Chicago’s woman-owned vegan gelato startup, Sacred Serve, just debuted fully sustainable food packaging for its all-natural ice cream — a first for the U.S.
Developed by London’s Delipac over the course of eight years, the fully biodegradable “plastic-free paperboard” combines paper fibers and a water-based moisture barrier instead of a polyethylene coating.
The new material is used to create visually unique lidless cartons, more closely resembling takeout boxes than traditional ice cream containers. These are fully biodegradable in water or soil and can be composted at home or industrially. They can also be recycled in any waste stream.
The majority of curbside recycling programs in the U.S. do not accept typical ice cream containers, which usually feature plastic-coated cardboard. This coating prevents leakage but makes cartons almost impossible to deconstruct or reuse.
“This has been a MAJOR sustainability issue for the frozen category,” wrote founder and CEO Kailey Donewald on Facebook. “When I first started Sacred Serve, my goal was simple: prove that ALL food, even indulgent ones, can and should be more healing than harmful.”
Speaking to LIVEKINDLY, she explained: “Our mission has always been to change the landscape of food being offered to consumers, and while I initially set out to tackle that from a nutritional standpoint, I learned very quickly just how integral packaging was to the conversation.”
“It wasn’t until I started this company that I even learned of the sustainability issues facing the frozen set,” she added. “We can only be as healthy as where our food comes from.”
Donewald, a certified holistic health practitioner, founded Sacred Serve after experiencing firsthand the relationship between diet and health.
She has said previously that swapping dairy for raw food helped to cure her chronic allergies and chooses the flavors and ingredients for her gelato accordingly — based on what combinations she believes are beneficial for the body.
These include nutrient-dense Chaga mushrooms, mineral-packed cacao, and sunflower lecithin, which contains phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, choline, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
As a base, Donewald combines organic, young Thai coconut meat — which is much lower in fat than mature coconut and rich in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes — with other natural ingredients, including a small quantity of unrefined, low-glycemic coconut sugar.
Flavors include Saffron Chai Spice, Matcha Mint Chip, Coconut Salted Caramel, and Chaga Chocolate. Each flavor is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, soy-free, allergen-friendly, and cold-crafted to preserve nutrients.
By combining healthy, natural ingredients with sustainable food packaging, the company hopes to revolutionize the industry.
The environmental impact of ice cream containers
Because traditional plastic-based ice cream containers frequently resemble simple cardboard, many people mistakenly toss them into the recycling anyway, leading to extensive contamination. Overall, approximately one out of every four items found in recycling is actually non-recyclable.
Major frozen dessert companies such as Ben & Jerry’s are working around the difficulties of ice cream packaging by simply reducing the quantity of plastic used. While in 2020, Magnum launched fully recycled plastic tubs, the first ice cream producer to do so.
But now that Sacred Serve has launched a recyclable option, other companies in the sector — and across the food storage space in general — could utilize the unique biodegradable material for their own products.
Speaking to Forbes earlier this month, she explained that Sacred Serve spent four years trying to find a partner that would help eliminate plastic from the brand’s packaging.
“Companies aren’t making the switch because it’s an enormous undertaking and more costly,” said Donewald. “I think it will take more consumer pushback to get larger brands to take action.”
“We will be the first, with many to closely follow,” she added.
Sacred Serve’s vegan gelato is available online, from Foxtrot Market in Chicago, at Whole Foods Market in the midwest, from Erewhon Market on the West Coast, and at various other independent retailers nationwide.