Feature – PIEB Meets… Lick
The story of Lick Frozen Yogurt is one that will warm even the coldest of hearts. From beach trikes to supermarket trolleys, the Lick team have had an interesting fourteen years of business. We were lucky enough to speak with founder Ky Wright about his journey, his passion for Brighton and what makes Lick stand out above the rest.
With sandy blonde hair and a slight suntan, Ky sits across from me looking like someone who has spent a lot of their life on a beach. Humble, almost bordering on shy, it’s only when Ky starts talking that you realise Lick has certainly been no holiday for him and co-founder Owain Williams.
Lick started when the duo saw an opportunity to sell frozen yogurt on the beaches of Tenby, South Wales. Purchasing a trike, Owain and Ky trawled the busy, sunny beaches looking for punters to try their unique product. The word of Lick Frozen Yogurt began to spread around the coastal resort. “It went really well. We bought another trike the next summer and we kept on developing the recipe and the process and we just kind of carried on doing that throughout school and University”.
“By our final year we’d taken over the whole beach and had a bouncy castle and deck chairs. We were employing about 13 or 14 of our friends. It was really cool; it was a big operation. We just saved everything we could and then we had enough to open Lick in Brighton after University. That was the first frozen yogurt shop in the country and a few months after we opened, a whole bunch of others started opening…”
I ask Ky whether he thinks he started a trend.
“Yeah, I think so. We were inspired by businesses in America and what we’d been doing up until then. But yeah, we were definitely the first”.
Lick in Brighton flung open its doors in 2008. Successfully trading for five years, the planned closure in 2013 was a key business move and allowed Ky and Owain to focus solely on their product and roll out Lick further across the UK. The duo, however, decided to remain in Brighton.
“It was the perfect place. We’re from this really beautiful seaside town, but it’s really seasonal, so it’s only busy for like, five week weeks a year – less probably. But Brighton is like a bigger version of that. But also, it’s just… perfect: it’s the coolest place in the country. We thought that if we could make a brand good enough for Brighton then it would be good enough for anywhere really”.
“I think it has to be good because people are so discerning here. I was in San Francisco quite recently and Brighton is very, very similar to there. It feels like the place where people in the country have got lots of ideas. But yeah. I love Brighton”.
Asking Ky what challenges he feels the Lick brand has faced along the way was met with a slightly bashful smile. “Many. On a daily basis.” Questioning him further on this notion, Ky goes on to say;
“It’s really hard to put into words. I mean, right now, if you were to list our full competitors, they’re owned by major food companies. And they’ve got millions and millions of pounds to spend on marketing and advertising. We’ve never really had any money whatsoever – and still don’t really – so I suppose that’s been the big challenge; to be relevant without a budget”.
“No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t create authenticity. For us there’s still a challenge of not being bankrupt and having people know about you. I mean, we’re in Sainsburys now but Ben & Jerry’s frozen yogurt has spent something like, £8 million in the UK alone this year on advertising”.
Is Ben & Jerry frozen yogurt a new thing?
“They’ve rebranded it. It’s not even really frozen yogurt, it’s just their ice cream with a little bit of yogurt in. It’s got fat in, it’s not healthy in any way. I think they’ve seen this frozen yogurt trend emerging and they’ve just tried to stamp on it. So they’ve got ads in every single Tube station in London right now, things in magazines, on TV…
“The whole point of the frozen yogurt trend is to be a healthier option. And yet their (Ben & Jerry’s) frozen yogurt isn’t fat free, it’s a gimmick. I mean the argument is that people want to think they’re healthy but don’t actually want to be healthy so they like the feel of picking up the frozen yogurt off the shelf but they don’t actually want it to be healthy because they still want the…
We move on to ask Ky about the important of local and traceable produce to Lick as a business and what their ethos is in regard to environmental issues.
“We go for quality over anything else, is the answer. So we use Jersey milk, because Jersey milk is the best milk and has got the highest protein content. We use English elderflower for our elderflower flavouring. We source where we can but I suppose it’s not the main thing for us. The quality is paramount.
“We’re manufactured in the only completely carbon neutral dairy in Europe. Our product is made in a plant where they get waste material and then convert that to energy (anoroybic digestion). And I’d argue that that’s more relevant than the local issue. Oh and we give 5% of our profits to Brighton Peace Environment Centre, so we’re engaged with that kinda stuff. We had Caroline Lucas give a talk recently.”
Ky talks us through what’s next for Lick and the list is impressive: mix-tapes, gigs, Lick branded apparel, in-house talks from neuroscientists, writers and film-makers to name but a few of the fun things going on at the Lick warehouse. Not to mention discussions with major retailers across the UK.
“Ours really is much, much better than anything else on the market” says Ky. “It’s the only one that’s 100% yogurt. It’s the only one that’s fat free. And it tastes so much better than anything else. And it’s got the nicest branding. And it’s not made by a huge corporation. And I’m really hoping that by doing the right thing and the good thing, that people are smart enough and that they care enough”.
You can find Lick at the following stores across Brighton and Hove:
Dukes at Komedia
Duke of Yorks
Interview by Claire Beveridge
Photography by Oleg Pulemjotov