Updated: May 12, 2019
The explosive economic growth of large retailers and companies emphasizing efficiency and availability has been accompanied by a parallel growth of interest in local businesses; some consumers seek to find a balance between the two, and others have attempted to turn entirely to community-makers and growers. Perceived benefits include products that are "farm-fresh," an ability to trace produce and meat more easily to their origins and greater knowledge of farming conditions. Also, opportunities to build and fortify local community relationships, contribute to the local economy, and offer more personalized service, etc. Locally sourced food, in particular, has been a major sector of growth. Across the United States, restaurants—Michelin star, farm-to-table, and 'fast casual' companies like Chipotle alike—have made locally sourced ingredients a core value and admittedly, a marketing tool.
Whole Foods has incorporated local products into all its aisles, citing an increasing emphasis on seasonality of produce, boosting local economies, farming practices that maximize biodiversity, and an ability to reflect the character and texture of local communities as reasons for their inclusion. Although the most direct exposure would obviously be patronage at local storefronts, etc., Whole Foods (which defines local as within state lines, or in larger states like California, as regions within states) can be an excellent resource for companies and consumers alike to reach a wider audience.
Over the last few weeks, we dipped into some of the community-adored local products in Whole Foods aisles, starting with a fan favorite: ice cream! We ate our way through the numerous options to bring you our favorites.
Mr. Green Tea,Brooklyn
Mr. Green Tea was founded in 1968 in Brooklyn by Santo Emanuele, who developed their three original flavors (green tea, red bean, and ginger) in response to the burgeoning NYC Japanese restaurant scene. The company is now run by its third generation, and supplies numerous NYC restaurants. Sourced from vendors who use non-GMO ingredients, Mr. Green Tea emphasizes tractability to the original non-GMO seed, and is also rBGH and corn-syrup free.
As much as my inner child would be deeply upset at this justification, I simply adore the Mr. Green Tea pints because they aren't too sweet; the green tea pint, in particular, has an excellent balance of a strong, bitter matcha flavor and enough sweetness to still be satisfying for a wider range in palates. The ice cream is light enough that you could eat the whole pint in one sitting relatively guilt-free (and as a lactose intolerant person, without feeling gross afterward).
Green Tea ($5.99)
Red Bean ($5.99)
Van Leeuwen, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Van Leeuwen is definitely an NYC fan favorite. Founded in the spring of 2008 in a 'classic' American ice cream truck, the company quickly amassed a cult following, with legions of devotees tracking the vehicle around the city. The ice cream itself is produced in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. According to their website, ingredients are sourced from both local and international artisan farmers; the 'Classic' scoops are made from fresh milk and cream, cane sugar, and egg yolks, and the Vegan scoops are made with house-made cashew milk, organic coconut milk, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic cane sugar, pure cocoa butter, and organic carob beans. There are definitely more flavors (and seasonal options) available at their storefront locations, but the Whole Foods selection offers around eight of their most popular options.
We like the Earl Grey pint for its concentrated tea flavor and creaminess. Even those on our staff who are more disinclined to floral flavors find it well-balanced enough to be a favorite.
Earl Grey Tea ($7.99)
Sicilian Pistachio [nondairy] ($10.99)
Cookies & Cream ($7.99)
Oddfellows Williamsburg, Brooklyn
OddFellows was founded in June 2013 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in response to those ever-eclectic pregnancy cravings. One of the co-founders' desire for a savory ice cream option during pregnancy thought up the popular NYC chain. The ice cream is pasteurized at the Brooklyn location using locally-sourced, hormone-free, additive-free dairy.
Flavors at the storefronts fluctuate daily (!!), but the Whole Foods aisle features five to six options, including more classic pints like Dark Chocolate Chunk. The Miso Cherry ice cream is definitely one of the more unique fusion flavors on this list, and is the most successfully umami choice.
Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream ($9.99)
Miso Cherry Ice Cream ($9.99)
Blue MarblE ICE CREAM Cobble hill, Brooklyn
This year, Blue Marble celebrates its 12th year of operation. Founders Alexis and Jennie created the company to "offer a product that made tastebuds happy and hearts feel good." The first location opened in Cobble Hill, but you may have seen their pints on a much more national scale (their mini cups are available on JetBlue's premium class menu). The dairy is certified organic and therefore has no growth hormones, no pesticides used in the cultivation of any ingredients, and no GMOs.
Blue Marble has nine flavor options, and the Organic Strawberry is, according to their website, their most celebrated flavor. It's described as "part sweet, part tart... [and] uses peak season strawberries free from pesticides and GMOs."
Organic Sea Salt Caramel ($8.99)
Organic Strawberry ($8.99)
Monsieur Singh Prospect park, Brooklyn
Monsieur Singh started as a Lassi (the Indian dahi-based drink) pop-up in Mount Kisco, NY, but transitioned to serving a frozen version of the product in an attempt to assume a more niche sector of the food scene. The founder, Karan Gera, started selling his pints in Prospect Park, and eventually made appearances at Smorgasburg and other NYC brick and mortar establishments.
The most popular and classic flavor is the Mango Lassi, which features a blend of probiotic yogurt, Indian alphonso mango (sourced from local farmers in Ratnagiri), crushed Indian spearmint, and ground ginger. The combination of spices is intended to balance the creaminess of the yogurt and fruit, and help consumers avoid indigestion. At this time, it appears as if Monsieur Singh has not yet opened a storefront, so Whole Foods is the way to go.
Mango Lassi ($6.99)
Frozen Passion Chia Lassi ($6.99)
Ample Hills Creamery Red hook, Brooklyn
Ample Hills Creamery is particularly unique in its inclusion of pre-made pints, with carefully curated mix-ins. The brownie bites, oatmeal lace cookies, and butter pecan brittle, amongst numerous other options, are also made in-house at the Red Hook factory, and Ample Hills claims to be just as much of a bakery as a creamery.
The flavors are undoubtedly unique; the company is currently promoting their Flavor Frenzy Winner: Breakfast Trash (Cap’n Crunch, Frosted Flakes and Corn Pops-infused ice cream mixed with Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops). At Whole Foods, the concoctions are less elaborate, but best-sellers like the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake pint (vanilla with St. Louis style butter cake) still incorporate those characteristic mix-ins.
Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ($9.99)
Malai Cobble hill, Brooklyn
Founded by an NYU Stern graduate, Malai Ice Cream operates out of one storefront in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and floats around various Brooklyn food halls and festivals, including Gotham Market at the Ashland and a round at Smorgasburg in both Williamsburg and Prospect Park. The creamery reinterprets classic Indian dessert flavors in frozen form. The pints themselves are made with eggless bases, in order to accommodate a traditionally vegetarian customer base.
The most popular flavor available at Whole Foods is Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, and is a great option for those who like sweet, floral, and generously spiced desserts.
Pint Pick: Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds ($9.99)
Tipsy Scoop Gramercy, Manhattan
Tipsy Scoop is the product of generations of ice cream makers, including the former President of the Ice Cream Alliance of Great Britain (who knew this was a thing?) All flavors are inspired by classic and contemporary cocktails, and are up to 5% ABV. Eat responsibly, folks!
Bourbon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($10.99)