I Scream, You Scream We All Scream For…Soy Delicious!
Let’s face it, as much as we like to say bad things about dairy, ice cream is pure joy and one of the hardest novelties to give up. Long-time vegans remember the bad old days when eating dairy-free meant dessert-free or fun-free. But one of the best things to happen to veganism is so delicious, that is Soy Delicious.
With flavors like Cookie Avalanche, Chunky Mint Madness and Chocolate Almond Brownie, Soy Delicious is the Ben & Jerry’s of the vegan world.
Headquartered in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Turtle Mountain has been specializing in the production of these dairy-free all natural frozen desserts for the past 17 years, and their products can be found in natural food outlets in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Virgin Islands, Australia, the UK, Japan, and Korea.
With dairy-free Lil’ Buddies “ice cream” sandwiches, chocolate covered vanilla almond bars, pints of Purely Decadent goodness, and fruit sweetened and no sugar varieties, Turtle Mountain reigns as the leader in providing indulgences to those with moral convictions or dietary restrictions.
Once specializing in hand airbrushed dresses, Turtle Mountain CEO and founder, Mark Brawerman, left behind a San Francisco garment manufacturing business when he made the personal choice to go vegetarian. Brawerman was determined to make the world a better place with soy and also wanted to help turtles while he was at it. Feeling that the issues of the ocean are huge and often neglected, Turtle Mountain donates some of its profits to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.
Soy Delicious connoisseur Sangamithra Iyer chatted with the nondairy king Mark Brawerman about daring to be decadent, dairy-free and delicious.
How did you first get interested in soy?
Over a period of three or four years, I became self educated in natural foods, vegetarianism, living lightly on the earth—all very basic concepts that have been around for many years. When I went to the South Pacific in 1980, I became aware of all these wonderful creatures—the chickens that were around the home—and came back and thought about having a chicken meal. I thought about the chicken I just saw, and I just couldn’t do it anymore and became a vegetarian.
When did you make the switch from creating clothes to creating dairy-free desserts?
I met with William Shurtleff, of the Soy Center who wrote the Book of Tofu. He was a big inspiration. The Farm Foods Company, which manufactured a product called Ice-Bean, had just gone out of business and the product was no longer available. I said, “Gee, this is a great product, why don’t I figure out how to make it?” And so I did. It took me all summer, but in 1980, I created a product called Jolly Licks in San Francisco and distributed it myself to 120 natural food stores throughout northern California.
That’s how I got started making nondairy frozen desserts, and in 1987 Turtle Mountain became incorporated.
According to your website there are some exciting marketing trends in the natural foods dessert world—54 percent of the market is dairy, while 46 percent is nondairy and growing.
The major players are Tofutti, Imagine Foods and us. Their sales have been down and our sales have been up.
What do you think is the secret to Turtle Mountain’s success?
We also did the first organic soy product, then the only entirely fruit juice sweetened product, and recently our no sugar added diabetic-friendly Carb Escapes product.
I think also, we are such perfectionists in what we do, that we push everything to the limit and I think our flavors are much better.
So what is your favorite ice cream flavor?
With ingredients like chocolate, is there a commitment to fair trade?
I’m probably giving you a more involved answer than you want to hear, but there are economic and taste reasons why we haven’t done it. We don’t buy enough cocoa to justify that kind of a commitment. We are not that big of a company.
Is there a commitment to GMO-free and organic ingredients?
Are there other environmental concerns with food production that Turtle Mountain is addressing?
All of us nondairy manufacturers make our products in facilities that also manufacture ice cream. There is a type of testing called neogen that measures down to the parts per million in terms of antibodies of dairy protein present. We vigorously sample test our products for the presence of dairy. None of our competitors do that. We’re concerned that we not have an incidence of dairy contamination. If you don’t watch yourself and wash out the equipment real well, you could kill somebody if someone highly allergic eats the product. We go to tremendous extents to constantly be checking these plants.
Where does the name Turtle Mountain come from?
What was the inspiration for the Dare to be Decadent Dairy Free Road Tour?
We are barely scratching the surface. How do we reach people when they don’t know we are out there? The idea came that we would get an RV, decorate it like one of our pints, and build a special trailer that holds 13,000 samples. So we go to events with thousands of people and hand out samples of Purely Decadent.
And their reactions?