Much before Amul became the taste of India — in 1907, to be precise — a soda fountain outlet serving handmade ice cream was opened in old Ahmedabad by Vadilal Gandhi. A hand-cranked kothi , or wooden drum, would churn ingredients such as milk, salt and ice into ice-creams, which were even home delivered to people.
The founder’s son, Ranchod Lal, expanded operations by opening a small retail shop in 1926 and importing machines. Soon there were four Vadilal ice-cream outlets, and a casata ice-cream introduced in the 1950s became extremely popular. When Ranchod Lal’s sons, Ramachandra and Lakshman, took over the business, the retail chain grew, with more shops added. By the 1970s, there were eight to ten outlets in Ahmedabad.
Vadilal was soon one of the top three ice-cream brands in Gujarat, staying ahead of the competition on the strength of its ‘vegetarian’ label. (It even suggested through advertisements that the ice-creams could be consumed during fasts!) By the mid-1980s, the brand spread its wings by expanding outside Gujarat.
The company had its share of problems: it survived flooding of its new factory premises in the very first year of operations (1972); it staved off an attempt to buy it out; and t even considered a name change. It finally went nationwide.
It became a public company under the name Vadilal Industries Ltd., getting listed on the BSE in 1990. But the early 1990s also saw a split in the family, resulting in two factions operating in different territories but under the same brand name.
Largest selling in India
Today, Vadilal is India’s second-largest selling ice-cream brand (after Amul). The Vadilal Group has a presence not just in ice-creams but also in processed foods (where it is one of the leading players with about 175 products), flavoured milk, gelato and totally unconnected sectors such as real estate, chemicals and forex.
Ice-cream, however, remains the core business. According to published reports, its turnover for 2015-16 was around ₹450 crore, of which more than 80 per cent came from ice-creams.
The daily production capacity at Vadilal is about 3.25 lakh litres of ice creams, spread over 8 lakh cones and 15 lakh cups. An expert team of tasters checks around 15-20 ice creams per day. (Now that is one ‘job’ I would have applied for — but for the fact that tasters are not allowed to eat the ice-creams!)
The reasons for Vadilal’s resounding success and nationwide presence even after 100 years are mainly its investment in and constant upgradation of technology and its customer-oriented approach.
Vadilal was one of the first ice-cream makers to use technology of international standards to almost completely automate the production process. It has state-of-the-art plants located at Pundhra (Gandhinagar district, Gujarat) and Bareilly (UP). A plant at Dharampur (Valsad, Gujarat) caters to the processed foods section.
Among more firsts to its credit, in 2011, it set up India’s fastest cone-making machine and brought in high-tech extrusion technology for manufacturing premium ice-creams.
Catering to the customer’s palate is its first priority. Vadilal is said to be the only ice-cream brand in the country to be present in all the three categories — premium, regular and frozen dessert. Its in-house R&D departments come up with myriad flavours in several forms — cups, cones, bricks, dollies, party packs, logs, sundaes, bars, and so on. In fact, Vadilal entered the Limca Book of Records for producing the largest ice-cream sundae. Its tapping of local flavours ( kaju drakhsh, kesar pista, kaju anjir, rajbhog , etc) has seen its consumer base expanding.
Even as it experiments with new flavours, Vadilal has kept consumer safety in mind. While strict safety inspections are the norm at its manufacturing plants, the ice-creams themselves undergo around 50 quality checks before being declared ready for public consumption.
The company maintains high quality and hygiene standards. It is HACCP Certified, has the ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 22000:2005 certifications and follows the Bureau Veritas Global Standard for Food Safety. It follows the Clean-in-Place (CIP) system to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Not only is the ice-cream production machinery subjected to steam sterilisation after every shift, the personnel who run the machines are also required to undergo daily checks to ensure personal hygiene.
No wonder the Brand Trust Report, a pan-India study done by Trust Research Advisory, ranked it as India’s most trusted ice-cream brand twice in a row (2013 and 2014)!
The brand is present in 22 States across India and is exported to the US and Nepal. It has a very strong distribution and dealer network with over 30 C&F agents, 550 distributors, 250 stock-keeping units and more than 50,000 dealers. Active contact spots with consumers include innovative ice cream outlets — Vadilal Scoop Shops, Vadilal Hangouts, Kiosks and Happinezz Parlours — which do brisk business as do the ‘Vadilal on Wheels’ promotions during festivals. The company has about 250 vehicles for product delivery — said to be the largest such fleet of refrigerated vehicles in the country!
The company also invests heavily in advertising and contests (like My Vadilal Story and Vadilal Freeze the Moment) and recently came up with the idea of releasing annual calendars featuring children enjoying their ice-creams.
Vadilal has a dynamic presence on Facebook and Twitter. It is a ‘green’ company, with 75 per cent of the land in the manufacturing facility under a ‘green’ belt. It also has a 5-lakh-litre effluent treatment plant (ETP) at Pundhra and a 3-lakh-litre ETP at Bareilly.
Vadilal is India’s highest awarded ice-cream brand, having won more than 27 awards over the last four years at the ‘Great Indian Ice Cream Contest’ organised by the Indian Dairy Association. It also won the Most Promising Brand of the Year award in the Food and Beverage Sector in World Brands Summit 2014.