Going coconuts

Words by Lowenna Merritt


Cecily’s Cornish plant-based ice cream offers a creamy dairy-free alternative that’s kind to the planet.


Cecily’s ice cream was born simply to satisfy a personal craving. Commuting from Brighton to London daily, brand founder Cecily Mills switched to a plant-based diet for an energy boost but missed the joys of a creamy tub of ice cream. She decided to craft her own ice cream substitute, made from coconut milk and coconut sugar. From there, her new business idea was born. Originally named Coconuts Naturally, then Coconuts Organic, the pioneering natural vegan ice cream has blossomed to become a highly regarded taste sensation nationwide. Now rebranding as Cecily’s, the team are homing in on their Cornish roots, and continue to provide a sustainable, accessible and tasty alternative to dairy ice cream.

Cecily speaks to me from her family home in the Lizard, where she is spending lockdown. Cornwall is where Cecily desired to be as she made her daily commutes to and from London, but she needed her own business idea in order to secure a life in the south west. Her own plant-based diet spurred on the idea to create organic, plant-based food options, and the vision grew from there. Her brand was born at a time where the plant-based market was only a fraction of what it is now: “It was when coconut water and coconut yoghurt were just becoming popular. There was definitely a gap in the market.” Cecily explains how her desire to start her own business aligned with this emerging space in the food industry for organic, plant-based alternatives. “I visited the natural and organic trade show in London, the health food industry’s main trade show in the UK. I thought, this is really cool, and I could definitely see myself being a part of this industry. And then in the end I was like, I’ve just got to do it.”

After experimenting in her kitchen and crafting a creamy replica of dairy ice cream, she then launched, pitching her ice cream to her first customers – Archie Brown’s in Truro and Genki Café in St Agnes who still sell her ice cream now. “I cringe now,” Cecily laughs. “The ice cream must’ve been horrible, but it’s so amazing that they took it. It was probably the hardest sales call I’ve ever done.” From then on, Cecily pursued her aim of having her ice cream available in freezers across Britain. “I’d had my first daughter when we launched, so she was about two months old, and it was basically just me for the first year. I then hired a small team to help out, which has gone up and down over the years. We are now only a team of three, so we are super small but that’s all we need.”

Cecily’s business is a part of the movement paving the way for a more sustainable approach to the way we consume food. Cecily reflects on the early days of her produce, and how the approach to a vegan diet has changed hugely in the last few years. “The first lot of customers were people who were into a plant-based diet, but even then, it still took a bit of explaining… an ice cream made without milk, it was still a bit of an odd thing. Nowadays, it’s just completely normal, which is brilliant, to the point where a plant-based diet is being promoted not just by David Attenborough, but by the UN as one of the best ways we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It’s come along massively in the last five years. Going dairy free with a tasty product or tasty alternative is a really nice way we can start making a difference.” This indeed was the unique selling point of her product – delicious, organic and lovingly made ice cream, which matched the dairy version in taste, accessibility and price.

Cecily’s ice cream was born simply to satisfy a personal craving. Commuting from Brighton to London daily, brand founder Cecily Mills switched to a plant-based diet for an energy boost but missed the joys of a creamy tub of ice cream. She decided to craft her own ice cream substitute, made from coconut milk and coconut sugar. From there, her new business idea was born. Originally named Coconuts Naturally, then Coconuts Organic, the pioneering natural vegan ice cream has blossomed to become a highly regarded taste sensation nationwide. Now rebranding as Cecily’s, the team are homing in on their Cornish roots, and continue to provide a sustainable, accessible and tasty alternative to dairy ice cream.

Cecily speaks to me from her family home in the Lizard, where she is spending lockdown. Cornwall is where Cecily desired to be as she made her daily commutes to and from London, but she needed her own business idea in order to secure a life in the south west. Her own plant-based diet spurred on the idea to create organic, plant-based food options, and the vision grew from there. Her brand was born at a time where the plant-based market was only a fraction of what it is now: “It was when coconut water and coconut yoghurt were just becoming popular. There was definitely a gap in the market.” Cecily explains how her desire to start her own business aligned with this emerging space in the food industry for organic, plant-based alternatives. “I visited the natural and organic trade show in London, the health food industry’s main trade show in the UK. I thought, this is really cool, and I could definitely see myself being a part of this industry. And then in the end I was like, I’ve just got to do it.”

