Courtesy of a bit of brilliance and plenty of taste-testing, Eclipse Foods‘ plant-based ice cream launched nationally this week, and certainly passes as dairy, if nobody mentions its ingredients. The Berkeley-based company, founded by plant-based food professionals Thomas Bowman and Aylon Steinhart, seeks to bypass the shortcomings of many dairy-free, nut-based, and even traditional milks by replicating the composition of the best milk from cows using a blend of plant components. There’s minimal bio-technology at play here, though, as the pair isn’t employing genetically modified ingredients.
Their ice cream also drastically reduces the likelihood of an allergic reaction. Eclipse’s ice cream abstains from using any of the eight most common allergens, and is 100% wheat- and lactose-free. Steinhart is also insistent that the product is a replacement rather than an alternative, referencing the fact that their base milk—which is what they pioneered first, in order to then make ice cream—looks, tastes, and can be processed like cow’s milk, which was key in scaling the company from a mere idea to national launch in just 10 months.
Their top-secret formula consists of just a few key ingredients: heirloom corn, cassava, and oats included. Bowman tells us, “It can go through all the same machinery, where coconut [or another alternative] is too thick and crystalizes. And it just tastes like coconut, too. Ours functions and tastes no different than cows’ milk.”
Eclipse initially plans to focus on collaborating with existing shops on co-branded, plant-based flavors. At NYC’s Oddfellows, a velvety miso-cherry is on offer. At Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, a rich and spicy Mexican hot chocolate flavor is sure to please. Pint-sized flavors stocked in grocery stores surely are a goal, but getting the word out comes first.
Eclipse will also consider other potential applications for their technology, rather than confine their efforts to ice cream. After all, Steinhart is an expert on the alternative protein industry and previously held a position at the Good Food Institute, a leading non-profit in the emerging plant-based category. Bowman, on the other hand, cooked in a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants before assuming the position of Director of Product Development at JUST, assisting in the development of the brand’s most popular alternatives. Though dessert is their first direction, Steinhart and Bowman’s work could potentially contribute to a global shift in animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
“If we’re in every blue box of mac and cheese, great,” Steinhart says. “If we’re inside every soft-serve machine at fast food restaurants, great. We’re a mission-driven company, and our mission is to feed people and that inevitably means replacing traditional products.”
Hero image courtesy of Heidi’s Bridge