History of Vegan Ice Cream

A Brief History of Vegan Ice Cream

In 1899, Almeda Lambert, a Seventh-day Adventist from Battle Creek, Michigan, USA, wrote a vegetarian cookbook, A Nut Cooking Guide. The book included recipes for making nutmeat, butter, cheese, and ice cream with peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, and hickory nuts. Two-thirds of her recipes contained eggs, but one section was completely vegan. Here’s what one of the vegan ice cream recipes looked like:

“Take 950 ml of heavy almond or peanut nut cream. Add 1 glass of sugar. Put the cream in a water bath and cook for 20 or 30 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and freeze.”

Soybean ice cream was first invented by University of Massachusetts professor Arao Itano, who described his idea in a 1918 article, “Soybeans as Human Food.” In 1922, Indiana resident Lee Len Tui filed the first patent for soybean ice cream, “A Frozen Confection and Process for Making It.” In 1930, Seventh-day Adventist Jethro Kloss created the first soy ice cream, a delicacy made from soy, honey, chocolate, strawberries and vanilla.

In 1951, Robert Rich of the team of legendary automaker Henry Ford created Chill-Zert soy ice cream. The USDA has issued a statement that soy ice cream should be labeled as an “imitation chocolate dessert.” However, Rich defended the right to label his confection as “ice cream”.

In the following decades, other brands of dairy-free ice cream appeared on the market: Heller’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, Ice Bean, Ice-C-Bean, Soy Ice Bean. And in the early 1980s, companies that still produce dairy-free ice cream, Tofutti and Rice Dream, entered the market. In 1985, Tofutti’s shares were worth $17,1 million. At that time, marketers emphasized soy ice cream as a healthy food, emphasizing its high protein content and lack of cholesterol. However, many types of ice cream, including Tofutti’s, were not actually vegan, as they contained eggs and honey. 

In 2001, the new brand Soy Delicious launched the first “premium” vegan ice cream. By 2004, it had become the best-selling ice cream in the US, among dairy and vegan options.

According to research firm Grand Market Insights, the global vegan ice cream market will soon top $1 billion. 

Is vegan ice cream healthier?

“Absolutely,” says Susan Levin, director of nutritional education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Dairy products have unhealthy components that are not found in plant-based products. However, the consumption of any food that is high in fat and saturated fat should be kept to a minimum. And of course, extra sugar won’t do you any good.”

Does this mean that vegan ice cream should be avoided? “Not. Look for options that are lower in fat and sugar. Vegan ice cream is better than dairy ice cream, but it’s still unhealthy food,” says Levine.

What is vegan ice cream made from?

We list the most popular products: almond milk, soy, coconut, cashew, oatmeal and pea protein. Some manufacturers make vegan ice cream with avocado, corn syrup, chickpea milk, rice, and other ingredients.

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