Bodalla Dairy: a NSW success story
The recent lockdown might have made the NSW South Coast off-limits to Sydneysiders, but thanks to the city sibling of Eurobodalla’s Bodalla Dairy Farm, locals could still get a taste of the dairy’s sweetest offerings from Bodalla Dairy on Woollahra’s Queen Street.
Pre-lockdown, the most popular purchase was a classic ice cream cone. However, a swift pivot to focus on takeaway tubs and ice cream cakes as locals bought more ice cream to eat at home saw the store churn out a whopping 75kg more ice cream every week.
From this adaptation to their product line, Bodalla Dairy was selling 110 tubs of ice cream each day, double the amount pre-lockdown. This equated to 70 percent of total revenue.
“I’ve learnt it’s more profitable to sell a family-sized tub than a scoop,” says Jane Stuart, whose family owns Bodalla Dairy. “And the tubs are going gangbusters. A father will buy three tubs and ask for cones to create an at-home experience.”
Lockdown birthdays also boosted sales of Bodalla Dairy ice cream cakes. Stuart says the cakes take her three days to create, and she was selling at least two a day.
The best of the South Coast
But it’s not just creamy goodness enticing customers. Stuart also introduced a buy-from-the-bush produce market. This offers fresh produce from the South Coast and across regional NSW, including eggs from Cobargo and liquorice from Junee. She also installed a Bodalla Cheese fridge in-store featuring the dairy’s range of cheeses infused with native and bush flavours. These two initiatives delivered a combined 16 percent of total revenue. Bodalla Dairy Cheese is now also available at Woolworths and Harris Farm Markets.
Stuart designed her ice creamery as a slice of the South Coast which, in a stroke of luck, brought welcome holiday inspo for stuck-at-home Sydneysiders. Eurobodalla images adorn the walls and there’s a photo montage of customers’ South Coast holidays.
“I also decided to put the pozzetti [ice cream cabinet] on the side, but at the back,” Stuart says. “It’s almost like a church – people come in and look up to the menu of flavours.”
Let’s go for ice cream
It’s these heavenly flavours that were also enticing people during lockdown, with the team introducing eight new flavours since lockdown began.
“Our new flavours take customers on a holiday,” Stuart says. “Camping, surfing or diving.”
The Let’s Go Diving flavour contains local Narooma kelp, while Let’s Go Surfing has tropical mango and coconut. Stuart recalls a customer sampling their best-selling Let’s Go Camping flavour, which features smoked gum leaves: “’He said, ‘This tastes like sitting by a campfire’,” she says. “That’s exactly what we were trying to achieve.”
The artisan methods that achieve Bodalla’s uniquely delicious flavours have their origins in Italy. When the Stuarts decided to start making ice cream, they bought the ice cream-making equipment from two brothers who were heading home to Italy.
Stuart’s mother Sandra McCuaig declared “no deal” unless the brothers came to Bodalla for a year to teach them the art of making ice cream. They taught McCuaig to make everything from scratch. She roasts hazelnuts, rubs them between her hands and grinds them. She also learned to do the same with lemons, limes and mango.
Fresh from the dairy
That’s the secret: they can create ice cream with any ingredient using the fresh milk from their own dairy. McCuaig is still chief ice cream churner, and was working overtime to meet demand during lockdown. She was delivering her handmade ice cream from Bodalla every 10 days during the lockdown period, as opposed to the pre-lockdown fortnightly delivery.
So, what’s the next flavour to expect? “I love walking through a dewy meadow at sunrise,” Stuart says. “So the next flavour Mum and I are making is morning dew and hay.”
The decision to open in the city was a nostalgic one. As a child, Stuart lived in Woollahra before they bought the dairy farm in 1989. When a friend asked if she’d like their vacant space on Queen Street for an ice creamery, Stuart was intrigued.
“I was coming back and forth from Bodalla anyway,” she says. “I knew the space. It used to be a bric-a-brac shop Mum and I went to.”
When she arrived to see the store, she vowed to make the space Bodalla’s Sydney home.
From heartbreak to ice cream magic
Stuart is grateful the family business is now thriving. They contemplated closing Bodalla Dairy Farm after the 2019 bushfires swept through just 200 metres from their house.
“The sky was red in every direction,” she recalls. “We lost thousands of litres of milk and hundreds of kilos of cheese because of power outages. That was hard.”
Stuart says ice cream is a magical thing because it absorbs so much flavour and reminds us of a more innocent time: “The feeling of nostalgia around ice cream comes from the fact that it’s one of our first autonomous choices as a child,” she says. “Your parents stand back while you choose your flavour, and that’s a huge memory.”
You can find Bodalla Dairy’s Woollahra at 148 Queen Street. To find out more about Bodalla Dairy, click here. The dairy farm at Bodalla holds daily animal feedings for kids and daily cheese tastings. On Fridays, you can taste freshly churned ice cream at the dairy’s ice cream lab. The Dairy Shed cafe and milk bar is also open for breakfast, lunch, milk shakes and ice cream. All images used are courtesy of Destination NSW.