What if you could devour a whole container of your favorite ice cream and not feel terrible about it afterward? And what if that ice cream was actually good for your health?
It sounds too good to be true, right?
University of Virginia alumnus Bennett Reck says it’s not. He believes he’s found a way for ice cream lovers not to berate themselves every time they creep toward their freezer.
The Connecticut native, who graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce in 2015, spent two years researching and working with food scientists and industry experts to understand the science behind ice cream.
The result is what he calls RIPE Gelato.
“I think we all deserve to indulge in the foods that we love,” Reck said.
Last week, as part of Crowdfunded Pitch Night at the Tom Tom Founders Festival, Reck earned a spot in the Community Investment Collaborative’s 16-week entrepreneurs workshop in Charlottesville.
“We felt [his] business would be a great fit for our program,” the collaborative’s president, Stephen Davis, said. “We’re always looking for entrepreneurs who have done some work to develop their idea, but who could benefit from our structured program and network of support.”
The other winners from the event were a homemade skin- and hair-care company called Whipped Cream LLC, which received a coveted spot in UVA’s i.Lab; and Satellite, which runs a remote summer program for students who want to learn how to become innovators.
Whipped Cream was started by Charlottesville native Cordell Fortune, whose wife, Christina, created the signature skin cream, SheaMango. “We want to use this platform to let everybody know about all the local black entrepreneurs who come from Charlottesville,” Fortune said. “If it wasn’t for my community around me and my family who have supported me from the start, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Jason Brewster, director of i.Lab's incubator program at UVA, has high hopes for Fortune.
“I think there’s a pretty big opportunity for him – especially in the African-American health and beauty space,” Brewster said. “It’s unbelievable how untapped that market is.”
Satellite was started by UVA undergrads Yash Tekriwal, Allison Garrett and Andy Page, who met at HackCville, where they were teaching programs in entrepreneurship, data science and graphic design.
“Everything is video-based online,” said Tekriwal, who will be graduating from the McIntire School of Commerce next month, “and we think it’s time that we make better use of the internet of learning.”
But back to that ice cream.
As a lifelong aficionado, Reck said he came to realize there weren’t any ice creams that were both healthy and delicious.
Reck said there are a lot of products on today’s market that taste great – but they use refined sugars and artificial ingredients.
Conversely, he said there are brands that are very healthy – but they don’t taste like ice cream.
“When I want ice cream,” Reck said, “I’m not looking for a thick smoothie.”
Reck’s secret sauce is the use of avocado.
“They provide the fats you need to attain that creamy, indulgent texture that we all want in ice cream – but they’re healthy fats, rather than harmful fats,” Reck explained. “Based on that, I chose every ingredient in RIPE to be both functional and flavorful.”
Reck said he uses ingredients like ginger for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and pure maple syrup for its mineral content and flavor.
The result is a non-dairy ice cream that, rather than being made with soy milk, coconut milk or nuts, is made from avocados – though, funny enough, Reck said RIPE doesn’t taste like avocados.
RIPE comes in three flavors: cacao, golden milk and salted maple. It is currently available for purchase at two Union Kitchen Grocery locations in Washington, D.C., with plans to expand this summer.
Reck said RIPE is about a bigger mission.
“I’m deeply passionate about nutrition,” he said, “and I think food is the way we can move toward a proactive and preventive health care picture.
“But in order to that, the healthy food has to taste really great and be the food that people want.”