On a summer day there is nothing like a cool, creamy treat to beat the heat. But for vegans or those who were cursed with lactose intolerance (such as myself), ice cream has been but a dream. Even for those who can have dairy, the cold reality is that if you want an organic option that is also “healthier,” the options have been slim to none, or should I say none that are too slim?
But those days are over. At Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California there were many cool alternatives including gluten free and dairy-free options, a new lowfat line of organic premium ice creams, wine-infused sorbets—and even a nutrient-packed ice cream designed to offer frosty option to ready-to-drink meal replacements shakes.
According to SPINS data, which tracks sales in the natural channel and other retail outlets, sales of non- dairy organic frozen desserts have increased 12 percent in the last year, which is more than double the amount of growth in from 2011 to 2012. Within this category, coconut milk-based ice cream is driving much of this growth.
Coconut milk ice cream is the closest to dairy ice cream due to its naturally higher fat content, says Marc Donofrio, marketing director at Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss, the company that launched the first coconut milk ice cream in the U.S. in 2004. “Other options such as rice, soy or even almond milk, often need to add oil, gums and fillers to create a creamy consistency,” says Donofrio. “Coconut milk has the natural creamy consistency of dairy but healthier medium-chain fatty acids.”
At Expo West, Coconut Bliss launched a decadent new Salted Caramel & Chocolate coconut milk “ice cream”— offering the first vegan version of this popular foodie flavor. With its new Strawberry Love bars, however, Coconut Bliss decided to buck the trend. Unlike practically every other strawberry frozen dessert on the market (even in the natural category), this option has no added colors or flavors, allowing the real perfectly- ripened berry flavor to come through.
NadaMoo, offers a coconut milk ice cream indulgence for the more calorie conscious, with only 130 calories per serving and less fat and carbohydrates than many other brands. Recently NadaMoo released two flavors Chocolate Almond Chip and Sweet Cherry Lime. While these desserts have less calories, they pack in chunks of goodies. “Research shows that we are diggers by nature when it comes to consuming ice cream, so we filled these with lots of almonds, chocolate chips and cherries so customers stay happy,” says Daniel Nicholson, CEO.
In the novelties category, ice cream innovation leader, Julie’s Organic, an Oregon Ice Cream Company brand, launched the first-ever organic gluten-free, dairy- free cookie sandwich in the U.S., and possibly the world. Made with vanilla coconut ice cream and Glutenfreeda’s gluten free chocolate cookies, this is a dream come true for many with food intolerances. Julie’s also added a gluten-free (but not dairy-free) orange sherbet sandwich to its line up as well.
Another of Julie’s non-dairy debuts at Expo West included a line of sorbets made with USDA certified organic wines from the award-winning Frey Vineyards in California. The sophisticated flavors in this line included Cranberry Pinot Noir, Strawberry Chardonnay and Blueberry Zinfandel.
Moo-ving to Healthier Options
There were also more health conscious organic dairy options. Alden’s, another Oregon Ice Cream brand, recently brought the first family-sized light premium organic ice cream to U.S. markets—offering less calories while still delivering a creamy, rich mouth feel.
While Alden’s has been focused on less, Straus Creamery has been focused on adding more…more nutrients. Strauss’s NuScoop is sure to be one of biggest game changers introduced into the frozen dessert category. Designed to offer a “nutritionally complete ice cream”—with 25 vitamins and minerals in each serving, as well as 6g of protein and 2g of fiber—it resembles a meal replacement shake or energy bar more than a dessert.
This low-glycemic, low-cholesterol, frozen dairy dessert includes healthful organic oils such as ghee and virgin coconut oil, which support increased metabolism. It also incorporates a blend of low- glycemic sweeteners including agave for sustained energy and whey protein for strong bones and muscles. The concept and patents for NuScoop originated with the pioneers of organic baby foods, Ron and Arnie Koss, founders of Earth’s Best Baby Food, who worked with Straus to develop the product.
With all these new options now available, there will likely be something cool in the freezer section for everyone this summer! Retailers, keep an eye on the ice cream isle for more alternatives, as this section is bound to be a hot area of growth.