The Bowker family moved to Laura, 240km north of Adelaide, in 1870 and in 1880 began selling the milk and cream from their dairy. In 1923 the family opened Laura Ice Works, where they manufactured ice, offered coolrooms to store agricultural produce and began making Laura Ice Cream. The brand Golden North was adopted in 1948. Golden North ice cream is still made in Laura.
Before opening their own factory, the Bowkers sold milk and cream from their dairy farm to the manufacturers of Peters Ice Cream in South Australia. Perhaps this was the inspiration for founding their own ice works and ice cream business. In 1923, with electricity available in the town, they opened their factory and coolrooms, reported as “a boon to local and district horticulturalists”. Their coolrooms were used to store apples, meat, eggs, milk, cream and other perishables.
They also began to make ice cream under the Laura brand. Initially, the ice cream was packed in one, three and five-gallon containers, packed in ice and sent by train to various Northern towns. Within four years, the Bowkers were extending their plant. They also opened their own cafe as an outlet for their products. The Laura Standard and Crystal Brook Courier reported:
The “Cafe Northern” is situated in Herbert Street, and is equipped with the latest fittings for soda fountain drinks and ice cream. Glass top tables provide absolute cleanliness while the interior is tastefully decorated. One of the latest machines for producing pure orange juice fruit drinks has been installed, and this is a popular drink with local residents.
In 1940, so the company history relates, they became the first in Australia to produce ice cream in half-gallon (two-litre) tubs. The company name was changed from Laura Ice Works to Golden North Dairies in 1948 and two years later the Bowkers claimed to have the longest milk run in the world: from the Barossa Valley to Tennant Creek, nearly 2000 kilometres.
In 1983 the company was sold to the South Australian group Farmers Union and the following year Golden North Ice Cream was introduced to Adelaide. The company returned to private ownership in 2001. Golden North Ice Cream has been proclaimed a South Australian Icon food. It is now also available through IGA stores in most states. A 2019 survey by Canstarblue among 1300 consumers found Golden North Ice Cream was the most preferred of ten leading brands. It received, according to Canstarblue, “five-star reviews from customers on taste, consistency, variety, packaging and overall satisfaction”.
Golden North is particularly known for its honey flavour. Other exotic flavours include rum and raisin, cafe cino and spearmint sundae. The range of flavours supplied to ice cream shops is more extensive.