Taste-good, feel-good, do-good A2 ice cream.

Shara Rutberg

February 14, 2024

6 Min Read

Editor's note: This story was written before the 2024 NEXTY Awards were presented. Alec's Ice Cream won Best Certified Regenerative Product.

Each creamy spoonful of Alec’s Ice Cream delivers a triple scoop of goodness: It’s Regenerative Organic Certified. It’s made with 100% A2 dairy. And it’s scrumptious.

Alec Jaffe launched the taste-good, feel-good, do-good brand in 2020 but has been making ice cream since fifth grade, when he taught himself to make peppermint ice cream as part of a school project. Now his Petaluma, California-based brand churns out Mint Chocolate Chip, Salted Caramel Latte, Honey Blueberry Lavender, Matcha Chocolate Chip, Salted Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fudge Honeycomb (winner of the 2023 Best New Dessert NEXTY Award at Natural Products Expo West).

In addition to childhood churning, Jaffe had early lessons about sustainable farming. His uncle was an agroecology professor, and his family spent Thanksgivings at his university’s farm. Perusing the ice cream aisle later in life, Jaffe thought he could do better for the planet—and for ice cream lovers.

The milk for Alec’s Ice Cream comes from Alexandre Family Farm, America’s first Regenerative Organic Certified dairy. The Northern California farm specializes in gut-friendly organic A2 milk. A2 is easier to digest than milk that contains both A1 and A2 proteins, which is what most dairy products use. Jaffe has no trouble stomaching dairy, but the “idea of making ice cream accessible to more folks was very exciting for me,” he says. It’s also exciting for the growing number of consumers fueling the gut health trend.

While flavor remains top priority for ice cream fans, they may be even more willing than most to invest in a product that helps save the planet with every bite. Fifty-six percent of consumers are actively seeking sustainably produced ice cream products, according to 2023 Barry Callebaut research [https://www.barry-callebaut.com/en-US/manufacturers/trends-insights/top-ice-cream-trends]. Seventy-one percent of dairy product shoppers surveyed by McKinsey & Co. are willing to pay more to support low CO2 emissions.

With its 2022 rebrand, Alec’s Ice Cream focused on conveying its sustainability mission—and de-vilifying dairy. The playful new environmentally friendly packaging features Buttercup the cow hanging out with a smiling planet Earth.

Keep an eye out for nine new flavors this year in stores across the country, including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Sprouts.

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Do you think awareness about regenerative agriculture is growing? What more could be done?

Alec Jaffe: While it’s growing, most shoppers we talk to in stores are not aware of regenerative ag. I believe it will take a unified effort from brands, certifiers, retailers, farmers and everyone involved in this movement to create a clear message for consumers to understand the direct benefits of buying regenerative products. For example, benefits can include increased nutrient density, ethical benefits such as sustainability and better lives for the farmers and animals.

Why is ice cream such a powerful ambassador product for regenerative ag?

AJ: Ice cream is an inherently fun product. It is an easy entry point into serious conversations around climate change. It also allows us to work with regenerative producers throughout our food system. Beyond our dairy and cane sugar [from Regenerative Organic Certified Native Green Cane Project], we are now working with producers for ingredients like coffee, fruit, almonds and maple syrup. Our brand can become a platform for showing how far-reaching the regenerative movement can be.

Which was the most challenging flavor to perfect and why? How many versions did you test before getting it right?

AJ: Our new Salted Dark Chocolate flavor. I can’t even count how many variations of chocolate ice cream we’ve made at this point! It’s a tough one because everyone has their own memories of what chocolate ice cream should taste like, and there are so many ways you could do chocolate. I’m really happy with the flavor we’ve landed on as our final version.

Is there an elusive ingredient that you’d love to find an organic version of but haven’t yet?

AJ: Admittedly, we make this aspect of our product challenging for ourselves, as all of our products are both organic and gluten free and [we] source regenerative organic inclusions whenever possible. If you asked me this last year, I would have said baked inclusions like cookies. Luckily, we’ve figured that one out and have some new cookie flavors that we’ll be introducing!

Do you think you can tell anything about someone’s personality based on their flavor preferences?

AJ: I think you can to an extent. It’s always a fun game to play when we’re doing sampling events or demos and people ask for a recommendation. Well, are you a vanilla person? Peanut Butter Fudge Honeycomb? Honey Blueberry Lavender? Sometimes people can surprise you!

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To better control sourcing and quality, you bought an ice cream factory to keep everything in-house. What’s another big challenge, and how are you working to solve it?

AJ: We’ve grown our distribution very quickly in a competitive category. We’re the fastest growing organic ice cream brand and contributed the second most growth to the pint category in the natural channel. As a newer brand in the space, it is a challenge to build brand awareness and get consumers to choose you over the plenty of other ice cream brands that have been around for much longer than us.

What’s up with Buttercup?

AJ: I take a lot of pride in helping show a different perspective on cows' involvement in the regenerative movement through the cow on our packaging, also known as Buttercup. To communicate the various talking points of regenerative organic, A2 dairy, pasture-raised and, of course, delicious flavors, we worked hard to develop a package that would incorporate all of these while staying true to the happy element of ice cream.

What did your NEXTY win mean to the brand?

AJ: It meant a lot to us, and it is truly an honor to be recognized! We take pride in our ability to create the best-tasting ice cream on the planet. Winning Best New Dessert showed that our ice cream stands up to any indulgent product in the market. And we’ve got unmatched sustainability and functional benefits through regenerative organic and A2 dairy!

What are your goals for this year’s Expo West?

AJ: To showcase our new flavors, meet some new potential retail partners, connect with our current retailers and, of course, have a great time with our team and everyone at Expo!

I believe a pint is a single serving. Am I wrong?

AJ: That’s one of my favorite things about ice cream. Everyone has their way that they like to enjoy themselves.

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