Look out Arctic Zero and Halo Top. There's a new healthy ice cream called RIPE Gelato that's hitting shelves in the DC area with a secret ingredient I bet you can't guess. You wouldn't think it, but this nutrient-dense and low-calorie ice cream gets its creaminess from avocado. 

Wondering who was inventive enough to think of making ice cream out of avocado? Let me enlighten you.

The RIPE Vision

RIPE founder Bennett was a UVA grad working in DC when he began experimenting with making his own ice cream. I reached out to Bennett after learning about RIPE Gelato at Tom Tom Founder's Festival in Charlottesville, an annual celebration of community, food, art, and entrepreneurship. 

In just two years, Bennett has gone from an ice cream rookie to the developer of a truly innovative formula with the help of Virginia Tech and Penn State Creamery food scientists. However, Bennett admits there was a lot of trial and error in between. He learned that ice cream is all about the perfect combination of fat, protein, water, and air and that it's lot more like the precise science of baking than the creative art of cooking. 

He knew that ice cream was traditionally made from milk because of the combination of protein and fat. Bennett wanted to make a more nutritious dairy-free ice cream, though, so he experimented with how to get the perfect ratios from plant-based ingredients. 

The Base Ingredients

As advertised, the base of RIPE gelato is made from avocados. Yes, that means no dairy, soy, or nut-based milks. In fact, RIPE is free from the eight most common allergens

From there, each ingredient is intentionally chosen to maximize nutritional benefits without sacrificing flavor. Every pint of RIPE gelato contains 17 grams of plant protein. This comes from another ingredient you wouldn't expect to find in ice cream—fava beans. Not only do they add protein, they also keep RIPE extremely creamy—a texture missing from some of those other healthy ice creams.

Because RIPE is a commercially-made product, it needs stabilizers that may not be added to homemade desserts. Unlike other brands that choose the cheapest add-ins, RIPE uses tara gum, a prebiotic high in fiber, as well as sunflower lecithin, a brain supplement

To round out the flavor with a little bit of sweetness, RIPE Gelato is sweetened with maple syrup. Maple is packed with essential minerals and also promotes sustainable tree farming

RIPE Flavors

The RIPE Gelato flavors are just as innovative as using avocado for the base. I got the chance to sample each one and I was not only amazed by the taste, but also the creamy decadence.

The first flavor I sampled was cacao. The raw cacao that RIPE uses is packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are proven to improve your mental and physical health. It was just the right amount of sweet, like a semisweet chocolate chip

Next up was goldenmilk. For those unfamiliar with the flavor that's been killing the latte scene lately, it is a combination of turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric contributes bright color as well as anti-inflammatory and heart healthy properties. Personally, I think it adds earthy richness to the flavor as well. 

Ginger is anti-bacterial and helps with muscle recovery and blood sugar regulation. Plus, it adds a spicy kick I wasn't expecting but loved. 

Maple is the base of every flavor, but don't let that trick you into not trying the Salted Maple flavor on its own. The addition of pink himalayan sea salt creates the perfect balance of sweet and salty that I always look for in desserts. It's why I never forget that sprinkle of sea salt on top of my cookies

I've tried my fair share of disappointing ice cream substitutes and I would go so far as to say that I would choose RIPE over any full-fat, full-sugar, dairy-packed dessert on the market. The flavors are bold and interesting, making me want to go back for more. 

Although only three flavors are available now, Bennett says that there are many more on the horizon. He hinted that he's thinking about coffee, black sesame, and—the one that I'm the most excited about—mango cayenne. 

The Skinny on RIPE

Instead of focusing on advertising low calories and high protein content while hiding the long list of artificial ingredients, RIPE Gelato combines the best of both worlds. Bennett, the founder, wanted to make sure that flavor came first. He was tired of healthy ice creams that tasted nothing like their indulgent predecessors. 

The result is a nutrient-packed gelato that is arguably better than the original. It's vegan, raw, refined-sugar free, gluten-free, additive-free, and free from all of the most common food allergens

If you just can't wait to try RIPE Gelato, you'll have to find it in a local DC grocery store, like Union Kitchen Grocery. It should start hitting the shelves of Whole Foods around the DC metro area in summer 2018.

Then, if all goes well, RIPE Gelato will be able to expand to more metro areas on the East Coast and, soon enough, you'll be able to order it online from anywhere in the country—including your couch. This is the kind of food innovation I'm living for.