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Graeter's Expands Animal-Free Ice Cream Options On Its Menu

Graeter's Ice Cream
Black Cherry Chocolate Chip is one of six offerings for the animal-free dessert Perfect Indulgence.

The popularity of animal-free dairy foods are gaining speed in the heartland. One study shows the plant-based milk market will grow 19% by 2023. Now Cincinnati's Graeter's is expanding its offerings with an alternative to its popular ice cream. In this case, its replacing cow's milk with fermented whey protein.

Make no mistake - Graeter's Ice Cream original blend is here to stay. But the company also wants to appeal to green customers and has rolled out "Perfect Indulgence."

Six flavors are already in production and another two, including the company's signature flavor - Black Raspberry Chip - will be on shelves later this month. Owner Rich Graeter says you can buy Perfect Indulgence in his ice cream stores, Jungle Jim's and soon, Kroger.

"People said 'Well, why in the world are you doing this?' And the answer is it's a more humane, ethical, sustainable, green way to create dairy proteins." Graeter says.

How Is It Made?

Perfect Day, Graeter's partner, starts with a tiny microorganism called microflora. "You could use yeast, you could use algae," says the company's Nicki Briggs. "In our case we use fungi and we give this little fungi basically a blueprint of the actual DNA that cows use to make milk protein. And by giving this microflora this little blueprint it basically empowers them to act like a cow."

Perfect Day puts it in a giant fermentation tank and adds simple plant ingredients, like plant sugars, and then filters it to produce 100% pure whey protein.

But How Does It Taste?

Rich Graeter says he would bet that if somebody put a bowl of this at your place you wouldn't know the difference.

"Now, if I'm tasting it side by side you ... might sense a difference but it is so minimal."

Why Eliminate Cow's Milk?

Inside reports:

"It’s not just greenhouse gases to be concerned about. Cows excrete a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous," said Paul Kononoff, a dairy nutrition specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Dairy Science. Eventually, through rainwater runoff, those excreted chemicals end up in lakes and rivers where they act as fertilizers and causes excessive algae growth. That in turn decreases the water’s oxygen levels, which can kill aquatic animals and plants.

Fast Companyhas named Perfect Day one of the 10 most innovate companies in 2021.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.