With the summer just around the corner, many ice cream aficionados will be ready to enjoy their favorite decadent treat again and again. But what if we told you that you could have all that you love about ice cream while minimizing any impacts on the planet?
Meet Eclipse, a California-based startup that uses plant-based "dairy" to make ice cream, which the company says is identical in every aspect to conventional dairy ice cream. After a significant sales growth in 2020, the company is launching six new flavors this summer.
Eclipse was founded in 2019 by Aylon Steinhart and Thomas Bowman with a clear mission in mind: “We founded Eclipse Foods because we want to make it easy for consumers to make sustainable, healthy, and humane choices,” Steinhart, Eclipse’s co-founder and CEO and former senior advisor at The Good Food Institute, explained in a public statement .
“Factory farming is responsible for more greenhouse emissions than the transportation industry, with around one third coming from dairy alone” said Steinhart during a recent interview with TriplePundit. Eclipse says it gives people the alternative to be part of the solution.
Steinhart claims that the brand fills a gap in the industry by creating the first-ever dairy replacement that tastes, feels and functions like conventional dairy. “Dairy-free substitutes use plant-based milk options such as almond or soy,” he asserted. “Alternatively, Eclipse uses a unique mix of plants, mainly corn, cassava and potato, that is reverse-engineered to replicate milk in a molecular level.” In addition, the ice cream does not have any allergens or genetically modified ingredients .
Currently, Eclipse’s ice cream is available through selling directly to consumers, foodservice partners and grocery stores.
Through the brand’s direct-to-consumer website, ice cream pints can be purchased and shipped nationwide. Flavors include cookie butter, chocolate and vanilla.
The company has also created a plant-based liquid base that comes in chocolate, vanilla and plain and can be used to make everything from milkshakes to soft serve and ice cream pints. The base is sold to foodservice partners including ice cream shops, restaurants and food trucks.
Finally, Eclipse’s ice cream pints are available at more selected grocery stores and markets.
“The reception has been incredible across all channels, and when you look at the velocities of our pints per store per week, we’re moving a lot faster than the other plant-based brands,” stated Steinhart in a recent interview . The founder described the company’s key success factors: taste, technology and a top culinary experience.
The taste of Eclipse’s products appears to be well received by ice cream lovers so far. For example, in a blind taste test done at UC Berkeley, 77 percent of those who participated said Eclipse was creamier than the best-selling dairy ice cream in the country. “It’s been incredible to watch people try our ice cream for the first time and see the total disbelief on their faces when we tell them it is made of plants,” Steinhart commented in a press release.
Behind the taste, Eclipse has a pending-patent technology that the company says makes it a viable alternative to dairy-based ice creams. “Ingredients don’t make the ice cream taste how it does. It is how they function; how we process and put them together, using the same temperature, pressure and other variables that are used in dairy processing,” explained in a statement Thomas Bowman, Eclipse’s co-founder and CTO.
Besides being one of Eclipse’s founders, Bowman is a chef and food scientist who worked as director of product development at the plant-based brand Just; cooked in sixteen Michelin star restaurants; and has also been named Zagat 30 under 30. His experience, added to the support from partnerships with world-renowned chefs, could help put Eclipse at an advantage in the market.
Eclipse is not the only brand betting on dairy-free alternatives. For example, Ben & Jerry has recently expanded its non-dairy portfolio with four sunflower butter-based ice cream flavors. Meanwhile, with more than $300 million in funding, Perfect Day is offering animal products-free dairy ice cream by using a molecularly identical dairy protein that is created by fermentation.
“The market for dairy is massive, so there is definitely room for other plant-based brands,” affirmed Steinhart.
After experiencing what the founders said was more than sales that tripled from the previous year during 2020, Eclipse is introducing six new flavors this summer including mango passion fruit, strawberry, mint chip, caramel butter pecan, dark chocolate, and cookies and cream.
Ultimately, the company’s goal is to create replacements for cheese, sour cream and cream cheese. “Plant-based dairy is a category with a lot of upsides, and the team at Eclipse is well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity,” stated in a recent interview with the Good Food Institute.
With only two years since Eclipse started, it remains to be seen if the company can succeed with the challenges of scaling up while meeting its customers’ expectations. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world to feed people,” commented Steinhart. “We want people to fall in love with Eclipse,” he concluded.
Image credit: Eclipse
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