Earlier this month, the New York-based company ditched the artificial colors and ingredients in its line of nut-, sesame- and egg-free ice cream cups, pints and bars – not because they were not safe, but because parents didn’t want them.
“People in general really want to watch having dyes and stuff like that. They are trying to be a little more cautious and eat healthier,” Marc Roth, founder of A La Mode, told FoodNavigator-USA. “We kept having conversations with parents or caregivers about their concerns and a lot of what we heard was that in addition to being able to have a safe product that was free from nuts and eggs, they also didn’t want their kids having dye or artificial ingredients. They were looking for a snack that was healthier.”
While the decision to switch to natural colors and ingredients may have been clear-cut, the actual transition wasn’t as easy, Roth said.
He explained that because the brand is focused first on offering allergy-friendly products it requires all of its ingredient providers to guarantee that their products are made in a nut- and egg-free facility to avoid the risk of cross contamination.
Initially, the natural ingredient suppliers the company reached out to couldn’t meet that demand – prompting A La Mode to use artificial options. But Roth said as he and his wife, who also co-founded the company, became more involved with the allergy community they learned about and met suppliers who could meet this demand.
“It was also very difficult for us to be able to get the same flavor profiles and the same consistency with color, and that is what took so much time. But we were not going to stop until we got as close as possible and if the color is a little lighter and someone were to ask the difference and we explained it, the minute they understand the reason…is being all natural, they are more excited about that part than the fact the color is a little lighter,” he said.
Improving the sustainability & fun of packaging
To the extent that the ice cream colors may be more muted, the brand is compensating with the addition of color-changing spoons inside its cups and pints, which bring an element of fun from A La Mode’s brick and mortar store to the home experience, Roth said.
He explained that children – and adults – love the color changing spoons that the company uses it its flagship store in New York City, and to make the at-home eating experience a little more fun, the company gained exclusive rights to use the spoons in its CPG products.
When Roth decided to add the spoons to the lids of containers, he acknowledged that he was worried about contributing to the plastic waste problem. Which is why he said the company is transitioning to 100% recyclable cartons in an effort to further the company’s mission to be a fully sustainable company.
The brand also is pushing consumers to reuse the pints once they ice cream is gone. Through social media marketing, including online videos, the brand shows consumers reusing the pints as planters and other family-fun activities.
Exploring dairy free
In pursuing A La Mode’s long-term goal to make its ice cream safe for everyone, the company also is exploring dairy free options – testing different bases and formulas in its shop and soliciting consumer feedback.
The current front-runner is an oat milk base, which Roth said “is coming out pretty well … and getting a good response.”
He was quick to add that even though A La Mode’s ice cream does not have some traditional allergy-inducing ingredients, including eggs and now dairy milk, the product is still “super-premium. We don’t compromise on flavor at all. We don’t want to be labeled as just nut-free ice cream, because we want to be an ice cream for everybody that just happens to be nut-free and safe for all.”