NEW YORK — A simple Google search inspired the latest product innovation from Enlightened, a brand of better-for-you ice cream and frozen desserts. Michael Shoretz, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Better Foods, the parent company of Enlightened, recently discovered a common search term paired with the brand’s name was “keto.”
“That was a complete shift from about a year ago, when that search term didn’t even show up in our search results,” Mr. Shoretz told Food Business News. “When you’re searching for your own brand and seeing what’s new, and we just saw ‘keto’ jump to the top of the list, we said, ‘Wow, this is what people who are interested in Enlightened are actually looking for.’”
Roughly three months later, Enlightened Keto Collection ice cream pints and bars are shipping to thousands of stores nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, Publix, Stop & Shop and Shoprite. Pint flavors include butter pecan, chocolate glazed donut, coffee and cream, chocolate peanut butter, mint chocolate chunk, peanut butter fudge and red velvet. Bar flavors include dark chocolate, marshmallow peanut butter, mint chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip.
Each serving contains less than one gram of sugar and one gram of net carbs. Like the brand’s original line of ice cream bars and pints, the products are sweetened with monk fruit and erythritol. Cream is used instead of skim milk to deliver a high-fat, low-carb nutritional profile to help consumers achieve ketosis, a metabolic state linked with weight loss and performance benefits.
The ketogenic diet was identified as the most popular consumer diet for 2019, according to more than 1,300 dietitians surveyed in the seventh annual “What’s trending in nutrition” survey from Pollock Communications, New York, and Today’s Dietitian. The lifestyle has gained traction in the health and fitness community as a solution for disease prevention and weight management. Followers of the diet generally aim to eat 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates daily.
Enlightened’s core portfolio of high-protein, low-sugar ice cream bars and pints are sold in more than 12,000 retail outlets, including Whole Foods, Kroger and Target. Available in dozens of flavors, the products contain 60 to 100 calories per serving with 6 to 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar.
The launch of Enlightened Keto Collection follows the brand’s recent expansion into dairy-free frozen desserts, which are made with almond milk and fava bean protein.
“We think about innovation all the time, and it’s really part of the lifeblood of our brand,” Mr. Shoretz said. “Honestly, keto is something our consumers and customers brought to us really more than us bringing to them. To be successful in the long term is to be able to adapt and evolve based on what your consumers are looking for, as long as it fits into our values.”
A handful of other ice cream brands in the marketplace offer keto-friendly formulations, but Enlightened has the fewest net carbs per serving, Mr. Shoretz said.
“The most objective way in which we differentiate is we are the lowest net carb ice cream on market with one gram of net carbs per serving, which I believe is anywhere between 20% to 50% lower than even other keto-friendly options on market,” he said. “That’s going to be a big deal for people following a ketogenic diet. You have to count those carbs very carefully, so having one carb versus two or three or four will make a big difference for people.”
Critics of the ketogenic diet argue it is not sustainable or nutritionally balanced, and some in the industry predict the lifestyle, like the similar Atkins craze before it, may be another flash-in-the-pad fan. However, sugar reduction, a core component of the regimen, is here to stay, Mr. Shoretz said.
“It will be interesting to see how the keto lifestyle evolves over the years, but one thing that’s for sure is the trend of lower sugar … is going to be the way people are eating down the road,” he said. “There’s competing evidence around various lifestyles and diets, but I see very little pushback around the reduction of sugar.”