild Farm is one flavor that is very important to restaurants in the area, and they enjoy making because it is quite unique to frozen desserts. With an inventory of gelato that is made fresh each week they have the opportunity to play with seasonal flavors. Strawberry Rhubarb was wildly successful at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market and is made into pints when enough local fruit is available each spring/summer. They currently offer 15 flavors in pints, and here at the Co-op we offer 12 of those. Their most popular flavor is Vanilla and second is Ginger. They are very excited about their Wild Blueberry, Maple Cream, Hazelnut and Mixed Berry. Just recently they created a Vanilla Chai with local Chai-Wallah and a Blackberry Goat Cheese with Vermont Creamery chèvre for the Farmers’ Market and for restaurants. This was an experiment they were quite proud of, and hope that this allows them to continue to create unique and interesting flavors.
What does the future hold for Vermont Gelato? Jess and Mike shared that there are many projects in the pipeline. First up is creating and trying out different flavors and short runs of sorbet for the Farmers’ Market, restaurants and parties. This will allow them to test flavors and identify if there is a market to pack pints and ship to places such as our Brattleboro Co-op or City Market co-op. Next, they are researching and testing compostable cups for their pints and their scoop events. The technology for compostable stickers is not yet refined enough, so they continue to seek new options for their pints, including the potential for printing with veggie inks right onto their packaging.They also want to build distribution through new retailers, restaurants, and events. As they focus on these new areas of the business, sourcing ingredients from local and organic farmers will be high on their list. With increased volume, costs will decrease and make high-quality ingredients even easier to integrate into their products. Vermont Gelato is an up and coming business and is just scratching the surface of what is possible for their future.
Join us at the 3rd Annual Ice Cream Social on Saturday, July 27th from 12–3pm (rain date July 28th, 12–3pm) on the Whetstone Pathway, to get a free taste of their gelato and meet their team!
By Jon Megas-Russell