TUNBRIDGE WELLS and Tonbridge residents are in danger of losing control of their waistlines as a yet another dessert parlour comes to the area.
And one long-standing independent trader is increasingly irritated by the fanfair that greets the arrival of these big chains.
Kaspa’s, a nationwide company, will be opening stores in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge this summer, supplying ice creams, gelatos, waffles, crepes, milkshakes, smoothies and sundaes.
The popularity of the concept is shown by the fact that Kaspa’s currently has 34 outlets around the county but is planning to open a further 32.
Their latest announcement follows the news that Creams Cafe, a giant US firm, is opening a large store in Tunbridge Wells this summer on the site of the old Cosmo Oriental buffet restaurant on Grosvenor Road.
And these newcomers arrive in the footsteps of Swirls, which opened on Camden Road in December. Like Creams Cafe, which will encompass 5,000sq ft., Swirls is spread over two storeys – prompting fears of a bloated market for such products.
The startling growth in such outlets also comes on the back of widespread concerns about obesity and its impact on a creaking NHS, and a national campaign to reduce sugar content – including a new sugar tax on soft drinks from 2018.
Evidence of oversaturation was provided by the cafe Froffy & Phoam, which opened on Grosvenor Road near where the new Creams Cafe will be.
It opened last August, selling cheesecakes, waffles and jellies alongside its selection of Taywell ice cream, which is produced locally in Paddock Wood. But it closed down in January.
Meanwhile in Tonbridge Favola Gelato opened in Angel Walk last July. They were initially intending to open on The Pantiles but decided on Tonbridge because they perceived a greater need there. But it was closed by the end of the year.
Undeterred by their failure, this month was due to see yet another sweet eaterie, Creams Factory, opening on Tonbridge High Street.
Meanwhile Flossies Ice Cream Parlour, which is located in Sussex Mews, has been serving up treats around The Pantiles since 2009.
It is run by Sue Rowley, entirely on her own, and she makes all her own ice cream – unlike the larger firms. She is not surprised by the influx of dessert specialists.
“Basically it’s the newest craze,” she says. “I knew this would happen big time and I’ve been dreading it.
“They’re all coming over from America, and that’s where I got the idea from when my daughter and I were over there.
“We went out to Italy to learn how to make gelato [a type of ice cream which uses less butterfat]. This was before Creams came to this country.”
She adds that the campaign against sugar could have a negative impact. “I do think it’s a fad, we can’t keep eating waffles and pancakes.
“In a dessert parlour it’s going to cost you £30 for a family of four having waffles and whatever. And that will make you think about the sugar content.
“I try not to do that over-indulgence. It’s not the same as just having an ice cream, which is a small treat that people can give their kids on a day out.”
But she is optimistic about the future despite the invasion of puddings. “I am definitely a success story. I’m not even scared of all the new guys. I’ve got a lot of regulars and my ice cream is well known.”
Her problem is with the amount of coverage that the newcomers are receiving. “The chains are getting all this publicity and I’ve been here working my socks off. It’s wrong because everyone’s always talking about using local produce.”
When the Times placed a 100-word story about Creams Café coming to town on Facebook, it received four times as much traffic as the next highest story.