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August 2006
Myth: Soy Ice Cream is Awful

Tempt Me!
The Satya Interview with Ryan Howard and Dan Ziegler


Chicagoans have long known about this decadent frozen dessert, as any visitor to the Chicago Diner would know. But the secret is out: Temptation vegan ice cream has gone nationwide.

Temptation was started in 2001 by Ryan Howard and Dan Ziegler, a couple of best friends who simply wanted to help animals. What began as a small Chicago soy dairy, We Love Soy, exploded into a full-blown, vegan ice cream endeavor, Temptation, now churning out nine delicious flavors—Peach Cobbler, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Strawberry, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, and fair trade, organic Coffee, Chocolate and Green Tea. Temptation is growing in availability, stocked in Whole Foods markets and natural food stores across the country (and if you don’t see it, ask for it—your taste buds will thank you).

Vegans for over 14 years, Dan and Ryan understand that one way to spread the animal liberation message is through really good ice cream. Vegan ice cream addict Maureen C. Wyse had a chance to ask Dan Ziegler and Ryan Howard about their dreamy ice cream.

So, how did you end up in the ice cream business?
Dan Ziegler: While Ryan was in college and driving from Perdue to Chicago, passing all the soy bean fields, he was like, it doesn’t make sense, all the soy beans are grown here, shipped to California, processed into soymilk and shipped back here. Let’s do a local soy dairy! So, we started out doing soymilk and selling it locally. One day one of our customers said, ‘Hey, do you guys do ice cream?’ And of course me, being the practical one, was going to say no, but before I could Ryan said, ‘Yeah we do ice cream.’ So Ryan came up with recipes in his head, made it, it tasted good, and the rest is history.

Tell us a bit of the history of the Temptation factory.
Ryan Howard: Back in 2001, when Dan and I incorporated, the plant was my basement—we tore everything up, put in wash-down walls, pitched floors, made it an FDA approved food processing facility. It was all totally DIY. We even transported the soymilk in a homemade freezer trailer—a 1,500 BTU air conditioner on top of a trailer that enclosed an insulated trailer. As we got into ice cream, we got bigger pieces of equipment and moved into a plant. Now we can make 400 gallons a day, if not more.

Okay, we know it’s good, and in my opinion, the best out there. But tell me why is it so good? I know you both like to brag…
RH: Dan and I have both been vegan for over 14 years and we weren’t going to put something out on the market unless it was amazing. We worked our butts off and didn’t stop formulating until we found something we knew was the best. We are committed to quality and believe the way we can save animals is by making a vegan ice cream that tastes like dairy ice cream. So that’s what we did. We make our own soymilk, which gives us a real clean base with no soy or bean aftertaste. Also, we use very specialized equipment so our soy ice cream is made the way proper ice cream ought to be. In fact, Ciao Bella Gelato—one of the largest gelato companies in the country—said we have the best soy ice cream and they’ve tried all of them.
DZ: It’s denser, like if you compare a pint of our stuff to a pint of the other stuff, it actually weighs more. That’s because we don’t whip as much air into the product as the other guys do. So we have a better tasting product.

You boast that your ice cream is manufactured in a facility 100 percent devoid of nuts and dairy. Is this really true?
RH: Absolutely. We kind of stumbled into this [specialized allergy] market. We started getting calls from mothers who noticed we didn’t have any flavors with peanuts or tree nuts in them. They also asked if it was made on dairy equipment. All of the other soy ice creams are processed at dairy plants, so there is always going to be some potential contamination from dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. So, mothers were telling us that their kid had never had ice cream before and it totally tugged at our heartstrings. We realized there was a little niche for us and we filled it. We are the only vegan, peanut-free, tree nut-free and egg-free soy ice cream facility in the country and probably in the world.

I heard a bit about your backgrounds. Ryan, you have some engineering and biochemistry. Dan, you’re a phone man?
RH: I went vegan when I was a freshman in high school. I lived with my grandmother and she had to learn how to make vegan food for me. Her rule was, if it didn’t taste good, she wouldn’t make it. So I learned that if you’re going to make vegan food, it has to taste good to someone who isn’t vegan. I was always into selling vegan food. I had a little cookie company in high school and made $200 a week. Most of the time people wouldn’t know it was vegan.

