Could rice-based ice cream scoop up consumer interest in the UK?
Step aside soy and almond milk, because over in Australia and Asia the world’s first frozen rice milk treats have been developed.
Local Organic Producers, based Down Under in Queensland, started experimenting with ice cream made from rice back in 2015.
“A lot of people are allergic to dairy or are gluten intolerant, so coconut products had become really popular,” co-founder Alf Orpen told The Gold Coast Bulletin. “But we wanted to do something different.”
The final recipe was the result of a lot of trial and error, he explained. Free from gluten, soy, nuts and cane sugar, with a blend of probiotics thrown in, the product is also organic and vegan.
“We started fermenting rice [and] the product was very grainy in the beginning,” he said. “We now use organic coconut sugar, coconut cream and rice milk to make flavours like raw cacao, choc mint, vanilla and chai. We wanted to make this as close to a health food as possible, so we also use wholegrain rice.”
Rice Cream hit the shelves of health food stores and independent supermarkets like IGA in 2017, but the company now has its eyes on exporting to overseas locations like the US and Japan.
Over in Singapore, Smoocht is claiming to have created the second rice-based ice cream in the world, with its co-founder Ong Khai Chien saying the product offers a bridge for consumers looking to adopt a healthier way of eating and thinking. Its version is gluten-free, dairy-free and clean label.
Smoocht has its eye on markets like New Zealand, China and India. While tropical flavours familiar to the region like jackfruit and durian are part of the stable, the brand wants to branch out of foodservice and bring tubs into retail. Bestselling flavours include dark chocolate, coconut, matcha and mango-passionfruit.
“We want to position ourselves as a fresh produce product, like fruits in the supermarkets, as the rice cream does not contain any stabilisers and as such is very temperature sensitive,” Chien told Food Spark’s sister site Food Navigator Asia.
Not wanting to be frozen on just one idea, the business has a number of NPD ideas in the pipeline, including incorporation of ‘superfoods’ and using protein powders to further boost the health credentials.
“For an earlier event this year, we made a special blue spirulina coconut rice cream that contained prebiotic fibres – so we’re looking at things like that, as well as using low-GI, sustainable arenga sugar [which is low GI] to develop a sea salt arenga flavour,” Khai said.
But the dream for Khai is to create a range of ambient ice creams or non-temperature-sensitive ice creams.
“These will not need any frozen trucks or cold chain to ship, and as such will have the least possible contribution to climate change,” he said. “The trick is to get the taste and texture right though, and also balance it out with consumers’ instant gratification needs.”
So does Sparkie think there’s a grain of possibility for rice ice cream in the free-from market?
On the face of it, this does seem like a good idea. If this is a definite gap in the market then someone should move to fill it, because from what we have seen all the alternatives produced during the free-from movement have been doing reasonably well. Whoever does take it on needs to be aware that they will be competing against all alternatives though, and the rice milk angle might not be enough of a differentiation alone.
An area which could be interesting though would be to aim for the pure indulgence using dairy-free, as most people within the free-from environment focus too closely on the health aspect and forget what the product type is generally meant to deliver.
Other brands have the healthy ice cream niche fairly well sewn up, so going high-quality, full fat and with sugar, making something equivalent to the standard premium ice cream, could be a good approach for anyone trying to get into the free-from market.