Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Diane Jacobs, creator of Divine Dips Vegan Ice Creme.
I am a huge ice cream fan, and have to admit I was more than a little skeptical the first time I tried Divine Dips. I shouldn’t have been. It has the richness and flavor of traditional ice cream that’s missing in many vegan “ice creams”. This is real good stuff! So good, in fact, that they were voted “Best Vegan Ice Cream” by LA WEEKLY: http://www.laweekly.com/bestof/2013/award/best-vegan-ice-cream-2232015/
Divine Dips Vegan Ice Creme is crafted from a blend of organic coconut milk, organic agave nectar, cashews, nut milks, and other all-natural ingredients. Divine Dips contains no dairy or gluten. Through their own brand of artisanal alchemy, the result is a luscious frozen dessert that rivals premium ice creams.
Check out their website at www.divinedipsicecreme.com, Facebook@Divine Dips Ice Crème, Twitter: @divinedips. Instagram: divine_dips
What was your inspiration for creating vegan ice cream?
I actually started my career as a cake artist. I owned the Cakeworks, at 117 N. La Brea Ave in Hancock Park for 12 years. I created art (paintings, sculptures, architecture) out of cake. (www.ediblegallery.com) I’ve always loved creating delicious, beautiful, innovative desserts since adolescence. About 8 years ago, I discovered that a lot of my health issues (allergies, headaches, sinus problems) were connected to lactose intolerance. I cut out dairy, but still wanted to create delicious innovative desserts. Over the years, I tried different dairy-free ice creams, and none of them really hit the mark for me, so I set out to unlock the secret of a rich, flavorful dairy-free, and soy-free ice cream. Divine Dips was born.
How long have you been in business?
I created Divine Dips in 2010, we officially launched in our first market, Rainbow Acres, in 2011. This year, in May, we launched a custom gourmet ice crème truck. The Divine Dips truck serves scoops, cones, ice crème sandwiches, with homemade toppings, all vegan/gluten free.
How many flavors do you have?
In retail pints, we offer 7 varieties: Madagascar vanilla bean, Infinite Mint, Amaretto Almond Trio, Caffé No-Lait, Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, Rastaberry, Matcha Green Tea with Pistachios. Seasonally, Gingersnap is available fall through winter. Our gourmet ice crème truck features 12 flavors: the aforementioned 7, plus 5 rotational flavors. Some of the new flavor varieties include: Kiwi Passion, Key Lime π, Hazelnibby, Thai Tea and maple cardamom.
What was your biggest challenge?
Besides funds, (we are family funded, with some benevolence from family friends) the biggest challenge in getting going was getting across what I was creating. The word “vegan” carries a lot of misconception for a lot of folks. (you even admit it in your intro). Having people get past their own preconceived ideas and try Divine Dips was an effort. But people are blown away by the taste, texture and finish. I’ve had some people say “don’t call it vegan”, but that is what it is. I’m hoping to shift the perception, educate and elucidate, so people begin to understand that a plant-based frozen dessert can be creative, thoughtful, incredibly rich, and completely satisfying.
Where do you find your inspiration for new flavors?
I start with the classics, desserts I grew up on, and I try to extrapolate from there, reinterpreting ‘vegan versions’. Mint chocolate Chip was a childhood staple. Divine Dips’ Infinite Mint is a callback to that. But Infinite Mint isn’t tinted green, uses peppermint essential oil, and dairy/nut free chocolate. I also like to experiment with superfood ingredients like: Lucuma, Acai, goji, raw cacao nibs, etc. My rule of thumb is minimally processed, simple and natural ingredients with documented health benefits. I try to stay away from refined sugars, even evaporated cane juice. Divine Dips isn’t processed with heat, so I’m usually looking for ingredients- fruits and nuts– that require very little pre-preparation.
What flavor is your top seller?
It actually varies according to location. The vanilla sells the most in all of our retail partner/restaurant locations. Mint and Choc are close runners up. But on the truck, we sell quite a bit Thai Tea, Key Lime, and we just launched Maple Cardamom, which sold out last week!
Which flavor is your personal favorite?
They are all my kids, but I tend to like whatever my newest flavor is, because I’m not yet used to it.
Have you ever made a “milk shake” with your ice creme? If so, for us making one at home, which “milk” would you suggest using?
Absolutely!! My mom makes shakes from my experiments all the time. We like Almond milk for the shakes. That, and a touch of vanilla extract for any of the rich flavors (I suppose you could make a fruity one with Rastaberry, or Key Lime, in which case I’d skip the vanilla).
What do you like most about your work?
I love to create new combinations. I love getting a flavor idea, prototyping it, and seeing it through to completion. There’s that moment when I know I nailed it. Then having people taste and enjoy it, there’s nothing like that feeling. I also created a flavor, Kiwi Passion, to benefit Greenpeace. (Backstory is on our website). proceeds from Kiwi Passion sales go to Greenpeace to support their various causes. To be able to use my product to help a movement I believe in is a great feeling.
Do you have any advice for people who want to create a food product?
In any business, having working capital is crucial. There are so many hidden costs, and if you’re like me, you tend to underestimate your needs. Working on a shoestring isn’t fun. Also, make a product you care about. Don’t look at food ‘trends’ and say, “I should get in on that” (I mean, you can– if you want, but still…) I believe in making a quality product that means something to you. The ‘meaning something to you’ part will insure you’ll stay mindful of the quality, and won’t accept cutting corners. You’ll also be enthusiastic about it, and that makes such a difference in getting people to support it. If you make a good product with quality ingredients, your customers will show up and they will stay around.
Thank you Diane!