A new ice-cream product created at Curtin is set to transform the frozen dessert market.
Gelavo is an environmentally-friendly, soft-serve frozen dessert made from avocados. It’s the brainchild of food science and technology alumni Anthea Rodoreda and Andrew Tilly, who originally came up with the idea as part of their final year project.
The pair were tasked with creating a product that promoted local produce, so Rodoreda and Tilly decided to use unwanted avocados.
“The product is made from second grade and below avocados. These can be fruits that are overripe or never made it to retail because of small discrepancies, such as aesthetics or bruising, which doesn’t affect our end product in any way,” says Rodoreda.
“Avocado is a very popular fruit at the moment, and after speaking with local farmers, we’ve learned that avocado tree plantations in Australia have increased by up to 40 per cent in order to meet market demand, and therefore the number of wasted avocados will increase exponentially – and that’s where Gelavo comes in.”
As well as being sustainably sourced, Gelavo is vegan, lactose-free and contains many of the nutrients needed for a healthy diet, such as vitamins C and E, and omega 3.
Rodereda says her motivations for developing a product that would be suitable for most people’s diets stemmed from her family’s health experiences.
“In my immediate family there’s a hereditary autoimmune condition, coeliac disease and food intolerances.
“I initially enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Sciences at Curtin as I wanted to be able to understand and treat conditions like those within my family, but I soon realised I wasn’t interested in the broader subject. Switching to food science and technology allowed me to learn how I could help people with these conditions through food.”
While the young entrepreneurs knew they had an innovative product with Gelavo, their idea lay dormant for two years until Tilly received an email about the Curtin Accelerate program in 2017.
The 10-week intensive program assists Curtin students, alumni and staff to get their business ideas off the ground by providing mentoring, an equity-free grant, working space and access to industry contacts and networks.
“It seemed like the right time to launch a product like ours. The market for healthy, vegan and dairy-free desserts is growing rapidly, and large numbers of consumers are choosing to exclude dairy for ethical or health reasons,” says Tilly.
Rodoreda and Tilly earned a place on the Accelerate program, which was funded by donations from Curtin’s inaugural Alumni Annual Appeal. The appeal invites alumni to share their stories, experiences and advice with current Curtin students, and to support student scholarships and innovative projects.
“Without our Accelerate experience we wouldn’t have a company,” says Rodoreda.
“The mentorship we’ve received has been invaluable, and we’ve been inspired and motivated by the other start-ups we’ve met through networking. We’re also far more confident when pitching to investors – we were completely out of our comfort zone to begin with,” says Rodoreda.
Rodoreda and Tilly have been perfecting Gelavo at Curtin’s laboratories in the School of Molecular Life Sciences, but they are planning to purchase their own equipment so they can increase production and eventually sell Gelavo through major food retailers.
They are also hoping to promote their ice-cream at the Araluen Avocado Festival this November.
The Alumni Annual Appeal returns in September this year. If you would like to update your contact details for the appeal and support current Curtin students, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.