New scoop on a healthy dessert in the UAE

If the protein content is not the most important consideration for you when choosing ice-cream, you are probably not alone.

Yet in the past year at least two brands of protein ice-cream have launched in the UAE.

To many regular shoppers, the idea may seem just another way to sell the cold dessert.

But rethinking existing ideas can be a winner, says one entrepreneurship professor.

“People love the taste and the feel of how they eat ice-cream,” says Ramesh Jagannathan, New York University Abu Dhabi vice provost for entrepreneurship, research professor of engineering and associate dean of engineering.

“But ice-cream is generally not good for the health for most people. So if you can just manage the taste and create a protein ice-cream, then actually it is a very good idea.”

Fitness enthusiasts Antonio Le Pore and Gareth Pierce, co-founders of Whey2go, a protein ice-cream which launched in the UAE in February, first came across the idea following a workout while on holiday in the UK.

At the time the product did not exist in the UAE, so after approaching a business incubator which introduced them to an ice-cream manufacturer in the UAE, together they spent almost a year perfecting the recipe.

It is now in numerous stores in the UAE, including Adventure HQ in Times Square Mall in Dubai and several branches of Lifestyle Nutrition across Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“We are getting it into a lot of the gyms. The reason we are going to gyms is because these guys are educated about protein and they will be reading the labels,” says Mr Le Pore.

Another company rethinking a common everyday product is Socially Responsible Enterprises, which has introduced the eco-friendly toilet paper brand Caboo to the UAE.

“It is made from bamboo and sugar cane, so the product itself is completely treeless,” says Taimoor Khan, the company’s salesman.

“The bamboo grows back within three years, so you can start to cultivate the bush again in three years as opposed to a tree which is about 30 years. So it is a lot better for the environment.”

Now selling in a range of stores, including Organic Foods and Café and Carrefour, at around Dh30 for 12 rolls, it is only slightly more expensive than Kleenex, which costs about Dh28 for a pack the same size, according to Mr Khan.

The company hopes that for a couple of dirhams extra, people will see it as a mass market product and choose to make a change for future generations.

“Sales are doing very well. We are supplying to hotels and we are looking at other companies that supply to cruise ships and things like that. So we have had a lot of interest and it is just about finalising those deals,” says Mr Khan.

Brands like Whey2go and Caboo prove it is possible to successfully rethink products, and there will be many more companies of their kind in the future thanks to the rising middle class in India, China and Africa, says Mr Jagannathan. People in this “new” middle class earn between US$10 and $30 a day, which will drive the demand for new products.

“The wage earners who constituted the middle class in the 20th century, which was mainly in the western hemisphere, were earning anything from $50 to $150 a day, so a whole new set of innovations have to happen for this new middle class because the number of people in this rising middle class is going to be 3 billion people in the next 20 to 30 years. You can’t ignore them,” says Mr Jagannathan.

“You just have to rethink how you create products and services, so new innovations will happen.”

Whey2go knows that for its ice-cream to truly become a success, it will need to reach regular shoppers as well as its current niche market. It is currently in talks to place the product in a large retail chain.

“One of the biggest health benefits we have is we removed all the sugar and put in xylitol, which is a natural sugar. It doesn’t increase the [blood] glucose levels [in the same way]. It does slightly, but only a fraction compared to cane sugar,” says Mr Le Pore.

“We got everyone into the office [for a taste test] about three or four months ago now. We had a close eye on the ladies and what they were looking at when they bought a product or a snack. Calories were by far the most looked at, then the sugar and the fat.

“If you compare calories from our product to a Häagen-Dazs of the same size you are looking at 50 to 100 less calories, depending on the flavour, and 20 grams of the bad sugar to zero. The fats you are looking at sort of 15g down to 5g or 6g. So we are trying for two markets,” he adds.

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