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We all scream for vegan ice cream

(Mattie Hagedorn/ Flickr)

Ice cream is debatably the most wonderful food out there. Its creamy texture is the perfect refresher when it’s hot out or a familiar, comforting thing to turn to on a rough day.

For those who choose to follow a vegan diet, or those unlucky souls doomed to a dairy-free lifestyle, ice cream options have felt very limited for a long time.

One might wonder, if the ice cream doesn’t have dairy in it, what exactly is it composed of? The most common substitutes for what regularly would be milk and cream are almond, coconut, cashew, oat or soy milk. Beware though, many people with dairy allergies also have problems with products containing soy.

In Feb. 2016, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled the first four flavors of a certified vegan line of ice cream. The company replicated the unique fan favorite flavors using a combination of coconut oil and almond milk to perfectly mirror the texture of dairy-contaminated ice cream.

The original flavors were Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coffee Caramel Fudge (a personal favorite), P.B. & Cookies and Chunky Monkey. One year later, Ben & Jerry’s sneakily dropped three new flavors – Coconut Seven Layer Bar and Cherry Garcia – adding them to supermarket shelves without any promotion.

The first major circulation of the new flavors occurred when a popular vegan Instagrammer, who goes by the handle @phillyveganmonster, posted a photo of the never-before-seen vegan flavors. Just when vegan consumers were digesting that thrilling discovery, on Feb. 15 Ben & Jerry’s officially announced those two new flavors, plus one bonus flavor – Caramel Almond Brittle.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is the largest animal rights organization in the world, actually took to their websites to promote the animal-friendly ice cream.

Another company that quietly integrated non-dairy flavors into its brand was Breyers. Around the same time as the Ben & Jerry’s flavor drop, Breyers produced flavors called Vanilla Peanut Butter and Oreo Cookies & Cream. While the product is not certifiably vegan, the ice cream contains no animal products whatsoever and has also been promoted on the PETA website.

Following in the footsteps of Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s, in July 2017 Häagen Dazs took to stocking United States Targets with their new non-dairy line. The sudden release of flavors came from the encouragement provided by a Change.org petition.

A passionate Wisconsin man took to the popular platform to encourage the company to target the growing lactose-intolerant community and vegan consumers, while making an effort to be more environmentally sustainable. The petition rallied over 1,000 signatures and ultimately caused a social media stir that helped encourage the company to produce the product.

Häagen Dazs has taken pride in stating that their line of dairy-free ice cream is not simply a substitution of dairy products with almond milk, but instead a whole new chemistry of ingredients to provide consumers with the full ice cream experience. Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffle, Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Mocha Chocolate Cookie and Coconut Caramel are not labeled ‘vegan’ on the packaging, but similarly to Breyers, reputable vegan bloggers have confirmed the lack of animal products.

Yet, this wouldn’t be a complete vegan ice cream list without the mention of So Delicious. The health-oriented company does not solely revolve around ice cream, instead providing an assortment of dairy-free, vegan products for the kitchen.

Despite being limited in terms of ingredients, their ice cream line has an extensive selection of flavors. So Delicious created four separate collections, using a different kind of milk substitute as the base for each line. The coconut milk spread contains the most options when it comes to flavors, ranging from originals such as Chocolate and Vanilla Bean to less-seen vegan flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Their other milk substitutes are soy, almond and cashew milk.

While So Delicious offers the created varieties in flavors and mediums of substitution, the actual quality of the ice cream is the least comparable to delicious dairy-filled ice cream. The texture of their ice cream is considerably more watery than most, and the coconut overpowers the flavors that use coconut milk as their base. The consistency of Ben & Jerry’s is the most similar to that of milk-based ice cream. However, if gluten intolerance is also an issue, you have to be aware of some of the cookie flavors.

Even though Breyers currently has the most limited selection of flavors, the replication of that classic taste is nearly perfected in their recipe. Häagen Dazs also fulfills their wish to not create a basic substitution method, and by doing so has, in my opinion, created a far superior product than So Delicious.

If your favorite ice cream brand hasn’t created a vegan line of their own yet, petition and you too might change their minds!

Elizabeth Flood can be reached at eflood@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “We all scream for vegan ice cream”
  1. Teddy says:

    Great article – very helpful; will be sure to check out some of the options you discussed.
    I have a lot of food allergies/sensitivities so I have to be careful with my dietary choices – even harder b/c I love ice cream so much!
    Thanks

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