When us non-vegans contemplate giving up animal products, there’s often one particular food we think we just couldn’t bear to do without. For some people it’s cheese, for others it’s a cheeseburger—and for me, it’s the dairy perfection that is a white chocolate Magnum ice cream bar. I’m certainly not alone in my passion for the decadent desserts—in 2016 Forbes rated Unilever-owned Magnum the best-selling ice cream on the planet—so the launch of a vegan version is big news indeed for Magnum fans contemplating the possibility of a plant based future.
The launch of a dairy free alternative to a popular ice cream treat is certainly in keeping with one of 2019’s Top Trends, “Alternatives to All,” which sees health-conscious consumers seeking what they perceive to be more nutritious alternatives to their favorite foods. In the past, vegan products may have been associated with hippies and PETA fanatics, but according to a 2018 survey conducted by agribusiness corporation Cargill, while half of the respondents claimed to purchase dairy-alternative products, only 20 percent of these consumers gave animal rights as their reason for the use of these alternatives—a much larger percentage stated that health-related factors were behind their choice.
The vegan Magnums are available in two flavors: Magnum Vegan Classic and Magnum Vegan Almond. According to the February 5th press release announcing the launch, the vanilla base is made from a blend of pea protein and coconut oil, while the chocolate is made from cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The bars are certified vegan by Vegan Action. (There’s a note on the ingredients list advising that the product may contain milk, but this is simply a legal warning letting consumers with allergies know that the product was made in a factory that also uses milk; most vegans still consider such products to be fully vegan.) The Magnums are available as single bars or in a three-count box that has a MSRP of $4.99-$5.49.
The brand’s dairy free options initially launched in Finland and Sweden in September 2018, and in the UK just a few weeks later, with the Daily Maildeclaring “ice cream fans in meltdown after frosted treats get millennial remix with Classic and Almond flavors.” In January 2019, the range was introduced to Australia, prompting a disgruntled spokesperson for the Australian Dairy Farmers organization to note that “this is becoming an increasing problem for the dairy industry, with plant based alternatives incorrectly being marketed as milk or other products associated with dairy.” A Unilever representative responded by pointing out that the vegan Magnums were not being marketed as ice cream but rather as an “iced confection.”
While the dairy industry may be less than thrilled by the launch, the desserts have proven popular with consumers around the world. One UK customer declared “I loved the ice cream and would not have thought it was vegan at all,” while a New Zealand reviewer found the bars “very delicious” and claimed to be “a fan of these dairy free freaks.” Guardian Australia reporters conducted a blind taste test and found the vegan Magnums “quite good,” although they had no problem picking the dairy versions from their vegan counterparts, with one tester stating that the vegan Almond Magnum was “vegetabley” but “still good.”
The Vegan Magnum bars are available now in major grocery stores across the US, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for them. If they’re as tasty as European and Antipodean consumers suggest, I may just find myself with no reason not to be vegan!