Four All Ice Cream is the new scoop in Uptown Waterloo
Willis Way in uptown Waterloo is about to get a little sweeter with a new — yet locally recognized and beloved — ice cream business launching its first stand-alone retail location before the start of summer.
Four All Ice Cream, which began production in Kitchener in 2017, is in the process of opening its Waterloo store as soon as the end of February or early March.
Owner Ajoa Mintah started Four All with the desire to create improved ice cream choices and an enhanced experience after noticing the lack of alternative options that are available for people like her daughter, who can’t eat regular ice cream products.
“[I thought] there’s gotta be a better way to do that, and so that was kind of in the back of my mind. I moved here from Toronto in 2012, so another thing that I thought was amazing about this region is that [if I go] ten minutes in any direction from my home, I’m at a farm,” Mintah said.
“There are so many craft items here: there’s craft beer, there’s craft chocolate, there are distilleries and then there’s an abundance of fresh food.”
Mintah had aspirations to tap into the potential of the region and apply her skillset to a budding business prospect that eventually turned into a variety of locally-sourced ice cream flavours that have been sold at different businesses around KW.
“I’m living in an area where there are all these small producers and crafters, and so, to me, it was just something that made sense. It was also just a desire for me to do something different than I was doing, and picking ice cream was a marriage for me between wanting to be creative, [while] also leveraging the fact that I’m a chemical engineer focused on food process engineering,” Mintah said.
“These were the different factors that all existed that made me think ‘ice cream is the answer.’ Ice cream lets me be creative, lets me use my education and skills that I already have and it solved a problem that my family and I’m sure other families were having.”
To Mintah’s surprise, Four All’s ice cream quickly became popular.
“When I first launched Four All Ice Cream in 2017, I was paying rent in downtown Kitchener, where we had a counter where people could come and buy ice cream. I didn’t have a lot of faith or hope that people would actually be coming out there,” Mintah said.
“Our initial business model was that we were going to make great ice cream and give it to other people’s businesses because we’re in a weird part of town that no one is going to bother coming to. And to our surprise, people just kept on coming to it and waiting in line.”
Mintah said that her experience as a chemical engineer helped significantly in the process of designing the 16 flavours Four All currently offers.
Because Four All is relatively new to the ice cream industry, Mintah understands that the accessibility and affordability of other brands of ice cream are two of the major challenges that her business faces.
To combat this, her philosophy focuses on three words: natural, local and mindful.
“Natural, being that our ice cream is made with food. If you took it apart, every single component is an item that you can eat, so it’s all-natural all the time,” Mintah said.
“Local, just because I appreciate how much great food is actually available in this region already, and just great ingredients that are available. We’re sourcing from here as much as possible as close to here as we can.”
“And then mindful is probably the most important thing to me because we’re really aware of who’s eating our product and what they need and what they want. While we are a licensed dairy plant out of our facility, [and] knowing that everyone loves ice cream, we’re mindful that vegans like ice cream, so we’ve formulated flavours that suit that need. And they’re not ‘less’ than our other flavours, they’re just as good, if not better,” she said.
Another emerging issue, the proliferation of gluten-free and other dietary restrictions, factor into the decisions made behind new and changing ice cream flavours. For example, one of their flavours, “Chocolate Mud Puddle,” is made with gluten-free brownie pieces, so that they can be enjoyed equally by customers.
Dietary accessibility for customers is a big concern for Mintah, who is always looking for new ways to ensure that a diverse range of customers is able to enjoy her products.
“We get our cones from a small supplier in town from Waterloo: their cones aren’t gluten-free, but they’re delicious, they’re fresh. So we formulated our own gluten-free cones if that’s what you need. The cones that we make in-house have to be gluten-free,” Mintah said.