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The challenges of running an ice cream van business

Running an ice cream van business can be an exciting and rewarding venture. However, as with any enterprise, it comes with its own unique set of challenges. One of the main hurdles is seasonality as your prime sales period is limited to summer months. Fuel costs, maintenance of the van and the freezer systems can also eat into your profits. Despite these challenges, the allure of bringing joy in the form of ice-cream to people's faces is what keeps those in this business going.

Understanding the ice cream van business

An ice cream van business is often a seasonal venture, with peak activity during the warmer months. As an ice cream vendor, you will be serving a variety of frozen treats to your customers, from traditional ice creams to more unique and gourmet offerings. This can be done from a mobile van, a market stall, or even a customised bike or tricycle.

The appeal of the ice cream van business

The sense of nostalgia associated with ice cream trucks and vans, coupled with the prospect of high profit margins and the flexibility of being your own boss, make this business an appealing option for many. However, it's crucial to note that success in this industry is not guaranteed and requires strategic planning, hard work, and a firm grasp of the challenges involved.

Major challenges within the ice cream van business

Every business type presents unique hurdles, and the ice cream van business is no exception.


Ice cream is a product closely associated with summer and warm weather. Consequently, your business may experience a significant drop in sales during colder months. This can severely impact your cash flow and profitability.

Operating costs

Operating an ice cream van comes with a variety of associated costs, including fuel, maintenance and repairs, equipment, stock. Increases in these costs can significantly impact your bottom line.

Ice cream van

The vehicle is the heart of your shop and operation, and choosing the right one is crucial. A new ice cream van can cost upwards of £60,000, while a five-year-old model averages around £15,000. Alternatively, a trailer might cost around £17,000, and a cart or trike could be as low as £3,000.

Essential equipment

In addition to the vehicle, you will need to invest and maintain various equipment, such as:

  • Soft-serve ice cream machine
  • Utensils (e.g., ice cream scoops, ice cream dippers, topping spoons)
  • Handwashing station
  • Cash machine and card machine
  • Accessories (e.g., topping dispenser, cone dispenser, dipping cabinet)
  • Eating area (tables, chairs, gazebo or parasols for shade if necessary)

Licensing and legal requirements

Operating an ice cream van business involves adhering to specific legal requirements. These include obtaining a street trading licence and food business registration, undergoing food hygiene training, and complying with regulations on using your chimes in public.


The ice cream industry is highly competitive, with numerous vendors and ice cream brands vying for consumer attention. Additionally, supermarkets and online delivery services offer convenient alternatives to consumers, further intensifying competition.

Overcoming challenges of running an ice cream truck

Ice cream being sold out of an ice cream van on a hot sunny day

Despite the potential profitability, running an ice cream van business does come with its challenges. These include weather dependency, competition from supermarkets, difficulties in finding a profitable pitch, and dealing with bans and licences.

Diversifying your offering

Consider introducing products that are not weather-dependent, such as hot beverages or snacks, during the colder months. This can help maintain a consistent revenue stream for companies year-round.

Also consider offering unique or gourmet ice cream flavours to distinguish your business from competitors. This could include organic or vegan options, unusual flavour combinations, or homemade ice cream.

Targeting events and pricing

Events such as fairs, festivals, and private parties can provide profitable opportunities outside of the traditional summer season.

Setting the right price for selling your ice cream is very important. Your location and the types of products you sell will significantly influence your pricing. You should aim for a high profit margin while ensuring that your prices remain affordable for your key demographic, particularly children.

Efficient stock management

Ensure that you are managing your stock efficiently to avoid waste. This means not overstocking perishable items and accurately forecasting demand to prevent over-ordering.

Regular maintenance and repairs

Young girl purchasing ice cream

Regular maintenance and repairs can help prevent costly breakdowns and ensure your van remains in optimal condition.

Insurance cover for ice cream businesses

Running an ice cream business can be as sweet as the treats you sell, but it also comes with its share of risks. From equipment breakdowns to potential customer injuries, your ice cream shop could face a variety of unexpected challenges.

That's where insurance cover for ice cream vans comes into play. This type of coverage is specifically designed to address the unique needs and risks associated with serving ice cream. It provides financial protection against a wide range of potential losses, ensuring that your business can bounce back and continue serving up delicious treats, even when things don't go as planned.

Make sure your ice cream van has the right insurance to ensure that your business is adequately protected.

Branding and marketing

Effective branding and marketing can help your business gain exposure and attract customers. This could involve social media advertising, participating in local events, or offering promotions and discounts.


Running an ice cream van business can be a rewarding venture, but it's not without its challenges. By understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies to overcome them, you can set your business on the path to success.

Frequently asked questions

Are ice cream vans profitable?

Operating an ice cream van can indeed be a profitable venture, especially during the scorching summer months. Along with the satisfying symphony of children's laughter and joy, your pockets too could be jingling with the sound of good profit. However, keep in mind that profitability largely depends on factors like your business strategy, location, and the quality of your products.

Is an ice cream business a good business?

Ice cream is a universal favourite that appeals to all ages, and its demand remains fairly consistent throughout the year. An ice cream shop business will offer a wide range of flavours and options, allowing room for creativity and innovation.

Can I convert my van into my own ice cream business?

Turning your van into an ice cream truck can be a great business venture or even a fun project. With a few necessary modifications like installing a freezer, adding an attractive paint job, and setting up a catchy jingle, your van can be transformed into a delightful ice cream truck. But remember, you'll also need to familiarise yourself with local permits and health regulations to ensure your operations are legal and safe.

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