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Ice cream is the great equalizer. Just about everyone can agree that there’s nothing more delicious than ice cream. There are plenty of debates around flavors, toppings, or whether to serve in a cup or a cone, but it’s certainly one of the most universally loved desserts around.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, the freezer aisle at the grocery store has quickly filled up with a myriad of ice cream makers eager to shake things up. In this chaotic landscape, I was lucky to find Alec’s Ice Cream. The brand has launched in specialty grocery stores, and pints of ice cream are available online for $12 each. Alec’s highlights organic, sustainable, regenerative farming practices, which are both great for the environment and result in a better tasting product.
And the proof is in the pudding – er, ice cream. Having sampled my way through all of its offerings (flavors like Honey Blueberry Lavender and Tahitian Vanilla Bean stand out), I can confidently say that Alec’s is my new go-to ice cream company.
I hopped on a Zoom call with founder Alec Jaffe to learn more about what makes Alec’s Ice Cream so special and why the brand focuses so heavily on regenerative farming.
From Elementary School Science Experiments to Grocery Store Shelves
While some of us struggle to discover what our true calling is in life, Alec Jaffe managed to kickstart his career as an ice cream maker in elementary school. “I had a class project in the elementary school where we had to make something at home and bring it into class to present,” shares Jaffe. “So, I taught myself how to make ice cream. I got a little Cuisinart ice cream maker and cookbook. And taught myself how to make French custard style ice cream.”
That homemade ice cream science project would eventually develop into one of the most exciting frozen treat brands around – though it wasn’t always a clear and direct path. Breaking into the commercial food and beverage industry is challenging enough on its own. But the ice cream and frozen treats category is particularly competitive.
“It’s one of the more difficult products to launch,” Jaffe shares. “We spent a lot of time making our own base mix. We make everything from scratch because that determines so much of the product quality from the texture and the feeling of the ice cream. And then beyond that, you need to develop your flavors. A lot of new brands in just CPG in general will come up with maybe two or three SKUs to launch. And with ice cream if you come out with just two or three SKUs, you're gonna get lost on the shelf pretty quickly. So you really need like five to seven flavors to launch. Which is a significant investment right off the bat. And then designing packaging to stand out, getting all your social media stuff ready to go. And that’s just from the marketing side - the next question is how are you going to sell it?”
After developing his own recipes and dialing in the ice cream production process, Jaffe launched Alec’s Ice Cream in December 2020. Initially, Jaffe actually had to self-distribute pints of Alec’s Ice Cream out of a cooler in the back of a van driving to grocery stores and markets. (“It's like a race to get the ice cream there before anything melts,” he shares with a laugh.)
Now, Alec’s Ice Cream is distributed nationally and has made significant inroads in the freezer aisle at specialty grocery stores. As someone who had dabbled in a variety of food products to ultimately find his calling in what started as a fortuitous school project is pretty vindicating. “It became pretty apparent, but ice cream was just something that I had experienced making already and really enjoyed. I enjoyed that process and creating fun flavors and people just loved it right off the bat. And so I thought ‘Yeah, I'm gonna stick with this one’”
How Do You Make Better Tasting Ice Cream? Use Better Dairy.
Not only did Jaffe’s nascent ice cream making talent reveal itself at a young age, but so too did his fascination with and appreciation for sustainable farming practices. Jaffe’s extended family worked on and managed farms in California so he considers these early touchpoints to be foundational for his agricultural framework.
“I grew up being exposed to conversations talking about general industrial agriculture versus organic agriculture and building a better food system, talking about soil health, and water runoff and water tables,” recalls Jaffe. “This is stuff that no one was talking about in 2000. People still aren't really talking about it.”
Jaffe has hand-selected dairy farmers who prioritized the same values. In his mind, this focus gave him the chance to create a real impact as a company. It also meant he could produce better ice cream.
The dairy farms that Jaffe works with use regenerative farming practices, agricultural processes that end up having a restorative effect on the climate.
“We decided to focus on regenerative agriculture because, I mean, I think it's just what needs to happen within our larger agricultural system – transitioning over to these farming management systems and practices,” shares Jaffe. “As soon as I learned about it, it seemed like such a no brainer.”
That lightbulb moment truly came, though, when Jaffe saw for himself the impact that this type of farming could have.
“We work with Alexander Family Farms as our dairy supplier and we went to visit them to see their farm. And it was at the end of August last year. And end of August in California is dry season and everything is brown. But their pastures were just perfectly green. You go down the street to a farm that’s not theirs and it's dry and brown. Plus, they’re using less water than is typically used in a conventional system.”
The result is Alec’s Ice Cream demonstrates not only the ecological benefits but the improved quality of regenerative farming.
“We're using the best quality dairy – it's amazing, Jaffe notes. “You can taste the difference.”
Classic Flavors with a Fresh Twist
In addition to the organic and regenerative certifications, as well as the charming branding, the first thing you’ll likely notice about Alec’s Ice Cream is the flavor lineup. When developing the flavors, Jaffe wanted to offer something new while still catering to the beloved ice cream of our childhood.
So alongside Honey Blueberry Lavender and Matcha Chocolate Chip, you’ll find Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Mint Chocolate Chip. And while the flavor profiles differ, the quality is consistent. There’s a richness and a velvety creaminess you just don’t often find in the big ice cream brands. Jaffe says it's a result of the high quality, sustainably sourced A2 dairy. Plus, the Alec’s Ice Cream team only uses organic, natural ingredients in its different flavor combinations.
For now, Jaffe is capping the Alec’s Ice Cream lineup at six, all of which can be enjoyed in the sampler pack ($72). Since most grocery stores cap their freezer shelves at five to seven pints, Jaffe wanted to launch with a full set that could fit on one line. But, down the road, he’d like to expand his offerings while maintaining a commitment to quality and innovation. The brand is actively working on some modern renditions of classic candies in ice cream form. So keep your eyes peeled for future announcements.
“We always want to have these elevated takes on what I guess you could call classic flavors,” shares Jaffe.
5 More Reasons to Love Alec’s Ice Cream:
- In addition to making delicious, eco-friendly ice cream, Alec’s uses sustainable shipping materials so you can recycle, compost, or break down your packaging once you get your box of ice cream.
- You can always order a pint of Alec’s Ice Cream straight to your home but if you’re looking to add it to your weekly grocery list you can check to see if it’s available in your area.
- Follow Alec’s on social media for updates on the newest flavors and of course plenty of ice cream memes.
- For any lactose intolerant folks wanting to try some Alec’s Ice Cream, you might actually be able to without the unsavory side effects. Studies have shown that some folks with dairy sensitivities are able to consume A2 dairy without any downsides.
- While Alec’s Ice Cream has prioritized DTC shopping and grocery store distribution, founder Jaffe hasn’t ruled out the possibility of one day opening a brick and mortar store to showcase the brand’s exciting and delicious flavor concoctions.