Thank you so much for the encouragement. And you are right in your observations on the path we intend to take.
The sad part about all this is re-educating the customers about what we are doing and teaching them to discern quality. The best ice cream they have there is Haagen Daaz and Ben and Jerry's, the latter of which I absolutely LOVE.
However, these cost an arm and a leg and come in such dastardly small portions. Well, these guys sell small portions for high profits that the high society only can afford. We wanna target different people, the rising middle class, with a high quality product off which we can make a reasonable but not large profit. Profits will come in volume, and thats our target.
Right now, its all about re-thinking our supply chain and how we can skip the value chain here and there as well as make use of our contacts to get cheaper supplies to get a cost advantage.
Who knows.....today we have 1 machine, maybe tomorrow, a whole factory
There is a reason for the small container size you find with your premium ice creams. The main enemy of ice cream is the freeze/thaw cycle. Each time the temperature of the product goes up, some of the tiny ice crystals melt and creates free water. When it freezes again the free water joins existing ice crystals to make them larger. So over time you go from many microscopic crystals to fewer larger ones and people start to notice the the product is icy.
The small size of the container ensures that it won't last long in the customer's freezer and will therefore undergo fewer cycles. The big benefit you can get selling your own ice cream direct to the consumer is that you won't have to worry about intermediate storage of your product. The companies that sell to the grocery stores will have their product sit on the shelf for weeks, and that means many cycles before the consumer even touches the container.
What that means to you as a consumer is that you should keep your ice cream in the back of your freezer and NOT in the door where it swings out into a warm room every time the door is opened. Also don't stock up many gallons in a frost free freezer as it cycles.
Haagen Daaz and Ben and Jerry's are both "Super Premium" products, and you would have a hard time convicing anyone that you were producing anything a whole lot better. The real problem you will have is the cost of producing a competetive product. The best ingredients cost the most. The low overun they use (overrun = air whipped in) means that you actually get more ice cream in that small container than you would get in a comparable size of the cheaper stuff. Air is the secret ingredient that ice cream makers are selling. Too much of that, though, and the customer can tell in the mouth feel as it melts. The big boys have a real advantage of scale over you so it is difficult to beat them on price. Most premium shops rely on other methods to add percieved value.
You are correct about the problem of educating the consumer. In the class I found that to a large degree the average consumer can't tell the difference between the middle to high end products. That is why the manufacturers can slip in whey and other ingredients to lower the cost without loosing customers.
Some ice cream shops take the tack of selling an ambiance where the perception is of greater quality. It may be very good ice cream, but it is the whole experience that the consumer is paying a premium for. One chain here uses the process of hand mixing the inclusions on a marble slab as a draw.
If you are concerned about cost you could consider mixes rather than cooking your own custard. If your area is anything like the USA you will find the complete range of mixes available, from the cheap ice-milk, to super premium custard bases. I am sure you could find one that would satisfy your quest for quality. From there it is a matter of keeping the quality up with your flavors and inclusions.
If I were to open a shop I think I would look seriously into Gelato just for the visual appeal. As a consumer I love the way it displays, and it offers an opportunity for the shop to garnish the gelato in the trays in very creative ways.