Just a few months ago, Julie Bishop was troubleshooting dairy-free gelato recipes during the off hours at Stoplight Gelato, which closed its doors for good in December.
Now O'My Dairy-Free Gelato, the natural plant-based dessert brand that she launched in June with Allison Monette, is stocked at about 100 stores from Richmond to Boston, including Wegman's, Libbie Market, Ellwood Thompson's and just about every other local market in the Richmond area. Monette came up with the idea a few years ago, after noticing the ice cream aisle of the grocery store was missing something.
Monette had been working in consumer packaged goods for PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay Growth Ventures arm, which develops branding for the company's acquisitions, like Stacy's Pita Chips. She liked the management role, but was looking for a new venture of her own.
"I say I'm dairy light [and] we are big dessert people in our house," Monette says. "My husband has either worked for a chocolate or cookie company for the last many years and so I started exploring the dairy-free ice creams." She was not impressed, and set out to find a way to develop a dessert that would be just as satisfying for an audience that wasn't necessarily dairy-free.
"We really wanted a product the whole family would eat," Monette explains, not just the siblings with allergies. She began to interview people with dairy allergies, vegan diets or women nursing babies with dairy allergies. One of those people connected her to Julie Bishop.
"Allison was sharing her vision for a dairy-free dessert, and my background is with Ukrop's Homestyle Foods," Bishop explains. She was with Ukrop's for more than 25 years and had a team of chefs to test recipes.
Now, it was just Bishop and a book.
"We had a lot of discussions on what the product needed to look like: It was going to be indulgent, it was not going to be low-calorie, we were not going to use alternative sweeteners," Bishop says. The team opted for coconut cream because the fat content and creaminess "would result in a product we were happy with."
"In the two years that we have been working on this, the category has come a long way," Monette says. "Ours is definitely unique in the simplicity of the ingredients and how recognizable they are." Each flavor has five to nine natural ingredients and all flavors are allergen-free and genetically unmodified. They tried at least 26 types of vanilla.
Bishop came on as a consultant at first, and joined as a co-founder in January 2018. They held tastings for dairy-free community contacts and local retailers. Worklabs, a local creative brand agency, created the look and packaging, and coined the name. Then they finished the line: the top-selling mint chip, orange cream, root beer float, and coffee chip.
What's next? Strawberry, which will go into production in March at the plant in North Carolina where O'My is churned out. Meanwhile, Monette is excited to round out the offerings.
"Seven is an important number because that's how many pints fit on a shelf," she says with a smile. And with distribution expansion in the works, Monette attributes O'My's early momentum to their vision from the beginning.
"We really wanted it to taste as close to ice cream. Sorbet is delicious, but it's not ice cream."Back to The Vegetarian Issue