‘Bloody £9 for two’: TikTok twins rage at ice-cream van prices

<span>Some ice creams such as a screwball now cost about £4.50.</span><span>Photograph: ceredigionpix/Alamy</span>
Some ice creams such as a screwball now cost about £4.50.Photograph: ceredigionpix/Alamy

Like the totemic £8 pint or £5 coffee, the cost of a Mr Whippy ice-cream has become a barometer of a world gone mad. But really, nine quid for two ice-creams? Bloody hell.

That was the damning verdict of an eight-year-old whose TikTok rant over the cost of two screwballs from an ice cream van in the park has racked up 14m views at the time of writing.

The clip featuring Burnley twins Marnie and Mylah channels the anger of Britons who, on a rare sunny day, and grappling with their own personal cost of living crisis, have felt stung by the cost of a round of cones when they finally got to the front of the queue.

One of the twins, with a brutal take on ice-cream van economics, says a van that visits her street charges £1 or £2 so the unidentified business is “going to get nowhere”. To add insult to injury, she adds that the van “only does bloody cards” not cash.


The viral clip has left many of the UK’s 5,000 “mobilers”, already laid low by the bad weather, despairing at the brutal takedown of an industry, with sales of about £1.45bn a year, still trapped in a cycle of rising costs.

“Everything is going up,” said John Taylor, whose C&M Ices van was crowned “mobiler of the year 2023” by industry trade association, the Ice Cream Alliance (ICA). “It’s not just our industry. Every industry is in the same boat. The problem is everybody perceives us as a cheap product.”

“Everyone seems to think ice-cream should be 50p or a £1,” continued Taylor, who suggested such prices harked back to the 70s. “They’re quite happy to pay four quid for a lukewarm Starbucks coffee but won’t pay a couple of quid for a high-quality ice-cream.”

Taylor reels off a long list of cost pressures bearing down on ice-cream vans including diesel, electricity, insurance, pitch fees and wages, with his own business experiencing double-digit price increases for several years in a row. Then there is the rocketing cost of ingredients such as milk powder and sugar.

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“We don’t have the power of the supermarkets to buy 1,000 pallets of Magnums and sell them on at next to nothing just to get people through the doors,” said the businessman, who sells ice-creams beside Victoria shopping centre in Harrogate. “We’re small, independent, family-run businesses most of the time.”

There are also other forces turning on screwballs. They can no longer be sold in single-use plastic containers, with one van owner reporting the replacement costs eight times as much.

But, still, is £4.50 a lot for a screwball? Taylor says it “does sound a bit steep for a basic ice-cream” but questions: “What is his or her rent in that park?”

Joseph McNeil, the ICA president, said the price of a Mr Whippy varied depending upon where you live and was heavily influenced by pitch fees. However, he suggested that around the £3.50 mark is the average cost of a single cone with a flake.

Charging £4.50 for a screwball is at the “top end” but “isn’t unreasonable”, said McNeil. “We, as an industry, probably come under fire more over price. This is the second or third video I’ve seen this year about ice-cream being expensive.”

“No one seems to associate the cost of living crisis with the ice-cream man or woman. We are going through it the same as any other business. Our rents are forever increasing, we have VAT and the national living wage to pay, and that’s before we get started on ingredients to actually make the ice-cream.”