If you’re a huge fan of the aisle freezer like me, you’ve probably noticed that vegan and “healthier” ice cream dominate the frozen dessert market. Through thick and thin, these newer versions of the original dairy product seem to be here to stay.
Although the popularity of vegan ice cream has skyrocketed in recent years, there is a long history backing it up. In fact, the first record appears in a file 1899 nut-based cookbook From Almeda Lambert, it consists of hazelnut cream, sugar and vanilla. Although the concept remained the same, later confectioners continued to experiment with different dairy alternatives—particularly soy. In 1922, Lee Len Thuey of Indiana received the first patent for a tofu-based soy ice cream. The first commercial soy ice cream, produced by the Scientific Food & Benevolent Association and Henry Ford’s research team, hit the market in the 1930s.
In the 1950s, vegan ice cream ran into an obstacle when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided that Chill-Zert soy ice cream should be classified as Imitation ice cream. However, Robert Rich, founder of Rich Products Corporation, fought the ruling and eventually won, preventing non-dairy ice cream from being marginalized in the larger ice cream market.
In light of this triumph, the late 20th century saw a handful of new dairy-free ice cream companies, including the notable brands Tofutti and Rice Dream. By the turn of the century, the popularity of dairy-free ice cream began to rise, and it continues to grow every year. The global dairy-free ice cream market size has been estimated $595.26 million in 2021And the Forbes expects It will exceed $1 billion by 2025.
A few factors spurring the growing interest in vegan ice cream, among plant-based foods in general, are consumers’ lactose intolerance and health concerns about dairy products, the shift toward sustainable alternatives to animal products and “best-for-you” trends. To help the market grow, established dairy brands have launched their own vegan ice cream options, including Häagen-Dazs, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robbins and Magnum.
Alongside vegan ice cream, “healthy” keto-friendly ice cream has seen a huge rise. Brands, such as Open Nature Scandal-Less, Keto Foods and Rebel Creamery, advertise their high protein content and shockingly low number of calories due to their skim milk and sugar alternatives. While the low-sugar ice cream industry lags behind the vegan ice cream industry that was established decades ago, it shows great potential for growth in the coming years.
Vegetarian and keto-friendly ice cream options have the upper hand in health and environmental impact, but the taste factor shouldn’t be overlooked. I went to my local grocery store and chose four options to determine if they could compare to traditional dairy ice cream.
Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Strawberry Frozen Oatmeal
This oat-based version was uber creamy and imitated ice cream well, but the strawberry flavor was barely there. Combined with oat undertones, it strangely reminded me of a liquid version of strawberry mochi—interpret it however you like. I probably won’t buy it again. Rating: 3/5
Coconut Bliss Frozen Dessert Chocolate Caramel and Sea Salt
This one is made with coconut milk, and the coconut flavor permeates it all. Surprisingly, the mixture of coconut and salted caramel wasn’t too disgusting. This was the thickest I’ve tried, but still creamy. The best part in my opinion, though, was that it had mixed vegan chocolate bars. Honestly, my biggest complaint was how urgent it was. Normally, I’m pretty enthusiastic about salt, but that was just too much. Rating: 4/5
Open Nature Scandal-Don Cookies & Cream Light Ice Cream
This was the only non-vegetarian and keto-friendly option I’ve tried. The first thing I noticed was how light it was. Due to its skim milk base, it’s way more airy than regular ice cream and is icing on the border rather than creamy. However, since it is made from milk, it lacks the taste of oats or coconut. I can certainly understand the popularity behind this. Rating: 4/5
Dream Pops Vanilla Skybites
The coconut milk ice cream bars were covered in chocolate, so it’s more like a vegan version of Dibs instead of regular ice cream. I thought the taste was subtle on vanilla ice cream, if just a little more icing than cream. The vegan chocolate wrap may help mask the dairy shortage, but either way I loved it. Rating: 5/5
Notably, all of these options cost around $4, which is pretty cheap compared to Ben & Jerry’s $6. For this reason alone, I might consider making the permanent switch! No matter what sparks your interest in vegan and keto-friendly ice cream, I encourage you to try it—with dozens of brands and flavors on the market, you’re bound to find what you love.
A copy of this article appeared on the page. 10 from the May 5, 2022 issue of the Daily Nexus.