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Chill out with gelato on sticks
Date Published：11/24/2017 04:11:21 PM
LA TY was 29 years old when he started his gelato-on-a-stick business. He parked a tuk-tuk (two-wheel carriage pulled by a motorbike) in front of one of Cambodia’s leading universities and began to offer 14 flavours of gelato on sticks. Within a little over a year, his La Pops brand has grown to also include four stores, eight kiosks and more flavours including seasonal ones. And with its new packaging, smaller portions of its gelato are now sold through 25 partners in the country. The brand’s next stop: the region.
La Ty, owner of La Pops gelato on sticks
What’s the story behind La Pops, and when did the company begin operations?
“La” is taken from my family name, while “Pops” is the abbreviated form of popsicle. We usually go by our full name La Pops Gelato on a Stick or La Pops for short.
We began operations on March 12, 2016 in front of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Institution of Foreign Language, on a tuk-tuk. We started with 14 flavours of gelato on a stick, which we classified into sorbet, gelato and popping confection.
What influenced your decision to start a gelato business in Cambodia?
My first exposure to gelato on a stick was in 2011 when I was travelling in Cains, Queensland, Australia after completing my postgraduate degree. I was drawn to the shop, which was located by the seaside. There were rows upon rows of pops displayed from a long, clear freezer based on type, colour and price, and that idea stuck with me. The pops were appealing and refreshing. They were a bit pricey (approximately 5 AUD a piece at the time) but the taste was so natural. Then during a visit to Italy in 2015, the home of gelato, I had it almost every day. It was creamy and had a dense texture to it. The local flavours such as Chocolate and Pistachio were the best-sellers. Those made me think of bringing the experience to Cambodia even though Cambodians don’t traditionally eat gelato on a daily basis like Italians do.
My family too has run an ice cream business for years so it somehow influenced my decision to build on that and expand it to the next level. However, I had to start with something small on my own, then worked on it rather than shifting the whole family’s business direction.
La Pops continues to expand across Cambodia
What where some of the challenges you experienced in setting up your own business and how did you overcome them?
I literally started with zero knowledge in making gelato. I was passionate to sell but didn’t realize how difficult it was to create the “perfect” gelato. Our first test at the family factory using available ingredients failed to recreate the desired gelato on a stick, so I had to learn how to make gelato, while at the same time think of how to operate the business, create a logistics and sales team, design, marketing—everything to start La Pops. It was a challenge. In fact, it took more than a year to get our first gelato on a stick sold, but the smiles on our customers’ faces proved it was worth all the sweat and tears.
Most gelatos are sold either in cups or in cones. Why did you prefer having yours on sticks?
I wanted my first business to be small and flexible, so selling on a mobile vehicle was ideal. It also required less investment compared to starting a typical gelato shop. And because most gelatos in Cambodia are sold in cups or cones, I wanted to offer something different. Actually, Cambodians love to eat food on a stick, such as meat balls, grilled pork and Popsicle. It’s not something out-of-this-world but it does make La Pops stand out from existing gelatos.
La Pops offers three types of gelato: La Sorbet, La Gelato and La Popping, with each consisting of five flavours plus one seasonal flavour
How else do you differentiate your gelatos from those in the market?
My love for gelato became a struggle when I couldn’t find a gelato here that matched my taste and health concerns. Frequently, the available gelatos are way too sweet and not natural. That’s also part of the reason La Pops was created: to offer a variety of natural, organic and healthy gelato with the added convenience of eating it on a stick. We source our ingredients from the local market or farm and use gelato base from Italy. La Pops intends to use as many local produce as possible. We source the handcrafted roasted cashew nut from Kampot province as well as its well-known durian when in season. Ingredients such as coconut milk, honeydew, passion fruit and others are sourced on the day of production. However, some ingredients such as chocolate and strawberry are not available here, so we need to source from abroad.
The combination of best and natural ingredients is what differentiates La Pops from those in the market. La Pops’s trademark is our 3 No-Nos: No Food Coloring, No Artificial Flavour and No Preservatives.
How many flavours do you offer, and what are the bestsellers?
La Pops offers three types of pops including La Sorbet, La Gelato and La Popping. Each consists of five flavours plus one seasonal flavour, so there are a total of 18 flavours to choose from. The bestseller is our signature La Popping series—which is gelato in chocolate coating or fruit filling. The most popular is Milk Gelato in Dark Chocolate Coating with Cashew Nut as well as Yogurt Gelato with Strawberry Filling and a slice of fresh strawberry on top.
How often do come up with new flavours?
Our seasonal flavours are based on fruits in season or special occasions. We change it every one or two months. Usually customers prefer a plain simple flavour rather than a mixed one. In season now are La Gelato Durian and La Popping Avocado in Dark Chocolate coating. Last Valentine’s Day, we came up with Strawberry Gelato in Dark & White Chocolate Coating with a Red Heart Shape Sugar, which was sold in pairs. For Halloween, we came up with mini pop Pumpkin Gelato in chocolate coating so our clients can literally taste Halloween.
What made you decide to introduce new packaging?
Since we started the business, we’ve been receiving inquiries for wholesaling our pops in other business establishments. But because we were new then, we focused on retailing on our own. Now we are ready and able to offer this new packaging for easier stock control. We commissioned a local design company for our new packaging, which has been well-received by vendors. We use it for our La Pops Let or the smaller versions of six of our La Gelato offering. They come in sealed, clear plastic bags enclosed in attractive, water-resistant paper boxes.
The popsicles are sealed in clear plastic bags enclosed in water-resistant paper boxes. This packaging now allows La Pops to be distributed in different parts of the country
How are you marketing your products? What are your different distribution channels?
Currently La Pops owns four stores, eight kiosks, and one tuk-tuk that remains in operation during Sundays and public holidays at a local Kien Svay Resort and in some events.
Retailing and wholesaling are very different, but thankfully our retailing success has paved the way for La Pops to penetrate into wholesaling easier. We have customers who know La Pops and about our new packaging and they’ve contacted us to sell our gelatos in their shops. Now we have 25 partners, but remain on the lookout for other suitable partners such as bakeries and coffee shops who’d like to add our La Pops Let to their business portfolio. We can provide support on designing the freezer and shop sign and promote their shops in our Facebook page.
Are you doing or open to franchising? What are your considerations in doing so?
Since we started the business, we have received franchise inquiry locally and from Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and China. In fact, we have been negotiating with a few candidates who are interested to bring La Pops to Malaysia and Singapore, but it is a long and complicated process because we need to take time to study each other’s terms and conditions. We reckon franchising will help expand our brand internationally, and because we can offer the know-how and marketing support to investors, their business plan and passion in gelato business is what we’ll look into during negotiations.
We are also open to wholesaling investors in neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand owing to logistical convenience instead of setting up full operations under a La Pops franchise. We are very flexible.
What other locations are you targeting and with what timelines?
La Pops opened five outlets in Siem Reap province in April 2017, our first step outside of Phnom Penh. In 2018, we’re planning to expand to Battambang, Sihanouk Ville and Kampongcham, where there’s a mix of tourists and local medium- to high-income groups looking for quality gelato. We are also working to expand the market of La Pops Let to businesses at various locations throughout the country as well as adding more flavours to cater to a wider customer base. - JEAN ALINGOD-GUITTAP
Company: La Pops Gelato on a Stick
Owner: La Ty
Address: #217 St. 302 corner St. 51, Sangkat Boeng Keng Kang, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
T: +855 69 302 308