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Ice cream – hold the cream – moves from home kitchen to grocery-store shelves

For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday we spoke with Andrew Kinnear, President and CEO of Yellofruit

This ice "cream" is bananas. 

A new dessert made from frozen bananas is making its way to grocery store shelves, but its origins begin with a family experiment to enjoy chilly soft serve together without aggravating a dairy allergy.

Andrew Kinnear, a Collingwood Collegiate Institute grad, created the product with his family. Claire, his wife, is allergic to dairy, so the family regularly experiments with non-dairy options.

The family ice cream experiments have now become the frozen banana dessert product Yellofruit, which is making its way into grocery stores across the country since launching less than a year ago.

“About three years ago, we were feeding homemade banana soft serve to our two boys. We would just freeze chopped up bananas and throw them in the food processor,” said Kinnear during an interview with CollingwoodToday this week. One of the couple’s sons Eddy also has a low tolerance for milk products.

“This was a way we could all have ice cream, as a family,” he said.

Kinnear grew up in Collingwood and his family is known in the area. His father, Jim Kinnear, is president of the Collingwood Agricultural Society.

“I’m a local,” said Kinnear with a laugh. “I met my wife, Claire, in university.”

While Kinnear says many home chefs have been making soft serve out of bananas for years, the challenge for making the product into something marketable was the science behind it.

“How do you turn something like that into a commercial product? If you make a frozen dessert like that at home, when you try to put it back in the freezer, it will just freeze solid. Part of that is food science. For example, there’s not enough air in it or sugar to depress the freezing point. It can get grainy and crunchy,” he said.

“Real ice cream is fluffy, smooth and scoopable. We knew we needed to do some work on the product if we wanted to make it grocery-store ready,” said Kinnear.

While Kinnear has a background in marketing, sales was a whole new game for him. Things started to change for the family and the brand in October 2018 once product testing was completed and it came time to start selling.

“I had never really done sales in the traditional sense before. I kind of cut my teeth on smaller retailers first. I had some help with friends and colleagues who had connections to bigger chains who made introductions,” he said.

When Kinnear made his first major chain sale to FreshCo earlier this year, he was beside himself with excitement.

“It was amazing. We were so thrilled,” said Kinnear, adding that the FreshCo contract moved very quickly, with only two weeks between an agreement being made and the product being required in stores. “It was sort of a whirlwind. It was exhilarating.”

Yellofruit comes in three flavours named for Kinnear’s three children: Monty's Favourite Strawberry, Holly's Favourite Mango and Eddy's Favourite Chocolate. Kinnear says that while he and his wife have no plans to have more kids to name future flavours after, they doubt they’ll run out of naming inspiration.

“I think people like and connect with the idea that they’re real people and they’re our kids,” said Kinnear. “We’re definitely going to have more flavours, but not more kids though. We’ve got nieces and nephews, friends and uncles and aunts... lots of people who have a favourite.”

Kinnear confirms the brand is only going to get bigger, with new contracts signed with other grocery chains such as Loblaws. The new contracts will take the brand into nearly 600 stores Canada-wide.

Loblaws will start carrying the product Canada Day weekend.

Yellofruit in 500 millilitre pints is currently available at all FreshCo locations, including the store in Collingwood. Kinnear will also have a booth at the upcoming Roxodus Music Festival in Clearview Township, where he will be debuting their new 100-millilitre size option.