"Spain is crucial for our global expansion"

Guapaletas manufactures its ice creams in Valencia for the European market, where it will begin to expand to in 2022


Guapaletas was born in 2015 with a groundbreaking idea in Argentina: ice cream bars. The name is a play on words in Spanish, with "paleta" referring to the stick and "guapa" meaning beautiful. Its commitment to high-quality artisan ice cream and sales in exclusive shops and at events catapulted it to rapid success, opening six company-owned shops and 80 franchises in its country of origin.


When the founding partners decided to go international, they knew that their first target should be Spain. Culturally close, it was the strategic gateway to Europe. The concept of ice cream bars was already established in Europe and made it easy for them to enter the market. They also highlight the help provided by ICEX-Invest in Spain.


They have installed their machines in Spain to produce the ice creams that are consumed on this side of the ocean. After the shock of opening their first shop in Valencia in March 2020, two days before the pandemic was officially declared, they are optimistic about this new year, which is already opening doors to Andorra, Portugal, France and Germany.



How are Guapaletas different from the ice cream bars we know in Spain?
Guapaletas is a gourmet ice cream brand, its main product being the ice cream bar that gives the brand its name, and two other products: Guapitos are ice cream bonbons, such as the chocolate one with Baileys filling, and Guapotes are sealed tubs, which we will be bringing to Spain this summer. A major difference is the quality. For example, in summer we offer a nine-fruit ice cream that has 97 calories, compared to 53 calories in an apple. It contains kiwi fruit that is sliced the day before it is made, oranges that are squeezed that morning, etc. It is all handmade, with raw materials of the highest quality. And in Spain, we have created flavours such as "horchata" and chocolate-filled nougat.


Is the stick more beautiful than the ice cream on it?
The stick we currently use is made of wood, but we have innovated there too, and will soon replace it with one made of rice flour. That way, it will be edible and compostable. We care a lot about environmental impact, and with this initiative we can contribute to slowing down deforestation. We are not a certified triple impact company, but we have our heart set on triple impact. For example, when we discovered that 85% of our workshop employees in Argentina hadn't finished secondary school, we set up a classroom for them. Six of them signed up and two of them have already finished. We aren't changing the world, but we are trying to do our bit.



How did you start your internationalisation?
I was one of the first employees when we set up the company in 2015. We started in a 500 m2 production plant, and a year later we had to move to a 1,500 m2 plant because it was too small. I hit the targets they set for me as CFO and in 2018, I became a partner. As soon as the opportunity to come to Spain arose, I was the ideal candidate, because I didn't have any children at the time; you could say I had lighter suitcases. I was looking for an experience abroad and the truth is that in Spain you feel very comfortable, people are very welcoming. I actively participated in the Accelerate Spain programme in 2019, where you are constantly supported, and above all, I received support from ICEX.


Why did you choose Spain?
As Argentines, we have a much stronger link with Spain than with other countries. We think the entry barriers are a little bit lower, and although there are more cultural differences than we think, with the language it is very easy, and we have a lot of things in common that make it simpler for us to set foot in Europe for the first time.


Does it serve as a platform for you to move on to other countries?
Spain is crucial for our global expansion. It gave the brand a very important international image. People are getting to know us and seeing us through different eyes because we are in a country like Spain. With the operation we have here, plus the years of history and the excellent experience from Argentina, we have what we need to be able to continue with our expansion. We already have a good idea of costs, prices, repurchase, different customers, languages, etc. It is an extraordinary experience and it is certainly the main reason why we are getting excited about our global expansion.


It has also been a difficult few years with the pandemic.

Our first location, on Gran Via in Valencia, opened in 2020 two days before the lockdown, but we reopened on 19 May. We preferred to keep it open, even though there were many restrictions. The truth is that it was a very bad few months because of the pandemic, but we knew that our project was much bigger than what was happening to us at just one shop. Actually, now that everything is much more active, I receive more than two e-mails a day requesting franchises somewhere in Spain. This is partly thanks to having stayed open and trying to share the product with Spanish people.


And are you already looking for locations in other countries?
The first goods were delivered for export to Andorra at the end of January, where we already have a franchisee. We are talking to distributors in Portugal, France, Germany and the UK. We want to make a major leap forward in 2022. We have been on hold the last couple of years and now we have to put an end to the pandemic and get going properly. In Spain, we are going to have new franchises in Malaga and Madrid, and we are going to expand in Barcelona and Valencia, where we are currently located. Mexico and the United States are also planned for 2022.


Is this always with franchisees?
Because of the speed of growth we are aiming for, our strategy is through franchising. We are also going to set up our own shop in Madrid so as to have a live experience, which is always positive. Events are another very strong channel for Guapaletas, because they are a very good way to showcase the product, the experience and the brand. And this year we are looking forward to many more events. We are going to be at some big ones, like Lollapalooza in Paris. We are also growing on the online side of things. These three channels are the ones that give you profit after covering fixed costs. They are mutually reinforcing channels. Customers who meet us at an event then come to our shop. That is why we advise franchisees to attend events in their area. We give them every opportunity to have a food truck, which is extremely cost-effective, because they only activate the costs when they have an event.


You said you encountered few entry barriers at a business level, but what was the perception of Spanish consumers?
The truth is that we were surprised by the good perception and the good reception we got. When the company was founded, there were no ice cream bars in Argentina, we had to open up the market. The product already existed and was accepted in Spain, and that gave us a certain advantage. We saw that the price we set is perfect, people come back, they love the product, and we understand that we have a lot of market to grow, because in Spain people still consume less ice cream per capita than in Argentina, where it is less and less seasonal. As for the product, we manufacture it in Valencia, we do not import it. We wanted to have local raw materials and suppliers, and to adapt our product a bit to the market we are in.


What investment did you make in the factory?

The year we arrived in Spain we made an investment of approximately EUR 300,000. This investment is basically divided into brand positioning, the operation itself and machinery. We bought the machinery and installed it in another workshop, unlike in Argentina. The workshop in Valencia is the Glasol ice cream parlour, with whom we have a production partnership. For more than twenty years, Glasol has had exceptional knowledge of ice cream, and produces it for us using our recipes and machines. The truth is that we have an excellent relationship and we would love to continue to grow with them. We want to recruit a quality control person to work there and also to control the transport and logistics to ensure that the cold chain is not broken.


Photo: Guapaletas