It is Sunday morning, the sun shines radiantly in the blue sky and the parks of Bogotá are filled with the laughter of children who celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited moment: the purchase of ice cream.
In the little store in the sector, the fridge opens and your mouth waters when your eyes fix on a delicious popsicle that refreshes your palate. Can you possibly be happier? Although many believe that ice cream is not eaten in ‘La Nevera’, this tradition has been established in Colombian homes for generations.
One of the most recognized and beloved brands in this industry has been Crem Helado, a company that started as a restaurant and evolved over time.
The beginning of an emporium
In the mid-1960s, one of the planes par excellence was to attend the Crem Helado on Caracas avenue with 34th street for lunch hamburger, a hot dog or a chicken in a basket and liven up with a good dessert with ice cream.
The ‘Crem Helado de la 34’ was born in 1965 as an imitation of the great Dinner from the United States, which have very particular colors and music. Surely you have seen some in American series and films such as ‘Brillantina’ (1978) and ‘Riverdale’ (2017).
Horacio Day, an American living in Colombia, was in charge of taking his daily life and making it tangible in Bogotá. But contrary to what many believe, This business was not the first restaurant of this type that the American had founded..
Years before, there was the Crem Helado de la Caracas con 63, a restaurant that was located near what is now the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes and which, when it closed, gave way to the construction and inauguration of the iconic Crem Helado on 34th Street.
Avenida Caracas with Calle 63, you can see the Crem Helado and in the background part of the church of Lourdes…. Bogotà in the early 60’s pic.twitter.com/PGT6rLDUj1
— Photographic History of Bogotá and Colombia (@HistoriaFotBog) March 28, 2020
How was that place born? Well then, in the 1960s, Day acquired a concession that was owned by the firm Bavaria SA and took advantage of the new currents that were entering the country.
The giant house with a triangle roof and windows everywhere became an iconic establishment. In the large parking lots, interphones were installed from where customers could place their orders -what is known today as a self-service– and inside, visitors placed their order through intercoms.
However, the years did not pass in vain. According to a 1995 publication in EL TIEMPO, The deterioration of the city center modified the habits of the ‘rolos’, who managed to look for new places to go to the north. To this was added the construction of the Caracas trunk road and the insecurity of the sector, factors that were in charge of closing the doors of the famous restaurant.
Given the facts, at the beginning of 1995, the lot was sold to a real estate company, which leased it to the Parking Internacional company. Currently, the Calle 34 Transmilenio station is located in that same sector.some old residential houses, monumental buildings and some businesses, hairdressers, restaurants and banks.
the great growth
But what seemed like the end of an era was only the beginning. In 1964, Tropicrem Ltda was created, which marketed ice creams such as Chococono, Twist cone, the cone with raisins and the Saucer; products that gave formal start to the industrialization and commercialization of these famous cold products.
Some time later, a new restaurant/factory was inaugurated on 13th Street in what is now known as Puente Aranda and over the years, the demand for what began as a small business exceeded the supply capacity of the restaurant and took a Turn towards industrialization.
In 1982 the company began to be called Food Marketing Colombia, better known as Meals SAwhich was in charge of providing the mass approach to the production of Crem Helado ice creams and yogurts of the French brand Yoplait.
With the help of a reconstructed palette, the brand began to produce the famous water palettes, known as ‘Sky’ at the time: “We started making those ice creams and if 20,000 were made, 20,000 were sold and if 30,000 were made, 30,000 sold”, affirms Luis Alberto Calderón, a former employee of Crem Helado, for EL TIEMPO.
Later, they built the first Crem Helado ice cream production plant in the La Floresta neighborhood, in Bogotá.
“Meals de Colombia made it possible for ice cream to be produced on a massive scale, proper marketing was done for the brands that were created and A logistics network will be built that will allow reaching all corners of the country”, assures Mario Alberto Niño, current president of Comidas de Colombia, for EL TIEMPO.
According to this medium, in 1995 the multinational Unilever Andina acquired Helados La Fuente. Six years later, this company made a strategic alliance with Meals, which used Crem Helado to start marketing La Fuente ice cream.
By 2004, Meals had already obtained the ‘Colombian Award for Management Quality’, awarded by the Ministry of Economic Development, and by the beginning of 2010 it had begun to venture into a new way of publicizing its products: small ice creams that were distributed throughout the national territory. Although some were their own, many others belonged to third parties who acquired them as a franchise.
In 1973, 47 years ago, advertising for Helados La Fuente (1942-2001), currently Crem Helado (1956). Image The Colombian. 📰🇨🇴🍧🍨🍦 pic.twitter.com/5Uh90wp6rW
— Carlos Alberto Cardozo Cardozo (@Cabezaborrador) November 15, 2020
Although this business was lacking for years, it declined over time. According to Niño, for this reason it was decided that the products would begin to be distributed only to third parties since 2017. This model, which is currently used, allows ice cream parlors to make their own products with Crem Helado ice creams and for the popsicles to be distributed in drugstores, neighborhood stores, supermarkets and department stores.
“This dynamic is part of a model in which we support these ice cream parlors throughout the country, through comprehensive advice.. This model seeks to develop the customer’s points of sale to increase their competitiveness, keep them current, profitable and sustainable over time”, Niño assures this newspaper.
The different owners who have had Crem Helado
For 2006, Meals de Colombia, the company that owns Crem Helado, transferred 100 percent of its shares to Grupo Nacional de Chocolates (GNC), after having sales below expectations and a market share close to 43 percent, as reported by EL TIEMPO.
«Its costs of sales that year, and in previous years, only grew 5 percent due to greater efficiency in the plants, strategic rethinking of the sales price policies of some ice cream lines, and the effectiveness of interdisciplinary groups» , was stated in this newspaper.
Five years later, the GNC allied itself with the Mexican group Nutresa, changing its name and that of all its subsidiaries. Thus, Crem Helado belongs to the Grupo Nacional de Chocolates, which, in turn, belongs to Nutresa.
Since then, the success of the ice cream brand has skyrocketed, because, according to the president of Meals, They have two production plants located in Bogotá and Manizales and employ nearly 1,500 people throughout the national territory.
In 2019, Cream Helado announced that it would change the image of all its brand products. It renewed its logo, changed the photographs of its ice creams, transformed the packaging and all the elements that interfere with the consumer. His image, three years after the news, is more demanding and modern, quite the opposite of what that retro ice cream parlor was.
Only in the first half of 2022, the company sold around 250 million units, through the various formats and products throughout the national territory. In addition, it obtained first place in the ‘Money: top of mind 2022’ ranking, becoming the brand that Colombians think of first when it comes to ice cream.
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KAROL DANIELA PEÑA SEVERICHE
NICOLAS CORTES MEJIA