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Rigoletto: Egypt’s original local ice cream parlor

This article is part of a series we are running ahead of the Mada Marketplace event to feature the participating vendors.

Last year, Rigoletto, the beloved ice cream parlor next door, dove back into the ever-growing food and desert market with a refurbished flagship store on Zamalek’s Taha Hussein Street and a new central factory.

Rigoletto is attempting to reclaim its position as one of the leading ice cream manufacturers in the Egyptian market, with more than 25 years of experience in the food industry and with a revamped market approach.

“We called our clients and friends and sent them samples to show them that we’re back,” says Najla Rizk, the owner.

But Rigoletto, Egypt’s first local brand for ice cream, has kept many loyal customers since their launch in the late 1980s, mainly because of their special recipes.

Their rich and velvety vanilla, for instance, is made of buffalo milk where other brands use cow milk. The difference in taste is because of the fat content, explains Najla. As for the fruity flavors, they are all sorbets and fat-free.

“The most important thing for us is quality,” says Rizk. “It doesn’t matter how much it’s costing us.”

The company was originally established as Dolce Vita in 1987, and it was the first ice cream parlor in Egypt. Due to the brand’s success, the name was taken by an ice cream tycoon Dolce two years later, so Dolce Vita became Rigolletto.

“People used to come from Heliopolis to our Maadi shop,” remembers Rizk. Scenes from the movie Ice Cream Fe Gleem (Ice Cream in Gleem, 1992), starring Amr Diab, were shot there.

Later, the second and third branches opened in Agamy and Zamalek. Rigoletto’s main business comes through these stores and the brand’s franchisees in Maadi, 6th of October and Nasr City. It also supplies international hotels such as the Hiltons in Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. 

Despite increasing local and international competition, Rigoletto has always managed to maintain their familiar flavor and the quality of their products and, in turn, their customers. Still, they have more recently focused on rebranding, redesigning their website and becoming more active on social media in order to engage a new, wider customer base.

“We started off with a red-nose campaign,” says Rizk. “If you put a red nose on and take a picture of it, you get something free.”

The aim is to also involve Rigoletto in community work, she explains, adding that she plans to support the arts or the Zamalek Association for Service Development, an NGO founded in 1991 by residents to improve living standards in the upscale district, through donating part of the income of its new flagship store.

In terms of competition, Rizk says that because Baskin Robbins isn’t local and that it’s much more expensive, it doesn’t compete, and Mandarine Koueider represents the closest competitor in the market.

“The size of their scoop is the same as ours and they make the yogurt berry cake we also produce,” she says, but explains that Rigoletto has more experience in ice cream.

“Koueider is more of a dessert place,” she concludes. “We are specialized.”

Read more about why Mada Masr is organizing a marketplace event here.

Amany Ali Shawky