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Dairy-free Ice Cream

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 18 non-dairy ice cream brands.

We also look at palm oil, animal rights, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Froneri Ice Cream and give our recommended buys.

About 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.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying dairy-free ice cream:

  • Is it organic? For agricultural workers and local people, the health impacts of extensive agrochemical use are numerous, not to mention the environmental issues. Opt for organic bananas.

  • Is it a vegan company? Choosing a vegan product may be easier than finding a vegan company. Several of the companies that own brands in this guide have been linked to animal rights issues from animal testing to the production of foie gras. Look for a completely vegan company.

  • Is it local? In terms of reducing ‘food miles’ and supporting your local economy, it is best to buy direct from farm shops and local businesses – providing cattle are organically managed and other ice cream ingredients are sustainably sourced.

Best Buys

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying dairy-free ice cream:

  • Does it contain palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to massive deforestation and serious violations of human rights. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably or avoid it completely.

  • Profits over people? 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. 

  • Is it grown using pesticides? Synthetic pesticides and herbicides threaten insect populations, contaminate water sources and can have ecosystem-wide knock-on effects. Look for organic certification to avoid ingredients grown with these chemicals, and to support farming methods that are more in tune with nature.

Companies 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. If you are vegan, you might want to avoid its brand:

  • Almond Dream

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

CO YO Ice Cream [A]


Food Heaven ice cream [A]


It's only natural ice lolly [A]


Jollyum icecream [A] [O]

Company Profile: Jollyum Ltd

Okobay ice cream [A]


Snowconut [A]

Company Profile: The Coconut Collaborative

Zen Zen ice cream [A]

Company Profile: ZENZEN FOOD LTD

Booja-Booja non-dairy ice cream [A,O]

Company Profile: The Booja Booja Company Ltd

Toffuti non-dairy ice cream [A]

Company Profile: Tofutti Brands Inc

Oatly ice cream [A]

Company Profile: Oatly Group AB [was Havre Global AB]

Fruit shoot Ice Lolly

Company Profile: Froneri [WAS R&R Ice Cream Ltd}

R- Whites ice lolly

Company Profile: Froneri [WAS R&R Ice Cream Ltd}

Ben & Jerry's non-dairy ice cream

Company Profile: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.

M & S coconut milk icecream [A]

Company Profile: Marks & Spencer Group plc

Swedish Glace [A]

Company Profile: Unilever UK Ltd

Tesco Free From Ice Cream

Company Profile: Tesco plc

Rowntree Fruit Pastille ice lolly

Company Profile: Froneri [WAS R&R Ice Cream Ltd}

What is most important to you?

Product sustainability

Our Analysis

Please note: this guide was written in 2015 and should be used for reference only. It is scheduled for an update in 2022.

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.

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. 

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

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

Palm oil rating

Booja Booja palm oil free
Jollyum palm oil free
Real Nice palm oil free
CO YO palm oil free
Snowconut palm oil free
Zen Zen palm oil free
It's only natural palm oil free
Okobay palm oil free
M&S 14
Swedish Glace 14
Rowntree Fruit Pastille 11
Toffuti 10
Oatly 10
Tesco 8
R Whites, Fruitshoot 5
Food Heaven 0
Almond Dream 0

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 Profile

Froneri Ice Cream is a joint venture between R&R and Nestlé, and also has licensing agreements to make Cadbury, Mondelez and other branded ice creams. Its two main shareholders are Nestlé, and R&R's owners, the Paris-based private equity firm PAI Partners, which has investments in Labeyrie Fine Foods, a company that sells foie gras...

Want more information?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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  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