Can ice cream actually be good for you - as opposed to just a little less bad for you? And if it can, will it sell? One man on a mission to find out is Michael Shoretz, founder and CEO of Beyond Better Foods, the start-up behind new market entrant Enlightened Ice Cream.
While there is no shortage of reduced fat ice cream on the market - look no further than Skinny Cow, Breyers Light and Dreyer’s Slow Churned - Shoretz, a personal trainer by trade, was convinced he could do better when the first germ of a business idea started to form in his mind about three years ago.
“In every section of the store you can find healthy options, whereas in ice cream, the only options seemed to be bad and less bad. I wanted to make something that was actively good for you, not just ‘guilt-free’.
“I looked at the labels of a lot of the products, and they were low in fat, but high in sugar; or sugar-free, but loaded with sugar alcohols that have the same glycemic effect as sugar; or they were more like frozen yogurt or sorbets, and just not satisfying.
“Others seemed like they were better for you, but this was just because the serving size was so small.”
I wanted to make something that was actively good for you, not just ‘guilt-free’
If you look at the ingredients list of a high-quality full-fat ice cream such as Häagen-Dazs chocolate (cream, skim milk, sugar, cocoa processed with alkali and egg yolk) it’s pretty consumer-friendly, notes Shoretz.
The downside is that it also contains 260 calories per half-cup serving, 17g of fat and 19g of sugar.
By contrast, Skinny Cow’s 78g chocolate truffle bar contains an eye-wateringly long list of ingredients - many of which consumers will not recognize - but just 100 calories, just 2.5g of fat and 3g of fiber. However, it still contains 11g of sugar and only 3g of protein.
Meanwhile, Shoretz’s 75g Enlightened Ice Cream fudge bar contains just 70 calories, 2g of fat, 3g of sugar, 5g of fiber and a whopping 8g of protein, offering more protein and less sugar and fewer calories than all other ‘healthy’ ice cream formulations, he claims. It also contains 250mg of calcium, 25% of the RDA.
The ingredients list is shorter than Skinny Cow’s, but was never going to be as short as Häagen-Dazs’, he says.
“There is a tension between getting the nutritional profile you want and using ingredients that are understandable.
“But I think that as long as you explain to people what the ingredients are and why they are there, whether they can pronounce them or not is not important.”
One of the things people always say about our bars is how satisfying they are
So how did he build the recipe?
Trial and error, says Shoretz, who experimented with an ice cream maker in his home for months before seeking professional advice.
“I got a lot of pushback in the beginning, but I eventually found some people that got excited about the products and we now have two manufacturers, one in New Jersey and one in Utah.”
To get the calories and sugar down, he used monk fruit and erythritol (which do not raise blood sugar).
To get to 8g of protein and create a creamy texture, he adding milk protein isolate.
To boost the fiber content and make the bars more filling, he added non GMO soluble corn fiber.
Finally, to improve the texture, prevent ice crystal formation and get an “even distribution of what little fat is actually there”, he used locust bean gum and guar gum, says Shoretz.
“Our bars are creamy. They don’t eat like a water ice. One of the things people always say is how satisfying they are. With a lot of the low fat products, you get that initial sugar spike but then you’re hungry again.”
if you truly believe in what you are doing, all the hard work is worth it
But what do retailers, and more importantly consumers, think?
It’s very early days - the products are literally just about to hit stores and fitness clubs following the first production run - says Shoretz.
However, he has managed to secure listings at a range of big names in the New York City metro market and the north east of the US, including Whole Foods Market, Publix and Fresh Direct, and has just struck a deal to get the products listed at HEB stores in Texas.
He’s also promoted his product on TV, given out scores of free samples at a pop up store in New York City and the 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Philadelphia, and done everything he can to raise the brand’s profile on social media.
Everything will now depend on what happens in the next two to three months as the product lands in stores, says Shoretz, who poured all of his own savings into the business to get it off the ground, but has also attracted some angel investors to help make his dream a reality.
“For me at least, if you can’t feel passionate about what you’re doing, there are too many hurdles to overcome in starting your own business.
"But if you truly believe in what you are doing, all the hard work is worth it.”
Click here to read more about Enlightened Ice Cream.