The Perfect Scoop
When David Taylor and his wife began a plant-based diet nine years ago, they quickly realized how absolute the lifestyle change was.
After gradually removing fish, eggs, and cheese from their diets, they ran into difficulty finding restaurants that could accommodate meals without animal products. Desserts were the trickiest, as most contain eggs, the gold standard for texture in baked goods. A further complication: Taylor just happened to have a love for ice cream and the idea of rarely eating it did not sit well with him.
So, he began tinkering.
Emboldened by what he learned in an ice cream making course in Austin, TX, Taylor decided to take on an incredible challenge: making delicious, creamy, premium, plant-based ice cream that is 100% vegan. Months later, Taylor and his wife’s labor of love, Cielo Scoops, was born. They have developed 22 flavors, and have several seasonal flavors planned for this summer. They will make their official debut in March at the Farmer’s Market on Herff Farm in Boerne, TX.
Fresh off a soft launch, customers can pre-order pints or ice cream cakes at Herff Farm every Saturday. Flavors include the usual vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, but also unique concoctions such as Sunflower Chocolate Chip, Lavender, and Avocado Lime.
Taylor’s goal was to create a product that any diet could accommodate, so the entire menu is dairy-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly, vegan, and 100% plant-based. With food allergies impacting 32 million Americans and veganism becoming a more mainstream diet (6%, up from 1% in 2014), there is plenty of need for a business such as Cielo. And who doesn’t want more dessert options?
“We strived to make our menu all-inclusive,” Taylor says.
The Science of Ice Cream
Creating a completely plant-based product isn’t easy. As an example, one might assume that the sugar derived from sugar beets or sugar cane is vegan. Not necessarily, says Taylor. Much of the sugar produced in the U.S. is processed using bone char filtration, composed of cattle bones, used as a decolorizing filter, to make the sugar white. Many vegans avoid consuming products made with sugar produced this way.
Another issue Taylor faced was creating a smooth creamy texture that mimics ice cream made with dairy. A tall order, considering humans have had thousands of years to perfect desserts made with dairy and eggs. Taylor developed his flavors using sun butter (made from sunflower seeds) coconut, cashews, almonds, peanut, and fruit bases. The process of developing ice cream recipes was essentially the most fun science experiment ever.
“There was a ton of research involved,” Taylor says. “We had to constantly evaluate and modify ingredients. Optimal liquid absorption is key to create a thicker consistency so that when it freezes, it freezes like the ice cream we are familiar with.”
Another hiccup was COVID. He’d just finished completing the ice cream course when the pandemic hit. Materials, machines, and ingredients that he wanted to use became hard to get. A compostable paper container to house the ice cream in was sold out (they settled for a recyclable plastic container), but Taylor is researching and developing a more sustainable packaging solution. Both commercial and residential freezers, bought by people in a panic, were also sold out. When he finally tracked down the freezer he wanted, the manufacturer didn’t have any left in the warehouse. It had to be built. Which delayed production by 12 weeks.
“No one would have predicted these kinds of stumbling blocks in starting a business,” Taylor says. “And don’t ask the banks for money because they were managing COVID relief with PPP (Payment Protection Program) and EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loans). They were so busy, they didn’t have time for a new business venture when so many businesses were in jeopardy of failing. So, my wife and I made a conscious effort to fund this ourselves.”
A Spring Opening
Taylor decided to set up shop at the farmer’s market in Boerne as an introduction to his community. Their soft launch was very successful, and Taylor believes in building his community. In addition, Taylor wants his company to grow organically. The cost of retail space is risky, and he did not want to be obligated to a long lease and the pressure of selling enough ice cream to pay the rent.
Once the market goes live in March, they will set up a booth so people can browse the menu and sample all the flavors. With COVID rates going down, a trend that should continue throughout 2021, Cielo Scoops’ bumpy beginnings will hopefully be a thing of the past.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re working in the OR, CSPD, or selling ice cream, perseverance is the key if you are going to be successful,” Taylor says.
Do you or anyone you know have an interesting side business? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and be featured in the next Side Gigs column.