Welsh hills blend with American cool for great ice cream.

How does a former US naval officer become the managing director of a branded and own label ice cream company? Charles Hall, group managing director of Hill Station, knows the answer.

Hall, who has been MD of Hill Station since he founded the company in 1996, spent six years as a US naval officer and eight years as a US diplomat.  But after nine years in investment banking at JP Morgan, Hall realised that it was time to leave the big company world and set up his own business.  

Based in the UK at the time, Hall was amazed by the quality of the dairy products, but found that the ice cream sector was a letdown. "Here I was in a country with the world's best dairy products, but with an ice cream sector dominated by imports," he says.  Realising the opportunity, Hall set up Hill Station, offering superior ice cream products competing against imported brands. Since then the company has continued to grow and last November acquired ice cream rivals Loseley Dairy Ice Cream and Granelli McDermott.  Hall explains that the company is still in the process of integrating the companies, including consolidating production at an 80,000 sq ft factory in Cwmbran, South Wales. "We are on plan in terms of integrating the three companies and installing new production facilities," he says.  "Our first priority is to integrate production in Cwmbran. This will take us through three quarters of the year. Then we will continue to grow the business organically."

New product development is also important this year, says Hall. Hill Station relaunched the Loseley brand at Food and Drink Expo this week and is expecting growth opportunities in both branded and own label ice cream.  "Initially most of our growth will be from own label rather than branded. Post-merger Hill Station is now 60% own label and 40% branded," he says.