Traditional ice-cream trade under threat

Sarah Brealey It started life as a pony and cart 110 years ago and has been on the streets of south Norfolk and north Suffolk ever since. But now the traditional Parravani's ice-cream van is under threat - because not enough people want to be the ice-cream van man.

Sarah Brealey

It started life as a pony and cart 110 years ago and has been on the streets of south Norfolk and north Suffolk ever since.

But now the traditional Parravani's ice-cream van is under threat - because not enough people want to be the ice-cream van man. The company runs up to six vans but this summer has only been able to run two full-time rounds - further reduced to one because of sickness - and one part-time round.

After the closure of Norfolk ice-cream maker Dairyland at the end of last year, there are few vans left selling Norfolk-made ice-cream. The ice-cream vans that remain are mostly run by self-employed people selling national brands of ice-cream.


You may also want to watch:


Guiseppe Parravani started his rounds in 1898 with a pony and cart and ice cream kept cool with ice from the Lowestoft ice works. The ice-cream van rounds have not changed much since then, but there are not enough people to do them.

Paul Parravani, the grandson of Guiseppe, said: "It seems such a shame. Every event that we go to, people say they remember our ice-cream vans and ask why they haven't seen them.

Most Read

"A lot of people that we deal with, we also dealt with their grandparents. Some of those rounds my father did. It is a shame that it might die out.

"The wholesale side of our business is going from strength to strength, there is demand for our product, it is just that we cannot get the van drivers."

His nephew, Dominic, said: "Here we are in June and we cannot get enough drivers. It is dire."

Paul Parravani said he thought the seasonal nature of the work - it starts in March and runs until the end of October - was the main factor putting people off. He added: "They are funny hours, you don't start until 10.30am or 11am and work until 7.30pm or 8pm, and you work weekends."

Parravani's pays its van men a retainer and then a percentage of the sales they make. Paul Parravani said: "The routes are all written down, they are good routes and if you work at it you can make good money."

The ice-cream, first made at Bungay and then at nearby Ditchingham, is made at the factory in Chedgrave, near Loddon, with Norfolk and Suffolk milk. The van routes go throughout the Waveney valley and to Gorleston, Bradwell and surrounding areas.

Parravani's got its first motorised van before the second world war - putting it ahead of many of its competitors - but stopped production during the war. The 1950s were the heyday of the ice-cream van nationally, before many people had freezers and the ice-cream van was the only way to get it.

There are around 5,000 ice-cream vans in the country, but they have faced increasingly difficult times with the rise of freezers and restrictions on plying their trade around schools. Last year the Ice Cream Alliance warned that the poor summer was putting ice-cream vans at risk.

Anyone interested in becoming a Parravani's van man can contact Paul or Sharon on 01508 520599.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter