Ben and Jerry have enjoyed de facto status as indicators of who and what has arrived in mainstream culture for nearly forty years. Cultural icons as diverse as Jerry Garcia (“Cherry Garcia”), Monty Python (“Vermonty Python”) and more recently, Stephen Colbert (“Americone Dream”) and Bernie Sanders (“Bernie’s Yearning” which was described in CNN Money as a “participatory” ice cream confection) have enjoyed the cachet that comes with the company’s sweet treats bearing their names and flavors inspired by what they’re known to do best.
While the Vermont company is noted for its edgy approach to pop culture-inspired branding, they’ve kept things fairly traditional when it comes to ingredients. Most of Ben & Jerry’s product line is populated with full-fatted masterpieces of creamy deliciousness that offer the best aspects of old fashioned ice cream coupled with flavors that reflect modern palates. Over the years, they have ventured into the realm of healthier fare, offering reduced-calorie versions of “Cherry Garcia” and something called “Half Baked Froyo.” There was one frozen dessert sector Ben & Jerry’s left to those venerable vegetarian purveyors of cold goods minus the moo juice, Tofutti and Rice Dream.
All of that would change as health conscious foodies began to rethink plant-based diets. Newer companies like So Delicious began offering pints made with alternatives to traditional creamy bases -almonds, cashews, coconut- that could almost fool the most dedicated ice cream fanatic. There’s nothing half baked about this newest entry into the Ben & Jerry’s canon. In fact, this latest addition to the boutique-ish end of your grocer’s ice cream section has been in development for two years.
In an interview with Fortune, Lindsay Bumps, a spokesperson for Ben &Jerry’s was candid about the company’s leisurely pace in rolling out their vegan desserts.
“There’s clearly been a demand for a non-dairy line. We have worked for a couple of years to make these non-dairy flavors deliver on what our fans expect—from taste and texture. The four new flavors are made with almond milk and are certified vegan.”
The New York Daily News, which covered the debut of the dairy-free flavors, spoke with Kirsten Schimoler, one of the people Ben & Jerry’s pays to play with ice cream all day. Schimoler explained that the goal was to create a dessert that had the same taste and texture as traditional ice cream. Initial attempts at making frozen desserts from soy and coconut milk were lacking the qualities they wanted their desserts to have regarding mouth-feel and flavor. When the good people at Ben And Jerry’s labs decided to use sweet almond milk, they discovered a base that hit all the right notes.
The result of all that research and development is a health-conscious vegan’s dream. The Daily News compared Ben & Jerry’s conventional Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream with the new vegan version. The traditional milk-made scoop weighs in at a hefty 260 calories and 13 grams of fat, while the vegan dessert that was gently milked from almonds in Vermont steps a little more lightly on one’s RDA with 210 calories and 11 grams of fat. As with almost everything in the plant-based food game, less can sometimes mean more at the register, with the vegan pints costing an additional eighty cents.
Fortune reports that right now the first four flavors in the new line of vegan products are only available at Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops, but the company’s website says fans of their fare without the animal element can expect to see vegan versions of Chunky Monkey and Chocolate Fudge Brownie as well as special dairy free only flavors P B & Cookies and Coffee Caramel Fudge in freezer cases across the country very soon.
[Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]