Cecilys range

Cecily Mills launched the Cornish brand in 2015 under the original name of Coconuts Naturally before rebranding twice to Coconuts Organic and then Cecily’s

A vegan ice cream brand that turned down support from two Dragons and was stocked in M&S and Ocado has been forced to close after being hammered by supply chain disruption and CO2 shortages.

Cecily’s made an award-winning range of eight organic dairy-free ice creams made using coconut milk and coconut sugar.

Liquidators at Richard J Smith & Co managed to secure a sale of the business following its collapse to an independent ice cream manufacturer supplying the foodservice industry.

However, the liquidation leaves hundreds of crowdfunding investors facing losses of about £750,000 and the company’s four employees out of work.

Cecily Mills launched the Cornish brand in 2015 under the original name of Coconuts Naturally. Within two years, the business won a number of Great Taste awards and expanded from selling to local shops and cafes in Cornwall to supplying Ocado, as well as local listings with Morrisons and Asda.

It also pushed into overseas markets, exporting to Dubai and Hong Kong.

In 2018, the business appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, agreeing to an investment offer of £75,000 for a 30% stake from Jenny Campbell over a second offer from Tej Lalvani.

Mills subsequently turned down Campbell’s offer after winning a nationwide listing with 600 Tesco stores and needing a bigger capital injection to get the contract up and running.

An oversubscribed crowdfunding campaign followed, with the company raising £422,580 from 475 investors in January 2019, giving away a 23.5% equity stake.

The business rebranded soon after to Coconuts Organic in 2019 and refreshed the packaging before securing a listing with M&S and launching a DTC operation in 2020.

It went on to raise another £328,182 from 572 backers in a second Seedrs campaign in December 2020 – which this time valued the business at £2.8m – and rebranded once again as Cecily’s.

However, rising raw material costs and a number of supply issues caused by Brexit and Covid, including difficulty sourcing packaging and dry ice and CO2 needed to make and store the product, meant the business was unable to fulfil orders for its retail listings, with a knock-on effect on cashflow and margins.

“The founder had worked hard to establish the company, its brand and dairy-free and organic products within UK supermarkets, retailers and with other ice cream producers,” joint liquidators Samuel Bailey and Jonathan Trembath told The Grocer.

“Extensive efforts to fund the business going forward proved unsuccessful, as did attempts to try to rescue the company as a going concern,” they said.

The business entered liquidation on 28 February 2022.

“However, we were delighted to have been able to achieve a sale of the business, including the product and branding, to an independent third party since liquidation,” Bailey and Trembath added.

Family-run foodservice ice cream supplier Gelato Italia will bring manufacturing of the Cecily’s brand in-house following the deal, as well as continuing to supply Ocado, which is the only remaining retail listings.

Founded by the Siciliani family 15 years ago, the business makes a range of artisan gelato, sorbets, granita slush and frozen yoghurt, as well as plant-based ice cream under the Poco Gelato name.

It supplies gelaterias, patisseries, delicatessens, cafés, bars and restaurants, including chains such as Turtle Bay and Rosa’s Thai Café.

Owner Antonio Siciliani said he hoped to retain the Cecily’s brand identity as much as possible.

“Cecily’s is really aligned with our values of clean label, planet-orientated, natural products,” he added.

“Our ambition is to build on its presence overseas to create a global brand.”