Featuring on the new-age list of health products are keto, vegan, low-fat and sugar-free variants of ice creams, pops, lollies and gelatos, ensuring you don’t lose sight of fitness goals. “Consumers are now expecting even their indulgences to be healthier than ever," says Yohaan Dattoobhai, co-founder and CEO, Sucres Des Terres, a Mumbai-based artisanal ice-cream brand.
For most entrepreneurs who offer ice creams that are “good for you", it started with a personal exploration of healthy eating. Gayatri Narang of Delhi-based Minus 30, for instance, curates lactose-free, vegan and sugar-free ice-cream menus, alongside the regular ones. She trained in Italy in the art of gelato making and started Minus 30 in 2016 with her sister Shivanie Mirchandani, when PVR Director’s Cut started a gelato bar. While the focus initially was on a range of indulgences, the duo slowly started experimenting with healthy pairings such as almond milk and dark chocolate. Today, Narang offers home delivery in Delhi, and is expanding through gourmet food stores like Le Marche in the National Capital Region (NCR). Minus 30 also supplies to restaurants and has gelato carts.
Similarly, NOTO, a low-calorie ice cream aimed at the “millennial Indian with an incurable sweet tooth", started when Varun Sheth (of Pizza Kitchen by 1Tablespoon) started battling cholesterol issues. Sheth and his wife, Ashni, drew inspiration from popular low-calorie alternative in the US, and started NOTO two-and-a-half weeks ago, after eight-nine months of perfecting the taste. Available in six flavours, the ice creams supposedly contain only 75-90 calories in every scoop and a half, depending on the flavour—as opposed to the 180 calories in a similar serving offered by regular brands. “The sugar content is also only 3g. The product is lab tested," says Ashni.
While many brands offer sugar-free versions, natural sweeteners such as stevia are added for the ice-cream flavours that need sugar. Mumbai-based Koldplay Ice Creams, spearheaded by food scientist Sudip Putatunda, has just introduced a keto ice cream made with dark chocolate and polyols—sugar alcohols that provide the taste and texture of sugar at half the calories. Informal tests by Putatunda and his team found that the product did not kick people out of ketosis at any point.
Consumers today also want to know about the provenance of ingredients in a product. It is to cater to such discerning tastes that brands such as Sucres Des Terres and Frugurpop are using only the freshest seasonal produce. Dattoobhai, for one, does an Alphonso pistachio ice cream during the mango season. “There is something special about having something seasonal, which exists only at that moment in time," he says. While all of Sucres Des Terres ice creams are eggless, there is a vegan range as well. The latest in this is the Coco collection, inspired by the white sands and blue waters of the Caribbean.
Similarly, Frugurpop, started by Sudheer Grover and Pallavi Kuchroo in 2012, at a time when there were no natural fruit popsicles in India, works with A-grade berries from France and Belgium for its Triple Berry pop. In Fruitilicious, five fruits such as kiwi and dragon fruit are mixed with a lemongrass and lime base. “You can actually see the fruit slices in this one. The products contain only about 4-5g of added sugar per stick as it is added as a preservative," says Grover. The brand retails in Mumbai and Goa, and also caters pan-India for events.
Dietitians, however, have a word of caution. According to Mansi Chaudhary, senior dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, some brands might claim to be low-fat but may be loaded with artificial flavours. “They should offer less than 120 calories per serving," she says.