Armed with the expertise of co-founder Ivor Johnson, Chapman’s arrived on the corporate custard market
For a high street chain with 280 local branches, Chapman’s can boast a wealth of international reach. But it wouldn’t be the soap box in the back garden without the blessings of the local community.
David Weaver-Streatfeild’s 18th-century house is the base for the ice cream chain: a dazzling backdrop, it’s where in 2004 he set up the first branch of Chapman’s in Droitwich. “I wanted something I could be proud of, where my family could go and enjoy it,” he says. “I’m a family man. It’s important for me to be involved in the local community.”
Weaver-Streatfeild met Charles Green, the chief executive of French Connection, at a party.
“He said I should get involved with the local community, so I tried to get involved with that. Then it dawned on me that there were other great brands out there, but he was a better fit for the market, and I started thinking: can we do a business together?”
Chapman’s ice cream in the Docklands area of London. Photograph: Claire Joseph/Chapman’s
Green suggested he contact Ivor Johnson, a partner in the design consultancy IDOO. Two years later Johnson, an ice cream fanatic, was given free rein to develop the dessert that would become Chapman’s.
“He didn’t have any experience in creating an ice cream, so he got together with people who did,” says Weaver-Streatfeild.
Ivor Johnson, head of design at IDOO, shows how Chapman’s ice cream comes together, from sourcing the ingredients to the final product. Photograph: Frances Perham
With the success of Chapman’s, the two men took on board a new challenge, building a manufacturing facility and expanding to new cities. And when none of those cities could provide the supply of high-quality fresh fruit and berries they needed, they decided to set up a specialist rural operations centre in Cornwall.
Weaver-Streatfeild and Green opened their Droitwich store five years ago in March, launching another 30 branches the following year. The expansion has brought fame for the small ice cream company. In 2013 the free-to-air broadcaster, BBC Two, featured a campaign encouraging people to “Make a really good impression in Droitwich”, while last year the Duchess of Cambridge got in on the act, dubbing Chapman’s “chic” and “perfect”.
The Peachester branch of Chapman’s ice cream. Photograph: Claire Joseph/Chapman’s
Chapman’s’ is currently working with the centre of commerce on a scheme for apprenticeships in the Midlands, a third of which would be based in the Droitwich store. An apprenticeship in ice cream and retail production costs £18,000.
In just six years, Chapman’s ice cream has caught the zeitgeist. David Johnson says: “The bottom line is people love ice cream and crave it. Consumers see a bar and think: that’s tasty, it’s got colour and it’s got texture.”
• Chapman’s is sponsoring Stand Up to Cancer, which runs from 16 March to 10 April. Donate at standuptocancer.org/chapmanseco-standup