From artisan flavors to small-batch brands, these ice cream trends are here to stay.
Due to the conservative tastes of my parents, I grew up in a chocolate, vanilla and Neapolitan world: the only flavors of ice cream acknowledged in my household. My consciousness expanded in the 1980s, when entrepreneur Dave Leong injected local flavors like green tea and poha berry into Dave’s Ice Cream. And in Vermont, two guys named Ben and Jerry not only introduced Cherry Garcia, but put hormone and GMO-free ingredients (and social justice) at the heart of their business. Today, boutique businesses continue to innovate and grow with consumers’ demand for ever more regional, fun or healthful flavors that align with their values or sense of nostalgia. Here’s a look at some of the latest trends:
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams: McConell’s grew out of a Santa Barbara dairy, so when Gordon and Ernesteen McConnell decided to make ice cream in 1949, it was a no-brainer to use fresh grass-grazed milk, cream and regional produce. The company never veered from that mindset, serving up flavors such as Mocha Fudge & Smoked Almonds and Eureka Lemon & Marionberries.
Van Leeuwen: Van Leeuwen’s founders believed happiness equals healthfulness, so, in 2008, they set out to make ice cream full of flavor and luscious ingredients, with vegan nut and oat milk options. Today, their creations range from the sweet to savory, with imaginative, limited-edition flavors, such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Royal Wedding Cake with elderflower and lemon.
A HEALTHIER OUTLOOK
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Milk Ice Cream: Expanding beyond roasted and chocolate-coated mac nuts, Mauna Loa recognized macadamia milk was the answer to desires for a non-GMO, certified vegan, dairy, soy and gluten-free ice cream. Its creamy, non-dairy formula is full of plant-based flavor, from traditional vanilla and chocolate, to local flavors of mango liliko‘i to Kona coffee.
Rebel Creamery: Those aiming to cut sugar intake can look to Rebel for rich, full-fat ice creams with keto-friendly, low-carb content, and a glycemic index score of zero, meaning it will not raise blood sugar. Low-calorie, low-glycemic sweeteners monk fruit, chicory root and erythritol result in net carbs of only 4 to 8 grams per pint, for flavors ranging from black raspberry to butter pecan.
SMALL BATCH, HAWAI‘I MADE
Sage Creamery: Supporting local growers and farmers is part of the “churned with aloha” mantra at Sage. In addition to using such fine ingredients as Manoa Honey Co. kiawe honey, Laie Vanilla Co. vanilla beans and Chadlou Coffee Roasters coffee beans, products such as liliko‘i jam are stirred into Liliko‘i Crumble, and Lucky Charms marshmallows are folded into Milk + Cereal. Leeward residents can rejoice, as the creamery plans to open a shop at Ho‘opili.
Black Sheep Cream Co.: Tasi Reid was just 21 when she gave in to her sweet tooth to open Black Sheep, with an emphasis on bold, fun flavors and quality ingredients inspired by foods she craves — whether it’s a maple-bacon donut, cookie butter or matcha tea—that result in flavors with such irreverent names as The Notorious P.I.G., Kookie Cookie and Macho Matcha Man.
Salt & Straw: These days, connection isn’t limited by geography, and cousins Kim and Tyler Malek aimed to share their love of ice cream nationwide through a Pints Club program that offers its latest seasonal (five flavors for $65) or vegan options (five flavors for $98) that range from a study of berries in July to holiday treats in December.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: Your freezer never needs to go bare with a three-, six- or 12-month subscription for ice cream known for its smooth buttercream body and bold flavors ranging from Skillet Cinnamon Roll and Goat Cheese with Cherries, to Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam. Prices range from $199 to $759 for a curated selection of ice creams, sorbets or frozen yogurts.
Uncle’s: In the early days of O‘ahu farmers markets, the focus was on produce and savory dishes for hungry shoppers. Farmer Paul Logan filled the dessert void by making ice cream sandwiches people could eat while browsing. Now, in addition to flavors such as Island Honey & Peanut Butter Ice Cream stuffed between Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Vegan Baked Banana between Snickerdoodles, Uncle’s invites fans to send in ideas for the next cool sensation.
Nightingale: The first Nightingale sandwich was a restaurant dessert created by chefs Hannah Pollack and Xavier Meers. It was so popular they devoted themselves to producing gourmet sandwiches. You can still get their first-born Sammie, vanilla bean ice cream between chocolate brownie cookies, along with other classic flavors, such as a brown sugar cookie and strawberry ice cream Strawberry Shortcake, and dessert-inspired Miso Churro, white miso ice cream swirled with churro pieces, between cinnamon brown sugar cookies.