A Train Ride Helped Turn This Ice Cream From Local Treat to Global Sensation
Moritz Fried has gone many extra miles for his ice cream. In 2013, five months after he opened Moritz Eis, the first premium, all-natural ice-cream shop in Belgrade, Serbia, he stored six sample flavors in an insulated box filled with dry ice and carried it on his lap for a 16-hour train ride to Prague.
He was taking the samples to Douglas Tompkins, the conservationist and co-founder of North Face Inc. and Esprit Holdings Ltd. They’d been friends since 2006, when Fried met him in Transylvania with a group of organic agriculturists. Tompkins, a certified ice-cream fanatic, wanted to taste Fried’s creations.
The journey paid off. Tompkins loved the flavors, which ranged from vanilla, dark chocolate, and raspberry to orange-ginger, lemon-mint, and blackberry-lavender blends. The two agreed on a venture in which Fried would bring the business to Chile, where Tompkins then lived. (He died in a 2015 kayaking accident.) It would be the first stage of an expansion into the Americas.
Fried had founded the scoop shop after quitting his job at New Europe Capital Ltd., a private equity fund in London and Bucharest. “I am an ice cream lover,” says the Austrian native. “I missed quality products and felt there was an excellent opportunity to create a good ice-cream store, since there wasn’t one available” in Serbia. His stores have a minimalist architecture—as if Richard Neutra had built shrines to sorbet—while conjuring a 1950s-era soda shop, with employees in paper hats and all-white uniforms.
The real magic, though, is the all-natural ice cream, which has a creamy texture without emulsifiers, artificial flavors, or gluten. The upscale Chilean food magazine Jigger described the taste as “mystical ecstasy” and said its gelato-like quality made it “the perfect ice cream.”
Fried now has five stores in Serbia, three in Romania, two in Hungary, and one in Montenegro. Former Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and his wife order the ice cream at home, and Fried has catered weddings for the country’s royalty and for tennis star Novak Djokovic. Actor Pierce Brosnan loved the vanilla so much that, while filming The November Man in Belgrade, he went to the shop every day.
But Fried’s fastest growth is coming 8,000 miles away, in Chile. He opened the first location in Cachagua, a vacation spot 100 miles northeast of Santiago, where the country’s wealthy spend weekends. He then expanded quickly to the capital’s exclusive Isidora Goyenechea neighborhood and the luxury-focused Casa Costanera mall. In January 2017, Fried opened his seventh shop in the country.
A scoop of Moritz Eis costs 2,260 pesos ($3.75). A take-home kilo (roughly equal to a quart) runs $25, more than double the cost of ice cream from local chains such as Bravissimo or the high-end Emporio la Rosa. Fried’s most popular flavor uses chocolate imported from Belgium. His vanilla comes from Madagascar. “The best ingredients can cost up to three to four times more than the second- or third-best,” he explains.
Although there are 16 flavors at a shop at any given time, Fried has created about 200 of them over the years. He’s testing new ones made from Patagonian fruits such as maqui berries and murtilla, or strawberry myrtle. A line of sugar-free ice creams using tagatosa, an all-natural sweetener derived from milk, has proved popular, too.
In April he’ll open a shop in Split, Croatia, and he’s already planning for the day he opens a U.S. location. Miami stands at the top of list. “One of the reasons I started this was that I wanted business and lifestyle to converge,” Fried says. “So I am always in good weather.”