In 2014, when the Tuule family’s first child Teele started school, she liked to make ice popsicles in homemade moulds after school. Before making another ice popsicle, her mother, Kaili, suggested that they should look for an interesting recipe on YouTube together. By chance, they came across a @peoplespops video where two men were talking about an ice pops company in America. The men introduced the production process and equipment. Stop! Kaili paused the video and wrote down the name of the popsicle machine.
At that time, Kaili Tuul had been on parental leave from Rapla municipality for a year with the second child. She didn’t have any experience in food production, but the idea of doing something herself haunted her strongly. She had already tried her hand at making candies and different products from chokeberries. Then, the passion for diving into the world of ice cream arose.
“The desire to do something myself was so great at that moment that I acted based on excitement,” recalls Kaili. Googling the name of the popsicle machine, she found out that such equipment comes from Brazil and Mexico. So, all the Jäämari’s popsicles are made with a machine from Brazil.
Leap into the unknown
Eight years ago, the Tuul family created their company, wrote a business plan for the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency (EAS) and plunged into the business world without any entrepreneurial experience. Due to the lack of experience, the accidents occurred. Popsicle ice cream was initially called Lumemari (‘Snowberry’ in English). And even though they googled and searched the vastness of the internet for confirmation that no one already bears the same name, a few months later, she received a letter from the legal owner of the trademark, another Estonian company offering an out-of-court settlement. It was a chock. She had already ordered some stickers and a banner, created a website for the brand, and such trouble arrived.
It turned out that Lumemari was already a registered trademark in Estonia, and despite Kaili didn’t have any knowledge of trademarks and patents, she realised that she had to come up with a new name for the ice cream, replace the name everywhere, and do it quickly. Lume (Estonian word for snow) was replaced by the word Jää (Estonian word for ice), and so the name Jäämari (‘ice berry’ in English) was born.
After the third child was born into the family, Jäämari gained even more momentum. This time it was father Virgo Tuul who started a parental leave with the child. Virgo Tuul is also responsible for Jäämari’s sales activities. Since there was no such kind of ice cream on the Estonian market yet, there was great interest in the product. Jäämari’s first sales points were the Talu Toidab counters, where the products of small Estonian producers are sold. Talu Toidab operates on the premises of Rimi, a popular retail chain in Estonia.
Healthy ice cream
Jäämari ice cream is healthy. Either way. Whenever possible organic raw materials are used as well as agave syrup instead of sugar. “Jäämari ice cream is like a frozen smoothie on a stick,” says Kaili. Jäämari uses real strawberries, raspberries, mangos, and bananas to make ice cream. Even lemon juice is homemade. Either coconut cream or almond drink is added to the berries. That’s it! The ingredients are few. The company’s assortment includes also chocolate, pistachio, and coconut caramel ice cream.
Due to its appearance and texture, Jäämari ice cream has been accompanied by the popsicle phenomenon. It’s a matter of ice cream freezing technology. The same ingredients can also be used to make the so-called soft ice cream.
Currently, Jäämari ice creams are still made in their family’s detached house, in rooms adapted for this purpose. Jäämari is still a very small family business. Kaili says that when a visitor gets into their home factory, they usually have eyes wide open with wonder that all the business takes place in such a small area! Even exports to Finland are going from this small room of the family house.
“We simply do an abnormally large amount of work in summer, and if we compare it to large-scale production, our ice cream production is pure handicraft. Every stick goes into the ice cream by hand, every lemon is squeezed by hand, every ice cream goes into the packaging by hand,” explains Kaili.
Still, as the lack of space was haunting and limiting the company’s development, a year and a half ago it was decided to start the construction of the production building. The Jäämari production building should be ready by the end of 2022. The new factory will have solar batteries on the roof, which is especially useful in ice cream production, as the majority of ice cream is produced in the summer when the sun is most intense in our climate and gives a lot of good green energy.
As Virgo Tuul is a production and development manager by profession and running his software company, Jäämari has the luxury of having his production software. For the delivery of the goods, a journey planning software created by Virgo is also used.
However, creating a healthy ice cream is a real headache. You can’t go along with all kinds of fashion trends because of the limits set by the ice cream production technology and plant-based options. Jäämari wants to keep its products free of preservatives and additives. Although the ice creams are all plant-based, Kaili does not wish to call Jäämari a vegan ice cream. Just a dairy- and egg-free ice cream, to offer an ice cream choice for lactose and casein intolerant people.
A trend towards convenience food
In addition to ice cream, Jäämari also plans to start producing smoothie cubes. To be quite honest, a start has already been made quietly. Jäämari considers smoothie cubes to be ideal convenience food. You take the package with you to work, for example, in the freezer, as a snack before lunch or at the end of the working day – you pour the cubes into a cup, add water, shake in the meantime, and the smoothie is ready with very simple effort – without the noise of the blender, washing the fruit, cutting it, etc. It is also a good refreshment after training. Before training, you can pour the cubes into a cup, add water and, if desired, also add protein powder. During the workout, the cubes melt, and after the workout, the refreshing smoothie is already ready.
Kaili and Virgo’s children also are growing up on smoothies. Smoothies are easy snacks, but most of the time you don’t bother making them. Cut a banana, take berries from the freezer, peel an apple, etc. In addition, in the end, this blender jug needs washing. But everyone can handle shaking a smoothie cube. It is worth taking the cube out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before eating so that it is soft when you shake it.
The larger production of smoothie cubes will take place after the new warehouse is completed and when there will be more space for it. Then you will also find out how big smoothie lovers Estonians and Finns are. In addition to Estonia, Jäämari products can be found in Finland, distributed by a Jäämari’s partner.
Kaili herself likes to eat other ice creams in addition to Jäämari. However, not everything is a choice. If the selling price of the ice cream is lower than the raw material, Kaili will not buy such ice cream. Ice cream must be made from pure ingredients and made with love. She mostly likes gelato-style ice creams. And if she has a sweet tooth, she buys condensed milk ice cream from another small Estonian producer, La Muu.
Made in Rapla county
Jäämari ice cream and smoothies are made less than an hour’s drive from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. “Rapla county is rich in various enterprises, small ones and big ones. In addition to the local enterprises, a number of international companies such as Saarioinen, Lallemand, Hilleberg, Joutsen, and O-I Production have their units in Rapla County,” notes Anneli Hansen, Invest Estonia’s Director of Regional Business Development in North Estonia. According to Hansen, in addition to the food industry, which is one of the cleanest in the world, there are a lot of companies in the region operating in the manufacture of timber products, furniture, metals, plastics, and building materials.