stop on the Decadent Dairy Free Road Tour.
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
Brownie, Soy Delicious is the Ben & Jerry’s of the vegan world.
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?
After I closed my garment business in San Francisco, I went on a trip to Hong
Kong and Singapore. Prior to that time, I was eating the typical American diet— steaks,
hamburgers and Italian foods. But while I was in Hong Kong, I started to eat
very differently—no carbohydrates, just protein and vegetables. I ended
up losing 20 pounds very quickly. That was the first time I became aware that
there was a connection between what one ate and one’s health.
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
When did you make the switch from creating clothes to creating dairy-free desserts?
I decided I didn’t want to be in the garment business anymore. I wanted
to do something with soy, something that would help people.
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
foods dessert world—54 percent of the market is dairy, while 46 percent
is nondairy and growing.
In the health food industry, products that are called nondairy desserts total
46 percent of sales. That is outrageous, because when you go to the supermarket
side of the business—in the real world—you are only looking at a
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?
Well in the last couple of years, nobody has really innovated. We brought out
our Purely Decadent pints—which are basically Ben & Jerry’s or
Haagen-Dazs done as a nondairy product.
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
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?
Personally, the Cookie Avalanche, Turtle Trails and Chocolate Obsession. I’m
a chocolate person. Those are the ones that I have problems with if there is
a pint in the freezer.
With ingredients like chocolate, is there a commitment to fair trade?
We have not explored fair trade chocolate for specific reasons. We’ve spent
a lot of time finding a cocoa that really tastes as close to chocolate ice cream
as we can find. Consumers expect it to taste the same every single time. There
are many kinds of cocoa powder from different parts of the world. And the best
tasting powders are alkalized [made less acidic] through what’s called
a Dutch chocolate process [treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color
and give it a more mild flavor]. If we use fair traded cocoa, we’ll have
to buy it in huge quantities—way beyond what we need economically—and
will probably end up with cocoa that is not similar to the blend that we’ve
got, and doesn’t taste as good.
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
Is there a commitment to GMO-free and organic ingredients?
First of all, anything that is certified organic implies that everybody has done
everything they can possibly do to prevent GMO contamination of the product.
We buy organic products and are third party certified, so we are doing everything
we can with organic materials to make sure there is no GMO contamination, and
we avoid ingredients like corn that we know would present an issue.
Are there other environmental concerns with food production that Turtle Mountain
We are buying sugar that has been manufactured without animal products for refinement.
We are not using any dairy ingredients, so that has a huge effect on the environment
both in terms of animal issues and environmental issues, from minimizing the
fossil fuels used to bring animal feed back and forth and dealing with all the
pollution of the fertilizer, and waste of the animals.
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?
I wanted to have the name Turtle in the business. I was in the Nature Conservatory
store in Berkeley and saw a book called Turtles by Archie Carr. I opened up the
book and there was a chapter called “Turtle Mountain.” I thought
that was such a great name. In the chapter it talks about a place in Nicaragua
that borders the ocean where the sea turtles come in every year to lay their
eggs. The Indians in Nicaragua refer to that place as Turtle Mountain. The legend
was that as long as the sea turtles come in every year to lay their eggs, all
is well in the world. And as you know, all of the sea turtles are endangered.
All is not well in the world and the ocean.
What was the inspiration for the Dare to be Decadent Dairy Free Road Tour?
We’re the largest nondairy frozen dessert manufacturer in the world, yet
we are reaching one percent of the American population, when 15-20 percent of
that population cannot eat ice cream because it makes them sick—they are
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?
People are dumbstruck. They never realize that a nondairy product can taste like
ice cream. They are dumbstruck with the nutritional differences between our products
and Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs. We have no saturated fats. There
are so many stories within a story when you start looking at our company and
its history and the products.
To learn more about Turtle Mountain or find out about their Dare to be Decadent
Road Tour, visit www.turtlemountain.com.
Ice Cream Addict
Maureen Wyse, vegan ice
cream addict, serving up a selection of treats.
My vegan world is made possible because of one sinful delicacy: ice cream.
There is no denying a vegan’s love for ice cream, and fortunately
for us, there are quite a few companies churning out unbelievable frozen
soy desserts. The words “ice cream party” never sounded
quite so sweet—especially in this office. It seems ice cream
is something vegans are really spoiled by, with each company adding
their own twists and substitutions. We give vegan soy ice cream full
permission to stick its tongue out at their dairy competitors and say, “anything
you can do, I can do better.”—M.W.
Every vegan is familiar with Tofutti, the old standby that has been bringing
us kosher nondairy desserts like Cuties and pints of Chocolate Cookie
Crunch for years. Yet, they’re not to be taken for granted: Tofutti
still knows how to make a vegan smile. With a plethora of new dairy-free
novelties, picking a winner wasn’t so easy. Their Rich Rewards
treat is a delightful raspberry ribboned, chocolate covered bar—one
of our reviewers even deemed it sexy. The Marry Me bar wins stars for
being akin to the Dove bar; a nice simple chocolate covered treat. Our
favorites however, are the Blueberry and Strawberry Wave Tofutti Cuties—great
little “sweet spot hitters,” for any time of day.
Klein’s Kosher Ice Cream
Klein’s Kosher ice cream is the popular nondairy dessert served
in many NYC veg establishments. I will admit to thinking Klein’s
was just a kosher ice cream and thought it was a deliciously accidental
vegan treat. Yet upon making a trip to the Klein’s website and
clicking on the Non-Dairy Ice Cream link, I found a delightful sign that
says, “Ice cream without the milk. Vegan Approved,” accompanied
by a cow with a line through her, and the universal certified vegan “V” heart
After working at Red Bamboo for about two years, I thought Klein’s only
made the standards: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, pistachio,
and mint chip. So when I found out about their Sombrero, Chocolate Éclair,
and Crunchy Munchy Bars in single serving size, plus Parve Sundaes, and family
packs of Cake Rolls, ice cream cups, and larger quantity packs of individual
bars—I was so excited. Also, something exciting for those of us who like
to rabble rouse at our nearest ice cream shops to serve soy ice cream, Klein’s
offers gallon sizes of all their flavors—which also make delicious shakes!
Since 1955 Klein’s has been making kosher—and vegan goodness—in
Brooklyn, New York. To learn more or order Klein’s products, see www.koshericecream.com.
Or visit their partially vegan ice cream parlor at 3614 15th Avenue, Brooklyn.
I feel like a traitor to the rest of the vegan ice cream world when I say it,
but Temptation is the best I have ever had. In fact, it should be called, “The
Best Ice Cream in the Entire World.”
Their easily recyclable, cartoon-covered plastic tubs caught the eyes of everyone
in the office. With cute labels boasting their ‘all vegan’ contents
and clever phrases like, “9 out of 10 cacao beans are embarrassed to be
in our competitors products” regarding their Fair Trade Organic Chocolate
Ice Cream, we knew we found a winner.
Let me tell you, sitting around the kitchen table and choosing between Cookie
Dough, Peach Cobbler, Mint Chocolate Chip, Fair Trade Organic Coffee, and Fair
Trade Organic Chocolate, was one of the hardest decisions the Satya staff ever
had to make. At first we all chose individual favorites but after tasting each
other’s discoveries it became evident there would be no winner—we
loved them all!
Our hats are certainly off to founders and creators Ryan Howard and Dan Ziegler.
With yummy chunks of cookie dough, cinnamon cobbler goodness, and the perfect
amount of ground coffee beans, these Chicago Soy Dairy boys know flavor and their
Temptation knows how to fool even the most avid dairy ice cream eaters.