I went to Perdue University, which had a biochemical and food process engineering degree. I got to take some food science and biochemistry courses and they blew my mind.
DZ: Well, Ryan has better credentials than I do. I became vegan in 1992, back in little Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population 30,000, land of cheese and dairy. I moved to Indianapolis, where I met Ryan and ended up getting a job as a technician at the phone company. It was a good gig, but when Ryan called me and said let’s start a business, I said sure. Ryan and I work pretty well together. He’s kind of the crazy scatter brained engineer, but really good at inventing new products and taking care of the machines. I’m a bit more organized and pretty creative with marketing and stuff like that. Things that he forgets I remember. I think it’s a good team.

Do you ever find it hard to push a vegan product? How do you make the sell?
RH: The best way to sell this product is to let people taste it. It really tastes better than dairy ice cream. We just won an award in Illinois for being the most innovative small manufacturer from the state. It was a business plan and product development contest for a huge agriculture state, and we won! It validated us as a real company, having experts in the manufacturing field judge what they believe is potentially the future of ice cream.
DZ: Is it hard? Oh god, no. I found it hard working for the phone company. Getting up every morning, thinking about splicing wires together—that’s hard. Going to sell a product I helped create, that is easy.

Your fair trade and organic coffee and chocolate flavors are pretty amazing. Coffee and chocolate are two pretty contentious social issues. How did you guys track these ingredients down?
RH: Good news, our green tea is fair trade now too. Getting fair trade certified is super easy. All you have to do is contact TransFair USA and they are more than happy to help you. Fair trade is more expensive, but the bottom line is we create an ethical product. If the option is out there, we have to do it.

Unfortunately, our chocolate chips aren’t fair trade because there are no fair trade organic chocolate chips made on dedicated dairy-free equipment. So if we used fair trade chocolate chips, we wouldn’t be able to cater to the people who are dairy-free. We did some soul searching on that.
DZ: It just seemed like a very easy decision for me. It’s like if you know that fur animals are anally electrocuted and made to be cannibals, how can you possibly buy and wear a fur coat? A lot of people just turn off, they put blinders on and ignore the terrible things going on in the world, they just like to live their life and not be inconvenienced by anything.

You guys are pretty radical vegan/AR people. Do you think you’re spreading the message with…ice cream?
DZ: Now that we’re getting more successful, we can afford new packaging. It’ll actually have animal rights messages on it that talks about the suffering that is a result of the dairy industry and about factory farmed chickens and eggs. There’s a ton of eggs used in dairy ice cream. And the new containers will be paper so anyone can recycle them. We just had a fundraiser for the SHAC7 and Peter Young a few weeks ago. We raised a ton of money and it was a lot of fun. The more successful we get, the more we’ll be able to do those things.
RH: Basically, we have taken a stance that we are not going to manufacture our product on shared dairy equipment. All other soy ice creams are made by dairies, co-packed by dairies and shipped out by dairies. So they support the dairy industry, which basically supports veal. Last year some 700,000 calves were killed for veal. Also down and old dairy cows become hamburger. So if you’re vegan it’s not the most ethical decision you can make. We want to provide the best tasting, most ethical soy ice cream.

What’s your favorite flavor?
RH: Hmm, well there’s Cookie Dough, and then there’s everything else.
DZ: Oh god… [Long pause.] Well, what’s kind of crazy is I hate coffee but I really love our coffee flavor. I had a lot to do with our peach cobbler so I’m kind of fond of that, too.

Anything else you want to add?
RH: Go vegan, make all your friends go vegan. Tell your parents about it. Eat more vegan ice cream, every single day. And eat your greens too. And if your local health food store does not carry Temptation, go to our website, print off the info sheet and bring it in to them. If they get enough info sheets, they’ll start picking it up.

To learn more contact www.welovesoy.com or (630) 629-9667.



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