There’s a revolution taking place in the ice cream industry, and it’s making people go nuts. Literally.
Tucked away in West Oakland is a small facility with several rooms, a handful of workers and not a dairy product in sight.
Instead, there’s an abundance of almonds and cashews. They’re the key ingredients in Mr. Dewie’s Frozen Dessert — so named because, legally, ice cream must have at least 10% dairy milk fat to bear the title.
But the product crafted by Berkeley natives Ari and Andrew Cohen looks like ice cream, melts like ice cream and, most importantly, tastes like ice cream. And their flavors — which include chocolate, coffee, strawberry and caramel almond — don’t carry that unsettling aftertaste you often find in other ice cream alternatives. So, unless you’re a fanatic for all things dairy, you wouldn’t notice its absence. And, once you try a bite of Mr. Dewie’s creamy creation, you probably wouldn’t care.
It all started when Ari Cohen found out he was intolerant to gluten, soy, dairy and many of the additives used in processed foods. He set about to change his diet and began experimenting with dairy alternatives in his kitchen. After toying around with almond milk in cereals, he came up with the idea of almond milk-based ice creams.
His brother Andrew, who is also lactose intolerant, was all for it.
“When I started out, these ice creams were promising, but not very good. But as far as Andrew was concerned, this was the greatest ice cream ever created in the world. And he recognized that this would not just be a good business, but would be very fulfilling for us,” Ari said.
So the brothers set out to build the Mr. Dewie’s brand, which was named after a character Ari played in a music video years ago.
They proved to be a successful duo with complementary talents. Ari worked tirelessly to refine the product in the kitchen while Andrew, an experienced businessman and notable punster, helped market it to prospective distributors.
They started small, borrowing equipment from local ice cream and gelato shops. In November 2011, they locked in their first distributor, Farmer Joe’s in Oakland. The brothers then branched out to other distributors and opened their own facility, where they produce over 3,500 pints of ice cream a month.
During this time, they began transitioning to cheaper, cashew-based ice creams, a first for any producer on the West Coast which is seeing a growing number of non-dairy ice cream style alternatives using coconut milk, goat milk or nuts.
As the Mr. Dewie’s product evolved, their commitment to quality stayed firm.
“Ice cream as a commodity in the market is all about yield — which is pumping air into your ice cream — and using fillers and additives. And that’s exactly what we didn’t want to do. We really wanted to make something that not only tasted good but met the standards of a real, honest, natural, organic food,” Ari said.
These aren’t just empty words. The ice cream is dense and flavorful, which is all the more impressive considering that, as far as ice creams go, its relatively healthy. The Cohen brothers use only USDA certified organic ingredients, whose names you can actually pronounce. That’s because there are no additives, preservatives or fillers. And since they use almond and cashew milk instead of cow products, each serving contains only about 1-3 grams of saturated fat but 6-8 grams of protein. It’s even a good recovery food for athletes.
Those with dietary restrictions can rejoice, too. Mr. Dewie’s is gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, GMO-free, vegan and kosher. Not surprisingly, both the gluten-free and vegan communities have embraced the ice cream, according to Andrew.
The brothers now sell their product in stores all along the West Coast, from Seattle to just north of San Diego, and plan to expand eastward to the Rockies in 2015.
East Bay folk can get their hands on some Mr. Dewie’s Frozen Dessert at Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl East and a number of other local stores in the area.
For more information about the ice cream, visit Mr. Dewie’s website, and connect with them on Facebook.
Drew Jaffe is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the East Bay and now attends Occidental College in Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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