Unilever Revamps Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream with Oats

Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, is shaking up the dairy-free ice cream scene by swapping out nuts and seeds for oats in its latest reformulation efforts. Since their introduction in 2016, Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream alternatives have gained popularity, with the brand now offering 20 vegan flavours globally, comprising 25% of its product portfolio. The move to expand its non-dairy range is driven by consumer demand and Unilever’s ambitious goal to achieve €1.5 billion in annual sales from plant-based products by 2025.

To enhance the taste and texture of its non-dairy offerings, Unilever has experimented with various bases, ultimately settling on oats after testing over 70 flavour combinations. João Piva, a flavour specialist at Unilever, explained that oats allow the brand’s signature ingredients to shine while addressing concerns about texture and mouthfeel reported by consumers.

Oats have become a popular choice in the plant-based dairy market, with Mintel data indicating their use as a base ingredient in around 27% of dairy-free ice cream launches between April 2022 and March 2023. Notable examples include Oatly’s Soft Serve product, which debuted last year. Reformulating ice cream presents technical challenges, as the formulation must balance ice content for firmness while ensuring a smooth mouthfeel. Unilever aims to reduce the environmental impact of its ice cream cabinets by reformulating its products to withstand warmer temperatures, thereby cutting energy usage.

Through collaboration and patent sharing, Unilever hopes to encourage the broader ice cream industry to adopt more sustainable practices while delivering high-quality products to consumers. The new oat-based formulation will be available in Ben & Jerry’s tubs and scoop shops worldwide starting in spring 2024.