Kinnear and his wife/business partner, Claire, would make a frozen banana dessert for their three young kids as a post-dinner treat and healthier alternative to traditional dairy ice cream. The husband-and-wife team realized their frozen banana dessert had a broader market appeal than just their home kitchen.
Many brands such as Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs have entered the non-dairy alternative ice cream space to meet the rising consumer demand. According to a report by GM Insights, the global non-dairy ice cream market is projected to exceed $1bn by 2024 with coconut-based products accounting for 30% of the category.
Outside of retail, a similar trend has also hit home kitchens where consumers, especially families, are creating their own version of non-dairy ice cream from ingredients that create a similar texture to ice cream when frozen and blended.
A Google search of the term 'nice cream' (which has come to refer to dairy-free ice cream made from pantry ingredients) returns hundreds of recipes using frozen banana as the main ingredient.
"Many parents are doing this," Kinnear said.
To make their recipe retail ready as a packaged product, Kinnear enrolled in an ice cream science course.
"Understanding the science of ice cream was really important to the product we were making, because if we were just to make something out of fruit, it would be like a sorbet, but what we really wanted to do was to mimic the texture and consistency of real ice cream," Kinnear told FoodNavigator-USA.
"Real ice cream has protein, it has fat, it has sugar, water, and solids."
Yellofruit uses a base that varies by flavor but contains the same core ingredients of organic banana, organic cane sugar, organic coconut oil, organic vanilla, and organic pea protein.
While many consumers might think added sugar is a way to make the products sweeter, Kinnear stressed that it serves a functional purpose in ice cream product formulation.
"We’re using cane sugar to depress the freezing point, which is a critical element in the actual making of the ice cream," he said. Sugar lowers the freezing point thereby creating tiny ice crystals that form a desirable texture and structure.
Similarly, the brand's use of pea protein isn't so they can make enhanced protein claims on the package but also serves a functional purpose. According to Kinnear, protein coats and separates the individual fat globules (in this case from coconut oil) creating space between each of the ice crystals to form a soft, scoopable texture.
Without the presence of air in ice cream, the mixture can become like a block of ice that may be soft when you first process it but hardens upon further freezing, Kinnear explained.
'You absolutely do taste banana'
For consumers wondering if the banana flavor comes through in Yellofruit's pints of chocolate, strawberry, and mango, Kinnear said, "You absolutely do taste banana... If there’s a consumer that doesn’t like banana, they’re not going to like our product."
However, Kinnear isn't concerned about banana-averse consumers, as the brand has a large enough audience to appeal to already.
"This is not a niche brand. Eighty percent of our market is going to be people who are just looking for something that’s better [for you] than ice cream -- That’s going to be the mass appeal part of it. But we also think that about 20% of our market is going to be people that can’t eat everything else that’s out there (i.e. vegan consumers and those with dairy and peanut allergies)," he said.
Yellofruit has been in conversations with retailers since October 2018 when it exhibited at the Grocery Innovations Canada specialty food show and has since secured main listings with over 350 Loblaws Grocery stores (Canada's largest supermarket retailer), Sobeys, and Metro, as well as a number of regional, specialty food stores.
"We’ll be in close to 600 stores by the time summer starts," Kinnear said. "My original goal was 100 stores."
In store, Yellofruit will be placed next ice cream alternatives such as Halo Top and Ben & Jerry's non-dairy products instead of traditional dairy ice cream.
Adding to the brand's hype, Yellofruit was also selected as one of the top 10 most innovative brands by SIAL Canada, an international food trade show.
Yellofruit's expansion plans are still underway and by the summer of 2020, the brand plans to be available in US retailers, Kinnear said.