The idea of using liquid nitrogen to make ice creams isn't exactly new. However, when engineering college friends Rohan Bajla, who was a business consultant at American Express, Saransh Goyal, an investment banker with Deutsche Bank and Anirudh Singh an SAS-certified engineer and parttime comic book writer chanced upon liquid nitrogen ice cream in Bangkok on a holiday, they knew they had found their entrepreneurial opening. Thus, Cherry Comet, an outlet for instant ice creams was born.
"We prepare fresh ice creams without any artificial flavours, colours or preservatives using liquid nitrogen. We operate out of two outlets in Delhi-NCR: in DLF Cyberhub, Gurgaon and a newly opened outlet in Sangam Courtyard Mall, RK Puram," says Rohan.
Road blocks and learnings
While they had an idea in place, the team was entering an unknown terrain. According to Rohan, the idea that you can just freeze your ice cream instantly is deceptively simple, yet powerful. "I distinctly remember the three of us sharing that moment. We all knew with this technology we could make any ice cream we wanted and make it fresh," he adds.
However, the expert use of liquid nitrogen is traditionally restricted to hard sciences. Being the first to apply it to food and beverages in India, Cherry Comet was faced with the daunting task of assembling all technical know-how and equipment from scratch.
Having a team of engineers helped them follow the scientific principles involved. They worked closely with the experts in the field for over a year, developing various prototypes and understanding the process, including the different safety guidelines.
The next challenge was developing the right ice cream palate. Rohan says it was crucial for ice cream makers to cultivate a rich understanding of what exactly makes a good ice cream. The balance of dairy fat to milk, the correct mingling of flavours into the dairy base that leads to the creation of the ideal recipe and of course the correct proportions for sugar. All these questions needed answers.
The science behind it
"Two years of experimentation and making liquid nitrogen ice creams every single day at home allowed us to slowly master the various intricacies involved. Today we have our recipes memorised and can hazard pretty accurate guesses as to how an ingredient will affect a recipe," says Rohan. There were hits and misses, hits included the jamun and Jägermeister ice cream. However, the jalebi ice cream didn't make the cut.
Rohan says that the science behind it is quite simple. The liquid nitrogen has to reach a boiling point of -196.4 degree Celsius. When poured into the ice cream base the liquid nitrogen boils and turns to gas within seconds, drawing out the latent heat in the ice cream base.
This freezes the base, transforming it into ice cream instantly. Because this process is so fast the ice crystals constituting the ice cream are much smaller than the ones in traditional ice creams giving the ice cream a uniquely creamy and smooth texture. "Taking into account the fact that the process eliminates the need for any additional preservatives means we are creating fresher, tastier and healthier ice cream," says Rohan.
Traction and growth
The first store was opened in July 2014, at DLF Cyberhub, Gurgaonand Cherry Comet has been receiving positive response since. Rohan says they made their variable break-even in first month of operations. Since then, they claim to have seen a growing group of returning customers and a dedicated fan base for their unique recipes and flavours.
"All growth and traction has been organic and without any direct marketing overtures. We opened our second store, in Sangam Courtyard, RK Puram exactly a year later, in July 2015 and we are in talks with another mall for our third outlet in Delhi," says Rohan.
Without the use of artificial colours or flavours, Cherry Comet currently has 20 flavours on their menu. Although liquid nitrogen adds a lot to their USP, with the visual delight of the process and the ability to make preservative-free fresh and creamy ice creams, ultimately it is the flavour of the ice cream which keeps the customers happy and returning for more.
Currently, Cherry Comet is a self-funded company with investment help from friends and family. Rohan says that putting a first-of-its-kind idea into implementation in the food industry was an experiment for the three engineers. He adds that in the past one-and-a-half years, they have smoothed out the logistical issues involved with working in their field and they now look to expand as a multi-outlet brand.
The team hopes to bring back the ice-cream café culture wherein people can hang out and enjoy delicious and fresh ice creams. They have a variety of ideas to add to the product line which, according to Rohan, will change how ice cream is perceived in the eyes of the customer.
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