Dairy-free Ice Cream

Ethical shopping guide to Dairy-free Ice Cream, from Ethical Consumer.

Ethical shopping guide to Dairy-free Ice Cream, from Ethical Consumer.

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This report includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings of 18 brands
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • organic ice cream
  • palm oil scores
  • cocoa sourcing ratings


See also our guide to Dairy Ice Cream 

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Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


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Best Buys

as of Sept/Oct 2015

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


The Best Buys for dairy-free ice cream are Booja Booja and Jollyum ice cream, and Real Nice ice lollies.

All three brands are organic and palm oil free.

to buy

Image; Dairy Free Booja


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Special Report

We take a look at the issue of Palm Oil


Dairy-free ice cream 


Dairy-free options for ice creams are increasing, along with the ever widening use and experimentation of plant milks. Soya-based iced desserts have been joined by cashew nut, coconut, almond, oat, fruit and even hemp frozen desserts.

We have covered the main dairy-free ice creams. Many more dairy-free options exist, but distribution of products appears limited. If you come across any products not covered in this guide, look for certified organic or Fairtrade options and check the ingredients.

image: dairy free ice cream in ethical shopping guide


Coconut products are becoming increasingly popular, and in many instances are being used as an alternative to palm oil. Companies that use coconut as a core ingredient in at least one of their dairy-free ice creams include CO YO, Snowconut, Okobay, Zen Zen, Marks and Spencer and Booja Booja.

However, just as with palm oil, for a food product’s environmental and social impacts to be minimised, its raw ingredients should be sustainably sourced and avoid harmful agricultural practices. See an interview with Nora Pittenger form Fair Trade USA about ethics in the coconut industry.



Palm oil


The devastating impacts associated with unsustainable palm oil production may be added to your ice cream’s ingredients. Palm oil commonly coats toffee and butterscotch pieces, and is often used as a cheap source of fat and as an emulsifier in budget ice creams – especially those that have had lots of air whipped into them. Emulsifiers help to keep milk fat evenly dispersed during freezing and storage, which helps to stabilise the air incorporated into the ice cream, providing a smooth frozen desert.

A general rule of thumb for avoiding palm oil: avoid poor quality ice creams with long ingredients lists!

Dairy-free ice cream companies that are palm oil-free are Booja Booja, Jollyum, Real Nice, Planet Coconut, The Coconut Collaborative, Zen Zen, It’s Only Natural and Okobay.


Palm Oil Scores


Booja Booja


Real Nice



Zen Zen

It's only natural



Swedish Glace

Rowntree Fruit Pastille




R Whites, Fruit Shoot

Food Heaven

Almond Dream

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free

palm oil free












Key: Scored out of 20.
Best (14-20)     Middle (8-13)    Worst (0-7)




Bitter sweet sugar


Sugar-related health issues are predicted to cost the NHS £9.7 billion per year by 2050, “with wider costs to society and business projected to reach £49.9 billion per year.”[1] Sugar production is also associated with numerous environmental issues, poor workers’ rights and land grabs.

Although sugar is considered to be an essential ice cream ingredient, some companies are experimenting with alternatives. Booja Booja sweetens its iced desserts with agave syrup for example, and It's Only Natural only uses frozen fruit to make its ice lollies.



Exploiting the taste buds


Along with cocoa, vanilla has been linked to forced child labour, specifically in Madagascar. As always, buying certified products is the simplest method of ensuring you vote for improving workers’ rights standards, with Fairtrade certification generally considered the best standard currently available.
In relation to the UK ice cream market, the Soil Association’s organic certification is the most commonly used standard, which includes a clause on workers’ rights and child labour.

Of the companies making chocolate ice cream, Booja Booja, CO YO, Oatly, Jollyum and the Co-op achieve best ratings for cocoa sourcing.

Although we haven’t rated companies specifically on their vanilla sourcing practices, Fairtrade and organic certified vanilla ice creams are the recommended Ethical Consumer choice.



Company profiles


With a huge share of 46%, Unilever dominates the ice cream market. In late 2011 Unilever bought Ingman Ice Cream and, with it, the brand Swedish Glace. This resulted in the non-dairy ice cream’s ethiscore dropping from 14 (in 2006) to 3.5. Now owned by a company that sells uncertified dairy products and tests on animals, Swedish Glace has become a vegan product to avoid.
In 2013 Vermonters For a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) launched a campaign against Ben & Jerry’s “to stop marketing, catering and selling ice cream in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.” Two years on and the company still refuses to break its ties with Israeli settlements, resulting in VTJP calling for a boycott of the Ben & Jerry’s brand.[2]
Unilever buys approximately 1% of the cocoa produced globally, 95% of which is used in its ice creams. In its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has committed to sourcing all cocoa for its Magnum ice cream sustainably by the end of 2015, and for all other cocoa to be sustainably sourced by 2020.


Almond Dream, owned by the Hain Celestial Group, is another dairy-free ice cream for vegans to avoid. Hain Celestial may own a number of ‘cruelty free’ cosmetics brands such as Alba Botanica, but it is also involved in the production of “All Natural, Antibiotic Free, Vegetarian Fed, Humanely Raised Poultry” through its subsidiary Hain Pure Protein Corporation.

In March 2015 Hain Celestial had its membership to The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspended for not submitting its progress report for two years running. The RSPO suspended the membership of 62 companies in total, and expelled an additional 15, for failing to submit their annual reports for three consecutive years.[3]


R&R Ice Cream Ltd accounts for 10% of the UK ice cream industry, with licensing agreements with Nestlé, Cadbury and Britvic to manufacture their ice creams. R&R is owned by the Paris-based private equity firm PAI Partners, which has investments in the automotive industry and Labeyrie Fine Foods, a company that sells foie gras. The production of foie gras involves the force feeding of ducks or geese via pipes rammed down throats, resulting in the swelling of livers to ten times their normal size, and physical disabilities. Overcrowded living conditions are also common in foie gras production. For further information visit peta.org.

Companies that scored a best for their supply chain management included a number of small independent companies such as Booja Booja, Jollyum and Real Nice.





1 Burrell A, Himics M, Van Doorslaer B, Ciaian P and Shrestha S, 2014, EU Sugar Policy: A Sweet Transition After 2015?, Report EUR 26530 EN, JRC Scientific and Policy Reports, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/default/files/jrc_tr_sugar_study_pubsy_v6.pdf

2 Mark Hage, Time to Boycott Ben & Jerry’s, 18/5/2015, s.coop/1wpcn 

3 RSPO Cleans House of Companies Failing to Meet Standards; NGOs Applaud, 9/3/2015, s.coop/1wpcp 

4 s.coop/1wpcq



This product guide is part of a Special Report on Palm Oil.  See what's in the rest of the report.





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