As a self-proclaimed “ice cream lover to the core,” Gabe Wolff explained to FoodNavigator-USA at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston in mid-October that he first faced this Sophie’s choice when he was diagnosed with celiac disease and a dairy allergy at 17 years old.
“I had to completely revamp the way I eat. I had to start reading ingredient labels for the first time and that was when I realized there was a big hole in the ice cream market,” he said.
While he acknowledges there are a lot of non-dairy substitutes in the frozen dessert aisle, he complains when soy milk or almond milk are used instead of dairy milk manufacturers have to add a lot of extra sugar solids, fat and artificial flavors to make them more palatable and as creamy as conventional options.
For someone like Wolff, who struggled with his weight growing up, these were not acceptable tradeoffs, he said.
So, he said, he “started playing around in the kitchen and out came Wink.”
On trend and allergen-free ingredients
Wink is a plant-based frozen dessert that uses non-GMO pea protein flour as its base, which allows it to be free from the top eight food allergens and is more easily digested by those who struggle with dairy and whey protein, according to the company website.
Next, Wink blends in vegetable glycerin sourced from palm trees, rather than soybean or coconut oils, which are common allergens.
Rather than high-calorie sugar, Wink uses organic stevia extract and monk fruit extract, which has the added benefit of being low glycemic, extending the brand's reach to those managing diabetes. To compensate for the bulk that sugar solids often provide in frozen desserts, Wolff said he adds organic agave inulin, which also has been show to benefit healthy bacteria in the large intestine.
The fact that the frozen dessert is sugar-free likely also will expand its appeal beyond those with allergies given Americans’ rising concern about sugar consumption.
Other gluten-free and allergy friendly thickeners in the frozen dessert include organic tapioca flour and xanthan gum. Cognizant that some consumers might be fearful of these unfamiliar ingredients, Wolff explains their origin and purpose on Wink’s website.
Wink also uses natural flavors to cover up the taste of the pea protein, and other ingredients, and make it so that consumers don’t feel like they are sacrificing taste by opting for a better-for-you alternative.
These include twists on classic ice cream flavors, such as Vanilla Bean, Choco-mint, Cocoa-dough and Iced Latte. More innovative flavors include Cake Batter and Cinnamon Bun, and four new flavors, including Peanut Butter & Jelly, Black Cherry Cacao Nib, Strawberry Cheesecake and, just in time for fall, Caramel Candy Apple.