“Regenerative, I feel, is the next wave in sustainability,” says Alec Jaffe of Alec’s Ice Cream, a California-based company that’s the first Regenerative Organic certified ice cream brand on the market.
Jaffe actually started developing his new company (and his ice cream flavors) in 2018. “No one was talking about regenerative agriculture then. So our focus was on organic and pasture-raised milk.”
But then he met the Alexandres, a Northern California-based couple, who had been building their own brand: Alexandre Family Farm, which specializes in gut-friendly organic A2 milk and is the first ROC-certified dairy in America. Their Crescent City family farm is now not only producing milk, but also yoghurt, cream, and kefir.
The two aligned on their vision to make A2 milk more readily available in a variety of products, as well as Jaffe’s vision for a “cleaner,” organic ice cream.
“I just felt that, yes, while ice cream is a really competitive category, no one had combined sustainability and taste successfully, and that alone would be a distinguishing factor us.”
One of the challenges of starting a food brand that’s so centered on ingredients and sustainability is finding a co-packer or manufacturer who is willing to work with the same intent, Jaffe explains. He found an ice cream factory in Petaluma, California that was going up for sale; that meant he didn’t have to rely on a third party but could make the products in-house.
That was just the beginning, though. While he had a steady supply of A2 milk from the Alexandre’s, some of the flavors required additional ingredients, and finding them to be certified organic was tricky. “When you’re making an ice cream where you want to add cookie dough bits to it, for example, you have to find someone who is done that using only organic ingredients. There aren’t that many people out there making purely organic flavors and additions like cookie dough.”
Yet, in 2022, Jaffe led the company through a rebrand, focusing more heavily on A2 milk and using regenerative organic ingredients (they added ROC-certified organic sugar to the lineup). “It was sort of 2.0 of the regenerative story for us, as we got deeper into the supply chain.”
Despite the hurdles, Jaffe stuck to his vision and thankfully grocers responded. While they started with independent food stores in the Bay Area, the company was getting interest from grocery stores across the state and beyond. Working with national food distributors, Jaffe expanded Alec’s Ice Cream to Whole Foods and Sprouts across the US.
In the process, he’s been keen to share with grocery buyers and consumers the regenerative story. “People are definitely interested. I think we’ve made a simplistic argument that all dairy is bad for the environment. That’s not true, and as a brand, we’re trying to show that dairy done right can help with the environmental movement as well, basically flipping the narrative on its head.”
To make A2 milk and regenerative organic food more widely available, Jaffe says that consumers need to demand it. “If the public buys it, the stores will stock more of it, and the farmers will grow or produce more of it. That’s why its so important for people to support the changes they want to see in the food industry.”
In addition to simply increasing customer demand, the industry could use more infrastructure to support other farmers wanting to come on board. “We need to make it easier for farmers and food manufacturers to create these kind of purely organic lines. Whatever is harvested or produced goes to a middleman. It could be a mill, a processor, or someone like us churning milk into ice cream. We need more infrastructure to support regenerative organic food all the way through.”
As a result, Jaffe has decided to support Regenerate America, a nonprofit organization, advocating for more money and resources for regenerative farming in the US Farm Bill, which is set to be renewed later this year. Those updates will take it through 2028.
Currently, Regenerate America’s site states that “soil health-focused programs,” which are the backbone of regenerative agriculture, “receive less than 1% of overall funding in the Farm Bill, which means that regenerative agriculture systems are currently not supported to the same extent that conventional agriculture is.”
Hence entrepreneurs like Jaffe are advocating for not just their own brands, but for a broader ecosystem shift. “Ice cream is a fun vehicle to do it through. Everyone loves ice cream,” Jaffe says.
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