Oatly ice cream – sustainability, review

I recently picked up some Oatly chocolate chip ice cream (frozen dessert, technically) at the Grocery Outlet for $1.99. I’m not a huge consumer of ice cream but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review Oatly – all in the name of science! I would have liked to have tried the strawberry flavor as I’ve heard good things about it (e.g., from vegan groups on Reddit) but chocolate chip seems to be the main variety available at the Grocery Outlet.

Bottom line: the ice cream itself is very good – it has nice texture, whether you eat it rock-solid or half-melted. The main downside for me was the chocolate chips – if they were thinner or had a lower melting point then they would meld better with the ice cream. They also didn’t taste like high-quality chocolate.

I honestly think you wouldn’t miss dairy ice cream much if you switched to a plant-based brand like Oatly. Comparing the plant-based brands that I’ve looked at on Ethical Bargains, I think Oatly ice cream is better than Brave Robot, for sure, and it’s almost on par with Ripple chocolate ice cream and So Delicious ice cream or mousse.

All of them are decent choices, although I wouldn’t buy Brave Robot again – it was my least favorite in terms of taste and also got the lowest ethical score of those that I tried (3/5 Green Stars – not terrible by any means). I would probably choose the So Delicious chocolate chip mousse over Oatly – I think it’s healthier and tastier.

Oatly chocolate chip ice cream – ingredients

Oatmilk (water, oats), chocolate chips (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter), coconut oil, sugar, dextrose, dried glucose syrup, low erucic acid rapeseed oil. Contains 2% or less of: natural flavor, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, locust bean gum, guar gum, sea salt.

It’s composed mostly of oatmilk, sugar, coconut oil and some rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil). In terms of sugar content, it’s comparable to regular dairy ice cream brands like Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs. It’s has lower fat content compared to regular dairy ice cream and, importantly, has no trans fat. So, basically it’s a slightly healthier version of ice cream, but it’s still 22% sugar!

Nutrition Facts for Oatly chocolate chip ice cream are shown. one 105 g serving provides 16 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 2 g fiber, 23 g sugars, and 1 g protein. Oatly ice cream sustainability review

Oatly products are glyphosate-free

Oatly guarantees that the oats used are glyphosate-free, which is important. Glyphosate is a special concern for oats because it can be used as a desiccant to dry out the grain before harvesting. So, even though there are no genetically modified oat crops grown, there’s actually a risk of really high glyphosate in oat products because of its special use as a desiccant.

Ethical rating for Oatly ice cream

Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of Oatly ice cream which I’m rating 3.5 out of 5 Green Stars

  • All Oatly products are vegan. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
  • Oatly’s frozen dessert cartons are now 97% bio-based. They feature a new type of paperboard with a bio-based plastic coating made from sugarcane. This paperboard is also made from 100% recycled material that’s certified by SFI (the Sustainable Forestry Initiative).
  • Oatly accepted funding from Blackstone group – a controversial decision as Blackstone has funded other projects with negative social or environmental impacts. You can read perspectives on this from Ethical Unicorn and also from Oatly and decide for yourself. My perspective is summed up in the post on whether you should support ethical brands owned by less ethical corporations. If Blackstone invests in more ethical projects, that’s a good thing.
  • Oatly posted the climate footprint of 119 products and launched new campaigns to advocate for putting climate declarations on food products to show people the impact of what they eat.
  • Oatly reduced water use per liter of oat milk by 19% from 2018, but the carbon footprint per liter increased by 20% (due to new production and logistics challenges). This was due to the higher carbon footprint of oats grown by new suppliers in Finland and Canada. At least they are transparent! The overall carbon footprint is still a lot lower than dairy.
  • However, Oatly are not particularly transparent about the other ingredients in the ice cream – chocolate, sugar and coconut oil. This was surprising to me, considering the length of Oatly’s sustainability report.
Oatly chocolate chip ice cream - ethical rating. the image shows a tub of Oatly chocolate chip frozen dessert over a graphic of 3.5 / 5 Green Stars, represneting a score for social and environmental impact. Oatly ice cream sustainability review

Summary scores (out of 5) for Oatly chocolate chip ice cream (frozen dessert):

  • 3.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 3.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Published by jkaybay

I have two sites, both focused on ethical consumerism. The Green Stars Project (https://greenstarsproject.org/) aims to start a movement based on crowd-sourced ethical ratings. Ethical Bargains (https://ethicalbargains.org/) is focused on new products that I've bought at the Grocery Outlet.

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