Hannah Wood has always been a gelato fanatic. But it was not until she received a scholarship to learn gelato-making at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy that she decided to open a gelato business of her own.
"I devoured more than my fair share of gelato, absorbed everything I could about the culture and techniques for making gelato," noted Wood.
Three years later, she started Little 'Lato, which initially began as a humble gelato bar within Crave Cafe. Soon her business rapidly grew, jumping on opportunities as they came.
The award-winning Little 'Lato can now be found throughout Auckland, Rotorua, Coromandel, Taupo and Timaru. All the gelato is made in small batches, utilising authentic Italian techniques and packed full of ingredients.
'It's the real deal - authentic Italian gelato made with our own Kiwi flair."
Wood find ideas for new gelato flavours everywhere - from walking through a supermarket, chatting with friends, to eating a dessert at a restaurant. When the lightbulb moment hits, she then moves onto calculating the exact ratio of ingredients needed to achieve a gelato that freezes at the right consistency.
"It's a tricky balance as everything that is added will have an impact on the consistency and freezing point of the gelato. We want this to be perfect at the serving temperature of -13 degrees."
After figuring out the ingredients ratio, she will make up a trial batch, adjusting the calculations and ingredients until the product is just right.
An innovation Wood takes pride in is her vegan gelato flavours, which were designed with the goal of making a product that is just as indulgently delicious as its dairy counterpart, but without an icy texture or a overwhelming taste of plant-based milks. The current vegan crowd favourites include Peanut Butter Chocolate, Mango Lassi and Chocolate Sorbet.
Wood's most recent innovation was Little 'Lato's collaboration with Almighty Drinks, which launched a Blackcurrant gelato that contains the beverage company's Active Blackcurrant water. The flavour will debut in Farro Fresh stores and selected parlours for a limited time.
Little Lato has previously partnered with a number of other New Zealand businesses, including Karma Drinks, The Nut Brothers and 1919 Distilling, to create a range of creative gelatos that showcase both brands.
However, Wood's favourite flavour of all time is still the Speculoos, a gelato that was inspired by the Dutch biscuit Speculaas. The flavour scooped up the 2022 Supreme Champion Boutique prize at the New Zealand Ice Cream & Gelato Awards, as well as being placed as the Category Champion for 2020 and 2022.
As the Founder and CEO of Little Lato, Wood's everyday schedule is incredibly different - ranging from talking to customers, boxing up products, working through finances, scooping gelato at events, photographing for social media, to developing new products... the list is endless and ever-changing.
With a small team of two full-time staff and several summer hires, she looks forward to continuing to creating more innovative and unique gelato flavours that are suitable for a range of dietary requirements.