After experimenting in her kitchen and crafting a creamy replica of dairy ice cream, she then launched, pitching her ice cream to her first customers – Archie Brown’s in Truro and Genki Café in St Agnes who still sell her ice cream now. “I cringe now,” Cecily laughs. “The ice cream must’ve been horrible, but it’s so amazing that they took it. It was probably the hardest sales call I’ve ever done.” From then on, Cecily pursued her aim of having her ice cream available in freezers across Britain. “I’d had my first daughter when we launched, so she was about two months old, and it was basically just me for the first year. I then hired a small team to help out, which has gone up and down over the years. We are now only a team of three, so we are super small but that’s all we need.”

Cecily’s business is a part of the movement paving the way for a more sustainable approach to the way we consume food. Cecily reflects on the early days of her produce, and how the approach to a vegan diet has changed hugely in the last few years. “The first lot of customers were people who were into a plant-based diet, but even then, it still took a bit of explaining… an ice cream made without milk, it was still a bit of an odd thing. Nowadays, it’s just completely normal, which is brilliant, to the point where a plant-based diet is being promoted not just by David Attenborough, but by the UN as one of the best ways we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It’s come along massively in the last five years. Going dairy free with a tasty product or tasty alternative is a really nice way we can start making a difference.” This indeed was the unique selling point of her product – delicious, organic and lovingly made ice cream, which matched the dairy version in taste, accessibility and price.


As the scope of the business grew, Cecily set her sights on investment, applying for Dragon’s Den. “At the time I was in Cornwall with a baby,” Cecily explains. “I didn’t feel that I was in that investor network, it felt really difficult. So, I applied for Dragon’s Den – it kind of felt like the easiest option, which sounds odd but it sort of was.” Cecily’s, then named Coconuts Organic, received two offers from investors, but Cecily eventually turned the investment down, requiring more funding for her business to really take off. Instead, she successfully crowd-funded investments and the ice cream brand has taken off from there.



The most important thing for Cecily’s has always been matching dairy ice cream products to create a viable competition. This not only means that the ice cream must be as affordable and accessible as dairy options, but that it also must go above and beyond in capturing the taste and texture which ice cream lovers crave. I ask Cecily about the process of achieving this creamy texture which is so specific to ice cream. “That’s the real art of dairy free ice cream making, anyone can make something that tastes kind of good because you just put a bit of sugar in it and something creamy like oat milk or coconut milk. But the difficulty is getting the mouth feel of dairy ice cream,” she says. “Dairy ice cream is creamy and thick, and that’s what we’ve managed to replicate in our ice cream, which is so unusual. That’s why we’ve got so many great taste awards and it’s why people over and above comment on the creaminess

and the texture, and it being such a wonderful surprise.” Cecily’s comes in a variety of mouth-watering flavours, including Mint Choc Chip, Double Caramel and Choc Orange Swirl, and more options are always being developed.


“The problem is that I have too many ideas for flavours, I want to do them all at once,” Cecily laughs. To tempt people over to the world of plant based, sustainable food, it must satisfy in taste and quality, and this was one of the hurdles the brand has had to jump in order to solidify its success.


This last year of lockdowns has provided ample time for reflection, and for Cecily’s, it was the perfect time to work on the rebrand. Cecily explains how renaming the brand from Coconuts Organic to her own name gives a more personal feel to the product. “We thought, let’s make this more about where we come from, more about our heritage, and it just felt by putting my name to it and getting the illustration done of the cliffs and the beach, it helps us anchor our brand down in Cornwall, which we are really proud of. It’s a big part of the identity of our brand.” This upcoming year is an exciting one for Cecily’s, and their rebranded launch comes with a few other surprises, too. “We are in a really good place now,” Cecily details. “We’ve got so many exciting changes coming this year – new stockists, a new website, a subscription box launching and new flavours coming out that are going to blow your mind.”

The most striking thing about the brand is its ambition to encourage sustainability nationwide. “I want everywhere that sells ice cream to be selling Cecily’s ice cream,” Cecily says. “We need to have these dairy free options available easily if we are going to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the toll of CO2 on our planet. So, I see my job as getting it out there in the mainstream at a good price so it can be easy for people.” And really, what better way to save the planet than with a delicious tub of ice cream? Cecily’s merging of maximum taste with minimum environmental impact is part of a food movement which hopefully will continue to grow in the coming years.


coconutsorganic.com