How can you make just one spoonful of ice cream include various different flavours? Easy peasy, if you ask 3 Friends co-founder Heikki Huotari. Let’s take their raspberry and white chocolate ice cream as an example.
“First you notice the sour raspberry, then the sweet white chocolate ice cream, and only then the bits of white chocolate start melting in your mouth,” he explains. “We’ve deliberately made the ingredients melt at different times to ensure that each individual taste can be properly embraced.”
Flavours have been the driving force of 3 Friends, known in Finnish as 3 Kaveria, from the word go. The company was founded by Huotari and his two friends (see where the name came from, huh?) Ilkka Wikholm and Sauli Saarnisto to create ice creams that they themselves want to eat.
“Our ice creams are made of natural, real ingredients from scratch, without cutting corners,” Huotari says. “We roast our nuts and prepare our sauces ourselves to make the flavours taste so real that they can be instantly recognised even if you’ve not seen the package.”
When Huotari says ‘without cutting corners’, he means it. Last autumn, 3 Friends had already publicly announced the launch of two new flavours. As the date drew nearer, the trio backed out: they weren’t 100 per cent happy with the products yet.
“We’d rather pull out than sell something we don’t think is top notch. We want to be able to invite guests for dinner, offer them self-made ice cream and genuinely be able to say that we think it’s incredibly delicious.”
Serve the vegans, please
The first three flavours, which were blueberry-cardamom, strawberry-vanilla and the aforementioned raspberry-white chocolate, hit the shelves in Finland five years ago. They instantly became a big hit, and the founders had suggestions for new combinations flying in from everywhere.
One request was particularly prevalent: 3 Friends were constantly asked to make vegan ice cream. Most importantly, not just any vegan ice cream, but the most over-the-top kind in existence.
“It was made clear to us that vegans don’t want yet another carrot-flavoured ice cream,” Huotari notes laughingly. “People often think that vegans eat cucumber and lettuce, so we were told to make the most exaggerated version we could think of.”
Now, the award-winning vegan chocolate-nut-caramel ice cream is the company’s best-selling product.
“We hadn’t noticed that such a product wasn’t available in the market. It was only afterwards that we understood how much demand there really was for it.”
Living on ice cream
It sounds a little counter-intuitive that Finns consume the most ice cream per capita in Europe. With the long and chilly winters, one would think that the southern Europeans indulge in the frozen dessert much more than the Nordics.
Huotari guesses that the explanation lies, at least partially, in housing.
“I realised it when we were doing a course at the ‘ice cream university’ in Italy before setting up 3 Friends,” he recalls. “In Finland, we tend to have summery temperatures indoors all year round, whereas in places like Italy the consumption peaks in the warmest months and the portions are smaller.”
This doesn’t mean that all 3 Friends products are eaten in Finland. Some time ago, the company was contacted by a Swede who had tasted the products on a visit to Finland and asked if the friends were keen to test the Swedish market. Now, the ice creams are for sale in more than 100 stores in Sweden under the name 3 Vänner, and the products are available in Germany as well.
3 Friends has grown from a trio to a team of about 20 people, but the principles stay the same as they were when the trio first bought a 299-euro home ice cream maker: corners are still uncut.
Even Huotari’s favourite flavour remains unchanged.
“Raspberry and white chocolate. I could live on it, and I know a lot of other people who could, too.”