Organic vs. non-organic ice cream

Sylvana Perczek

Working hard owner Kyle Capriccio stands behind the counter helping customers.
Working hard owner Kyle Capriccio stands behind the counter helping customers.

With summer here, everyone could use a way to cool off. Something that will satisfy that sweet craving. Ice cream is the obvious choice. It’s easy, fast, and everyone loves it. There’s no better sensation than the delicious treat melting in your mouth and hearing the satisfying crunch of a waffle cone.  

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the U.S. produced about 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2013. It is one of the most mass produced desserts in the U.S. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the sale of ice cream rises in March and April, and June is the highest production month of the year. With summer around the corner, every ice cream shop is preparing for the its popular season.

However, people may not realize how their ice cream is really being made. While Marin County specializes in healthy organic food, that is not the case in all parts of the United States.

Located on Magnolia Avenue in Larkspur, Posie is an ice cream shop that offers an array of ice cream, fresh baked goods, lunch and even to-go pints. Owner Kyle Caporicci built his business on a love for food and an idea for organic desserts. Prior to making ice cream, he had experience with food and the restaurant business: straight out of high school he started working as a butcher and then went to culinary school. Going to culinary school taught him a lot about the food industry and led to many different opportunities according to Caporicci. Although it wasn’t ideal, it did lead to more opportunities later on.

“Once I was done with culinary schools I just wanted to focus on really fine dining and modern restaurants. I started getting a lot of press after a certain job and I never turned a resume in again after that. After that I started consulting and being a pastry chef for restaurants,” said Caporicci.

Caporicci moved to Marin from San Francisco with his wife four years ago, and after getting settled, he decided to open up his own ice cream parlor called Posie. All products at Posie are 100 percent organic and fresh. Caporicci wanted to build a place to be able to get something that was unexpected, yet as simple as ice cream. Despite this, people don’t always realize that healthy food is not always cost effective, according to Caporicci.

“Real food costs money. Vanilla is at an all time high right now due to major storms where it’s growing. Farmers lost 20% of their crops this year and I just paid $300 for one pound of vanilla beans, and it’s probably going to go up. It’s hard to imagine an ice cream shop without vanilla, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality,” said Caporicci.

According to Business Insider, over 95% of vanilla flavoring used in foods, from cereal to ice cream, comes from vanillin (artificial version of pure vanilla extract). Caporicci wants to make authentic ice cream that is also 100 percent true to ingredients. Because of this, he is willing to pay the necessary prices for his ingredients.

The farmers market is resource for local businesses to buy fresh and organic fruits, vegetables and ingredients for ice cream. Caporicci is one of the many ice cream shop owners who buys their ingredients from the farmers market. He believes that because he goes to the market, his ice cream is a lot more fresh.

Displaying a vibrant pink color, one of Posie's most popular flavors is Pink Panther.
Displaying a vibrant pink color, one of Posie’s most popular flavors is Pink Panther.

The dilemma with organic food is that they are expensive. Some organic foods cost nearly twice as much as their non-organic counterparts, according to Consumer Reports. Because it requires a lot more labor it turns out to be more costly. Also, organic fruits and vegetables can spoil faster than conventional produce because they are not treated with waxes or preservatives that keep them on the shelves longer.

According to a study done by Oxford University, organic farming may not be better for the environment compared to non organic farming. Researchers cited that organic products such as milk, cereals and pork generate higher greenhouse gas emissions than their conventional counterparts.

Another very popular ice cream shop that is known for its heavenly ice cream is Scoop located in Fairfax. Scoop has now been open for sixteen years and carries a variety of ice cream flavors. The owner, Ray Martin, opened the shop with the goal of it having a home-feel and being affordable to locals. He says that now, people drive all the way across Marin to have this delicious ice cream.

According to Martin, Scoop is known for its fresh and healthy ingredients. Their milk comes from Straus Dairy Martin goes to the farmers market weekly and only purchases organic ingredients like fresh fruit for sorbet and herbs for certain flavors like spearmint or basil.

According to Martin, summertime is often the best time to go to the farmers market because it’s when all the fruits come in like peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries and blueberries. Scoop is very seasonal and will only make flavors using ingredients that are ripe and at their peak.

“The slowest time in terms of flavor variety is spring. In fall and winter you get pumpkin, pomegranates, and all the citrus fruits come in like lemons, oranges, grapefruit. But then you get to February and there’s nothing coming until April when strawberries comes. Other than that there’s quite a variety in nature. Every month there’s something new,” said Martin.

According to Martin, Scoop chooses to be organic because it’s more flavorful, more pure, and better tasting even though it is almost double the cost. According to Martin, Scoop’s ice cream would cost exactly half as much if conventional milk was used.

A lot of big name ice cream companies choose to use non-organic ingredients to save more money. Gottlieb expressed that, what a lot of people don’t realize when they buy cheaper ice cream is that they are often compromising price for quality.

“I don’t wanna brag about my ice cream, but a big company can’t possibly make their food product as well as a small company can. It’s just not possible. You can’t be a big ice cream company and go to the farmers market in San Rafael and taste four different peaches to find the best one,” Martin said.

Martin is aware of how successful Scoop is, but he chooses to not expand or make it more known because he wants to keep it a place for locals. He thinks he would not be able to produce as good of a product if he chose to expand.

A man who did want to expand his business was founder and CEO of Three Twins Ice Cream, Neal Gottlieb. Gottlieb started his company with a vision of selling his ice cream world wide. He had worked in corporate America and then quit that to join the Peace Corps in Morocco. When he came back, he attended business school, but ultimately decided to start his own company instead.

“I started Three Twins as one little scoop shop but always with the goal of building a brand. I’ve been able to grow it from a little scoop shop doing very little business to a national brand,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb started the brand all on his own. He envisioned it becoming national brand even though it started off local. According to Gottlieb, Three Twins is now sold in six thousand markets in the United States as well as internationally. In order to do this, Gottlieb started with his own scoop shop and then started selling at farmers markets. He sold hand packed pints for grocery stores and from there built a factory that now has the capacity to sell to grocery stores all over the the West Coast.

There are two Three Twins ice cream shops in Marin, one in San Francisco and one in Napa. According to Gottlieb the scoop shops are a very small part of the business. As far as sales go, the packaged ice cream is the most profitable because it makes up to 80 percent of the business.

“The biggest challenge was how much cash it took. It takes millions and millions of dollars to build factories and to get products into distribution and pay for self placements,” Gottlieb said.

According to Gottlieb, half of Three Twins’ sales comes from California. This has to do a lot with the fact that it is organic. When asked if Three Twins would consider making its ice cream non-organic, Gottlieb said  it’s not something that they would consider. He believes it’s crucial to the brand to be featured as organic.

“Going from one little scoop shop to now a national brand with 80 full and part time employees nation wide is a huge accomplishment that few people can do. I think it’s a big accomplishment that we have done that by selling fully organic products and as a result put millions and millions of pounds of organic food into the system,” Gottlieb said.

In the 12 years that Gottlieb has worked with organic food, he has noticed  a very significant shift in the knowledge and the desire to incorporate organic foods in people’s diets. According to Gottlieb, he used to get asked all the time what it meant to be organic, but that’s not the case anymore.

Gottlieb wanted to make ice cream because he wanted to make a a great organic product that other people wanted to buy because it was delicious. He wanted to do something that facilitated creativity and ice cream allows him to do that.

Scoop, Three Twins and Posy are just some of the many companies that choose to be organic. According to the owners of Posie, Three Twins, and Scoop, the reason why they are so successful is because they truly care about the product they are selling to their customers. They want to give their consumers the healthiest and best possible product they can make.