As an ice cream lover with lactose intolerance and a commitment to eating plant-rich foods, I have been on the prowl for the perfect non-dairy frozen dessert replacement. In terms of taste, So Delicious’ cashewmilk dessert is one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had (which is saying a lot coming from a self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur). But beyond satisfying my taste buds, the dessert I’m looking for must also align with my ethics, and this frozen dessert is on track to do so. It is clear that So Delicious is committed to sustainability initiatives through its use of organic, non-GMO ingredients that curtail environmental destruction, its more equitable treatment of farmers, its recycled and recyclable packaging, and its reduction of greenhouse gases through only using plant-based ingredients. After all, a single glass of plant-based milk generates 3 times fewer greenhouse gases than does a glass of dairy milk!
I am hesitant to wholeheartedly support this brand due to its lack of transparency, though. As a consumer, I want more information about where they source each ingredient, whether fair-trade varieties are used, how much the workers get paid, and whether research is being done to make the production processes less water intensive. So Delicious is already implementing creative initiatives, like making bottles out of organic sugar cane that biodegrades and sequesters carbon; it’s only a matter of time before they translate these innovations throughout their entire brand. Thus, I will continue to support them on their journey of advocating for a more sustainable future, while also trying to hold them accountable to higher standards of transparency.
So Delicious Dairy Free’s Dark Chocolate Truffle Cashewmilk frozen dessert is certified gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and kosher pareve. It is so refreshing to look at its ingredient list and not only recognize all of the ingredients but also see so many USDA certified organic ingredients. It’s nearly impossible these days to find food that was not grown with noxious pesticides and that does not contain synthetic additives. Its ingredients include:
Cashewmilk (Filtered Water, Cashews), Sugar, Organic Fudge Sauce (Organic Cane Sugar, Water, Organic Cocoa [Processed With Alkali], Organic Tapioca Starch, Organic Chocolate Liquor), Organic Coconut Oil, Chocolate Flake (Cane Sugar, Organic Coconut Oil, Cocoa, Chocolate Liquor, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Organic Cocoa (processed With Alkali), Organic Tapioca Syrup, Pea Protein, Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum.
Given that sugarcane plant production usually uses lots of water and harms ecosystems through the use of pesticides and burning fields, I am relieved to see that this brand opted to use organic cane sugar instead. According to the So Delicious website, the organic cane sugar used does not lead to as much biodiversity loss, eliminates the use of pesticides altogether, and is even able to sequester large amounts of carbon.
The only other ingredient that jumps out at me as being less sustainable is the cashews. Cashew production does not typically destruct ecosystems, as it uses minimal land; however, it is notorious for using a lot of water just like in the almond growing process. It takes 14,218 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of cashews (16,095 liters of water is needed for 1 kilogram of almonds). What is reassuring, though, is that unlike almonds, cashews can be grown in non-drought prone places, like Vietnam and India. Also, for every 200 mL glass of cashew milk, about 0.14 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent gases are produced; whereas a 200 mL glass of cow’s milk produces 0.6 kg of greenhouse gases.
I am thrown off by the fact that there is no specific information about where exactly each ingredient comes from, and who the farmers are. All I know is that So Delicious Dairy Free, just like its parent company Danone North America, is a Certified B Corporation. This means that the brand must meet high standards of social and environmental performance in order to receive independent certification.
As aforementioned, the information gap regarding production specifics is concerning. If I was not able to find virtually any information about the product’s supply chain through extensive research, how can I and my fellow consumers trust that every step of the process surpasses that which is minimally required for sustainability certification?
On the other hand, So Delicious Dairy free is very transparent about its current and future sustainability goals concerning packaging. All packaging used is recyclable, except for the frozen dessert pints and novelty wrappers. This is pretty ubiquitous in the frozen dessert industry, though, since the cartons need to be made of paperboard and a plastic lining of polyethylene to ensure that they will not be broken down by extreme freezer temperatures. To recycle paper and turn it into pulp, water must be added to it, which cannot be done with the ice cream cartons since polyethylene is water resistant. I can forgive this lack of recyclable materials since So Delicious has a goal to make all of its packaging recyclable and made with recycled content by 2025.
Moreover, the boxes used to ship the frozen dessert to the distribution centers are made with recycled paperboard, which can be recycled further. The cardboard used is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, which means it was produced without the use of illegal logging and exploitation of indigenous people and their land. The FSC also ensures that higher environmental standards are upheld within the paper industry through actions like deforestation reduction and carbon sequestration.
So Delicious has made commitments to source its ingredients sustainably, which is evident through its use of UTZ Certified cocoa that comes from farmers who are paid above minimum wage and are not subject to terrible mistreatment. Nonetheless, not all of their products use UTZ Certified cocoa, but they are working on making it omnipresent throughout their line of products. Although they do not release details about how many farmers they work with, what countries the farmers are from, or their wages and treatment, we do know that according to the B Corporation Standards none of their workers are paid below minimum wage, no child or prison labor is used, and there have been no internal or supply chain labor issues reported.
This information is especially imperative, since the cashew industry is notoriously horrific. In Vietnam, many cashews are harvested by prisoners and detained drug users through forced labor. These workers are physically abused by their employers, underpaid or not paid at all, subject to dehydration and toxic pesticides, and do not receive protection against the caustic liquid produced from shelling cashews by hand, which can cause irreversible skin damage. This has led to the apt epithet: “blood cashews.” The B Corporation certification guarantees that all cashew workers receive proper protective equipment, are paid by the hour rather than by output, and are not forced laborers.