Kwality Ice Cream has been around for decades though still many haven't heard of this excellent brand. Let's take a look at the history
Come on, admit it. There aren’t many of you out there who don’t like a nice scoop of ice cream. We aren’t talking about the ice cream you find in the frozen section in the grocery store. We are talking about that wonderful scoop (or two) that you get from an ice cream parlor. Across the United States, we have plenty of those to choose from. There are Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone Creamery, and Baskin Robbins, which is the world’s largest ice cream chain. There are also a number of smaller ice cream parlor chains. One that is beginning to get more notice doesn’t even hail from the United States. It is called Kwality Ice Cream and you are going to want to find one if you can.
WHERE WAS KWALITY ICE CREAM CREATED?
Kwality Ice Cream began to make its name in India in the mid-1950s. For any of you who may have traveled to India in the summer can attest to just how sweltering their summers can be. When Kwality Ice Cream was introduced, people from all over the country would line up to get their cool taste of ice cream heaven, loving the cassata – a triple-layered ice cream bar – or grabbing a spot of Kwality’s nutty butterscotch ice cream.
For decades, Kwality Ice Cream was a hit in India. It satisfied the country’s ice cream craving time and again. But then, in the mid- ‘90s, the ice cream’s popularity began to wane. It wasn’t because the fine folks in India didn’t like their ice cream, because they did. It was for the simple fact that Kwality Ice Cream changed hands and for the people of the country, the change was not for the better.
WHAT HAPPENED TO KWALITY ICE CREAM?
Like many things in this world, big business has a way of ruining the good things. You can say the same thing for Kwality Ice Cream. In 1995, Unilever purchased Kwality Ice Cream and things began to change for the brand. Unilever wanted to do things cheaper and cut back and change the ingredients that made Kwality so popular and delicious. “It was fresh, white, rich and creamy, with no icicles,” said cookbook author Raghavan Iyer to The New York Times of the first time he tasted Kwality Ice Cream as an 8-year-old boy. “It was something totally elusive.”
When Unilever took over, it pushed Dr. Kanti Parekh, Kwality’s chief food technologist, right out the door. Unilever wanted to go one way, the cheap way, something that Dr. Parekh could not understand. “They started modifying certain flavors and lowering the milk content to reduce costs.” Dr. Parekh is a happy-go-lucky sort with a massive, sweet tooth. He also had developed some of Kwality’s most sought-after flavors like mango and butterscotch. But, he added, “What ice cream I developed was totally lost.”
Although ice cream remained number one for Dr. Parekh, he left India after his dismissal and ventured to the United States. New Jersey was his destination and there he settled in as a consultant for packaged foods companies. Dr. Parekh handled quality control and ingredient selection. He could never leave his ice cream roots behind and as he traveled from town to town, he would count up how many local ice cream shops there were. Then, he’d go in and sample their wares. “Any town I would visit, I’d count up how many ice cream shops there were, and then taste all of them,” he explained.
Six years after his arrival in the United States, a friend of Dr. Parekh’s asked the good doctor if he could develop some desserts for his restaurant. There was simply no way Dr. Parekh could turn that offer down. So, he used the same methods that he had developed while in India and Kwality and came up with a few cartons of new stuff. As you can imagine, it was an immediate hit.
Not long after, other restaurants were reaching out to Dr. Parekh. They wanted what he had. But they were also begging him to open his very own ice cream parlor. So, two years after helping out his friend, Dr. Parekh brought his recipes and his know-how to a small strip mall in Edison, New Jersey’s Little India section. With it, he brought a name that he knew would connect with the community – Kwality.
“We used the same name to capitalize on the goodwill the brand had built,” he said proudly. “We wanted people to think of the back-home taste.” Because the name, Kwality, was not trademarked in the United States, Dr. Parekh was able to use it for his ice cream parlor.
To entice customers in, Dr. Parekh designed his ice cream parlor to touch on the nostalgia of earlier American ice cream shops. Bright colors, flashing neons, posters of dripping caramel; you get the idea. But his ice cream store also had to deliver the goods. What made Kwality Ice Cream popular in India was the intense flavors he’d create. According to Dr. Parekh, he had to design his flavors with some pop because Indian palettes are greatly affected by all the spices they consume.
“They [Indians] recognize flavors only if they are intense,” he said. “If you look at ice cream made with more sugar and less butterfat, you are tasting the sugar first, then you taste the water, and the cream taste is only slightly at the end.” Of course, Dr. Parekh was referring to the American staples such as Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s, who aim for the sweet first and the flavor last.
WHAT IS KWALITY ICE CREAM MADE OF?
To bring more of the India Kwality’s Ice Cream to America, Dr. Parekh’s ice cream formula relies more on milk with very high butterfat and uses very little sugar. As time has gone on, he has made a few upgrades, so to speak, to his original recipe by cranking up the butterfat content to 14 percent. Originally, Kwality Ice Cream carried only 10.5 percent butterfat. He has also added liquid flavorings that he developed with a Rutgers University scientist.
The result? It is almost like eating frozen mousse. The flavors are powerful, the ice cream is fluffy and luscious and yes, it is just as much of a hit here in the US as it was in India.
WHERE CAN I FIND THIS BRAND?
It wasn’t long after Dr. Parekh opened his first Kwality Ice Cream shop that more followed. From Edison, NJ he then opened one in South Brunswick. From there, he spread out across the country and today you will find a Kwality Ice Cream shop in 17 different cities. These include Sunnyvale, Freemont, and Dublin, California. There are four locations in Texas – Irving, Sugarland, Houston, and Austin. You can find one in Queens, NY, and Sandy Springs, GA.
If you happen to be in one of those cities, give Kwality Ice Cream a try. Behind Dr. Parekh’s leadership, they offer 56 gourmet ice cream flavors. You will find the old standby’s such as Butter Pecan, Butterscotch, Rum Raisin, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Cookies N Cream, but you will also find flavors that have a more dramatic India slant to them. These are Alphonso Mango Kulfi, Badaam Kulfi, Gajjar Halwa, Phalsa, and Sitafai.
Everywhere you can find a Kwality Ice Cream shop, there is always a crowd and Dr. Parekh knows why. The cool treat is hard to turn down. “Everybody likes ice cream, the sky is the limit with flavors, and it’s a smiling business — after people eat ice cream, they are always happy.” You can’t go wrong with that.