Joey Thurman: Summer is coming and that means ice cream. Eclipse Foods is here to help with their deliciously dairy-free, plant-based ice cream. Joining us to talk about it is the company's current projects CEO, Aylon Steinhart. Ooh, Aylon, it makes me hungry just talking about ice cream, salivating, summer. You were just in Chicago. What is Eclipse, and how does it compare to conventional dairy ice cream products?
Aylon Steinhart: Yeah, thanks for having me on. So Eclipse, we make plant-based dairy products that are indistinguishable from conventional dairy. That means same taste, texture, and functionality of conventional dairy. We're able to do that because we have essentially figured out what makes milk, milk. Comes down to these things called micelles. These microscopic structures made of the casing proteins of milk, and we figured out how to recreate those using a blend of non-GMO plants with mechanical process. So the result is this ability to create ice cream, but also milk, yogurt, cheese, basically any dairy product with the taste, texture, and functionality of conventional dairy.
Joey Thurman: Wow. So have you had people try regular ice cream next to yours? Could they tell the difference?
Aylon Steinhart: It's a very good question. So, we just came back from a very big conference with some of the biggest restaurant chains in the world and some of the really best pallets in the world. Some incredible chefs, and consistently, we have people try the product and people say 'I would not be able to tell that this is plant-based if you hadn't told me' and we've actually partnered with some of the best chefs in the world, including Michael Tusk of Quince which is a three Michelin Star restaurant. Corey Lee of Benu, which is a three Michelin Star restaurant and they tried those products and really said this is by far the most realistic plant-based product there is and really hard to tell that it's made from plants and not dairy.
Joey Thurman: Yeah, I know. I've had plant-based ice cream before and you're like, "Oh, it's good," but it doesn't taste like the ice cream as a kid. So it's nice to hear that this is coming along. Now, what's the story and the decision behind starting Eclipse Foods?
Aylon Steinhart: Yeah. So I, before starting your Eclipse was at The Good Food Institute, which is the leading nonprofit in the alternative protein space. I joined there to start their innovation department, which really meant running an incubator for the plant-based, cell-based, and fermentation-based space. So I had a really good 10,000 foot view of kind of what was happening in the market, what needed to happen in order to accelerate the adoption of alternative proteins.
My co-founder, Thomas, was the director of product development at Hampton Creek, or JUST. So, he created some of the best-selling plant-based products on the market at the time, like the JUST Mayo's, the cookies, or [inaudible] that created the JUST egg and then before that he was actually a chef. So he had chef [restage?] at a total of 16 Michelin stars around the globe, was twice nominated James Beard rising star chef, who was name [inaudible] 30 and 30.
So really this food genius, and he had this perfect on the bench view of kind of what was possible in this industry and what we could make and we really came together with this shared mission to create a more sustainable, healthy and ethical food system by transitioning our food system away from factory farming or industrial animal agriculture and towards alternatives with plant-based being a really strong alternative.
So with that mission in mind, Thomas and I looked around the industry and what we saw is that, in meat, Beyond and Impossible were creating these amazing products that appealed to mainstream consumers, because they could actually replace them for their burgers. In eggs, JUST had come out with egg 2.0, which again is a product that people could really replace with their eggs. But in dairy, ironically, there were so many substitutes, right? There was cashew cheese and soy ice cream and boat milk and all these things, but there was no true dairy replacement. Something that really had that taste, texture and functionality of dairy and would therefore appeal to mainstream consumers on a really large scale. We're talking that 500 billion dollar dairy market, as opposed to that, just a few percent that is currently the alternative dairy market, and so that was really what we wanted to do is to create the world's first ever true dairy replacement.
Joey Thurman: I mean, that's nice your Michelin stars are aligning. If you can get part of that $500 billion dollars, you can help the planet and make a lot of money. That's not a bad thing to do, man. Now, where can we find, I know people watching this be like, okay, now where can I get my hands on this product?
Aylon Steinhart: Yeah. So we're available in retail and in food service. In retail, Whole Foods [norcal?], Albertson's pavilions and SoCal we're available on goPuff the on-demand delivery app in a bunch of different markets, and also in some of the top kind of natural retailers around the nation like Central Market in Texas is an example. But you know, I would go to eclipsefoods.com/locations to find the closest near you.
Joey Thurman: Okay.
Aylon Steinhart: And we're also expanding in a really big way in food service. We're available in AFTERS ice cream in Southern California and Silver Diner in the Mid-Atlantic area, and we're actually launching with a national burger chain this next month. It's really exciting. It's going to be the first ever plant-based shake that is introduced nationally in a fast casual chain. So, a really big moment for our industry and for our mission at Eclipse, and so you can look up eclipsefoods.com/locations starting next month and you'll be able to find it probably at a location near you, of this national burger chain.
Joey Thurman: Wow. Obviously you can't tell me the chain, as you keep saying national burger chain. I get it. It's fine. You don't need it to tell me the secret, but, I'm a chocolate ice cream guy. What's your favorite kind of ice cream?
Aylon Steinhart: For me, we have some flavors that I really like. Cookie butter, it's like a speculoos cookie and that's the fan favorite for the chocolate lovers out there and the classic rock lovers. We have a flavor called the dark side of the spoon. If you don't get the reference, I recommend listening to the album The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, but it is chocolate with peanut butter chunks and fudge chunks. So it's super indulgent, super delicious, and actually chocolate is one of the flavors that we kind of had our first big win with, because we did a blind taste test with a professor Nusie Berkeley, where we put our chocolate ice cream against the bestselling dairy chocolate ice cream in the US, and the results were that over a hundred people said that they, well basically of the hundred person taste test.
Half the majority either liked our product more or the same as the best selling dairy chocolate ice cream and 73% said that we were actually creamier than the best selling dairy chocolate ice cream in the US and if we want to really change the food system, we have to be able to compete with dairy on those factors that really matter and creaminess is obviously one of those. So, chocolate is great.
Joey Thurman: Yeah, you have to have the creaminess factor. Now you guys are going to be at the future food tech, Alternative Protein Summit this summer. What can attendees expect to see you from there?
Aylon Steinhart: Yeah. Well, first and foremost, most importantly, we're bringing ice cream. So, everyone will have an opportunity to come and try what really is the future of ice cream and a part in the future of dairy, and we would love to hear what people think, what they love about it, what they think needs to be improved because in the end, we are always improving and really, really maniacal about creating the best product possible, and the reason is because we're not going for this small substitute market. Like we are going to replace dairy and we are going to really change the food system, and the only way we get there is by meeting consumers where they are. The number one reason that people avoid plant-based dairy today is taste, and so making sure that for consumers across the board we deliver on just that, and then in addition to that I will be speaking on kind of what the future of protein will look like. What does alternative protein look like in 2050, and so, we'll be a great discussion around that as well. I'm excited to be there.
Joey Thurman: Big ideas taking on big dairy. Aylon, thank you so much for joining us and make sure to connect with Eclipse at future food tax Alternative Protein Summit in New York this summer, June 21st and 22nd.