After decades of craving, years of lobbying, and hundreds of hungry voices calling for action, Ben & Jerry’s has taken the unprecedented initiative to offer a 100% non-dairy frozen dessert. And to say that this brand new line of almond milk creations has sweet teeth celebrating across the country would be the understatement of the year.
Ben & Jerry’s has earned their loyal following through tireless innovation, fearless flavor combinations, and a genuinely inspiring mission statement. Not content to merely spread the sweetness, the brand is arguably more about giving back to back to the community and trying to make a difference in bigger picture issues. In fact, a big reason for the interest in non-dairy options is to reduce the overall carbon footprint for the mammoth company.
But creating something to smile about for dedicated vegans, those suffering from lactose intolerance, and many dairy-free consumers was the greatest goal, of course, as the demands had been coming in fast and furious. Proving that there are real people at the helm, listening to suggestions (or hungry belly-aching, as it may have been), these four new flavors will be available in most mainstream markets by the beginning of spring.
All of the Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream flavors are built upon a foundation of their own finely-tuned blend of almond milk, pea protein, and coconut milk. The right ratios proved elusive, going through 70 to 90 different trials until the base hit all the right creamy, luxurious, and positively decadent notes. I had the chance to sample each flavor, firsthand at the Ben & Jerry’s facility. Flawlessly smooth and luscious, their hard work paid off in full for an impeccable texture that exudes a premium impression at first lick.
The Taste Testing of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream
After the above taste-testing, I also trialed a pint of each at home, just to firm up my initial thoughts. Here was my take on each vegan flavor of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream:
P.B. & Cookies – This flavor starts with vanilla ice cream and stuffs every square scoopable inch with giant chunks of classic sandwich cookies and thick ribbons of what I can only describe as pure peanut fudge. Pieces of crunchy roasted peanuts complete the overall nutty picture, and for peanut butter lovers, this is one little pint of pure, sweet heaven. Easily my favorite of the quartet, every bite sang of bold, sugary peanut flavor, with all the crunchy, chewy, gooey mix-ins one could ever ask for. At some points, I wondered if each spoonful was filled with more cookies than ice cream- and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Coffee Caramel Fudge – Sure to appease both caffeine addicts and fair-weather fans of the cup of mud, this flavor offers the frozen dessert equivalent of a dressed up latte with all the syrups and sauces a buzzed barista could throw in. Warm and toasty coffee notes intermingle beautifully with the subtle edginess of burnt sugar in the soft caramel swirl. Strong enough to make the roasted beans clear rock stars in this arrangement but still quite demure as far as a coffee concoction can go, those who prefer a milkier cuppa will be thrilled by the balance.
Chunky Monkey – Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing in this turbulent sea of frozen almond milk. Things begin to go south a little upon cracking open this container. One of Ben & Jerry’s best known inventions, a time honored and beloved combination of banana ice cream, chocolate fudge pieces, and walnuts, the original has been around since the very beginning. Although it’s been many years since my last experience with the pioneering pint, I can’t say I recall it being quite so intensely and unapologetically sweet. The banana notes proved elusive, hidden behind the cotton candy-like base. Impeccably fresh, crisp walnuts and rich chocolate bombshells brought me back for more, but it’s not the instant winner I had imagined from this ice cream titan.
Chocolate Fudge Brownie – Layered with more brownie pieces than seems physically possible for a single scoop of ice cream, those generous squares are the absolute saving grace of the whole assembly. Made by Greyston Bakery and soon to be offered by the brand exclusively in Whole Foods Markets, those fudge bar cookies are more than worth seeking out solo. But sad to say, I wouldn’t have known that the base itself was meant to be chocolate if I had tasted it blind. Even Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben and Jerry’s, readily admits, “The chocolate one is too chalky for me. It’s a hard product to make”. True enough, the taste is reminiscent of a cocoa protein shake at best. Thankfully, those abundant brownie pieces do reinforce the decadent dessert angle; despite catering to a market of alternative eaters, these treats were never intended to be health food, after all.
All in all, there’s a lot here to love, and it’s part of a bigger evolution. Pending the success of this new non-dairy direction, the potential for additional plant-based offerings is looking bright. The goal is for Ben & Jerry’s to reduce carbon emissions by a whopping 80% by the year 2050, despite continuing to grow the business and put even greater demands on their factories. The only way to accomplish that is by making dairy-free desserts a bigger piece of the puzzle.