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Lost SA ice cream brand reborn


A once-loved South Australian ice cream brand not seen since the 1980s has been revived and returned to supermarket freezers.

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Freesia Ice Cream will once again be sold in South Australia after western suburbs-based Gelista brought the dairy brand back to life.

With a fresh rebrand reminiscent of the original colourful tub Freesia was known for, the ice cream is now stocked at some independent supermarkets in Adelaide and manufactured by the new brand owner at its Ridleyton factory.

It’s been about 40 years since South Australians last tasted Freesia, which was first made in 1923 by milk producers P. Smyth & Sons at Murray Bridge. The brand was eventually discontinued in the mid-80s after being acquired.

Freesia marks a new chapter for Gelista, founded in 2009 and known for premium gelato products and ice pops brand Popsicool. Founder and managing director Peter Cox told InDaily that it represented a move into a mass market segment.

Gelista’s Peter Cox with the new and old tubs of Freesia. Photo: Freesia.

“This is a significant move into another completely different segment in the market. It’s going to be exciting for our team to be able to provide our customer base in South Australia with another ice cream option,” he said.

Freesia launches with three flavours: ‘Death by Chocolate’, ‘Bees’ Sneeze Honey Crunch’ and ‘Josephine’s French Vanilla’ – the latter of which is a play on the name of Napoleon’s wife Joséphine Bonaparte.

Though Cox himself didn’t grow up with Freesia, as a local dairy man he knew the significance of the brand to South Australians.

“We wanted to reignite an old brand and that brand was available to us to do something with,” Cox said.

“The more our staff and designers worked with it, the brand really grew on me.

“We love the look and feel that we’ve created now with Freesia, and we’ve taken the shapes and colours of the original tub and given it a more modern look and feel for the brand.”

Gelista chose to use a semi-transparent tub for the new-look Freesia, reflecting the company’s approach to doing business.

Freesia’s new-look tubs are transparent so you’ll always know how much ice cream is left. Photo: Freesia.

“We’re authentic and we’re transparent with our business, and I feel like the transparent container is showing that to another level,” Cox said.

“We’re not going to hide what’s in the container because we know it’s going to be great.

“The chocolate product has a ripple in it and you can actually see that component in the final product.”

Given the brand had disappeared for about 40 years, Cox said the process by which the original Freesia was made had been lost to time. That’s given Gelista an opportunity to reinvent the taste and bring the quality of the product up to modern standards.

“There’s not a lot of authentic information as to what it tasted like,” he said.

Product labelling is not as detailed as today, but some of the old half gallon say ‘artificial flavour and colour’ – that’s something we didn’t want, so we include natural flavouring ingredients in the new addition of Freesia.

The old P. Smyth & Sons ice cream factory at Murray Bridge. Photo: Facebook.

Cox hopes South Australians will rally around the reborn brand made by a local manufacturer.

“It’s a very important part of our economy to be able to support small guys getting on their feet,” he said.

“Other brands like Streets – owned by Unilever – are essentially overseas companies. We’re really competing with the big boys now which we haven’t really done before.

“What I really want to say is look, you don’t have to buy a flavour from Streets or Peters or whoever the other big multinationals are, you can actually buy it from someone who made it right here with local ingredients.”

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