Sweetened with a combination of sugar, xylitol and fructose, the ice cream contains around 70% less sugar than conventional ice cream and has 40% fewer calories and 80% less fat.
One serving also packs in more dietary fibre than a serving of broccoli (enough to make an on-pack health claim in Europe) and contains more protein than three egg whites.
'The high fibre claim sets us apart'
Yet its founder Jaco Pieper is adamant that Koupe’s main competitor brands are not located in the sports or nutrition aisle but are other premium, indulgent ice cream brands, and its website compares the nutritional profile of Koupe with that of Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum.
“There are some protein ice creams on the market, but we see two things: they use a lot of artificial flavourings or they don’t really taste like ice cream. First of all, we wanted to launch a great tasting product. Indulgence first!
“Then we looked into making the nutritional values better than anyone else in the market. High fibre was one of the propositions that set us apart from the competition, in addition to the high protein claim.”
The range has four flavours - banana, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate - which are all free from artificial colours and flavours, and contain between 20 and 30% fruit.
A careful balance
The technical challenges of formulating a dairy-based product that is both low in fat and sugar and high in protein and fibre kept Pieper in the kitchen for two years before coming up with a recipe he was satisfied with.
“We prefer not to go into [the details of overcoming these difficulties] too much as it is part of our competitive advantage but the challenge was mouth feel, creaminess and texture. Reducing sugar and fat but still getting a good texture is difficult.
“Protein has some flavour issues, so you have to really balance and choose the right flavours, for example [by using] premium cocoa powders.”
The protein comes from whey protein isolate while the fibre is polydextrose.
Pieper, who ran his own marketing communications consultant for the past ten years and funded the venture entirely with personal savings, believes communicating directly with the consumer is key to highlighting the 'clean label' nature of the products.
"Unfortunately some things have very chemical sounding names, like xylitol, even though it is a perfectly natural sugar. We try educating our customers on our website."
Koupe scooped up best ice cream at the Dairy Innovations Awards last year in London and last week was one of three winning start-ups to be awarded Judges' Choice at FoodBytes Europe, held in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
“It is just amazing to see how far we have come in only three years’ time,” he says. “From developing the recipe and the brand to launching in three countries and receiving a number of awards! So we are very excited, it gives us great visibility to consumer, to retailers and to investors.”
It is currently looking for more distributors and retailers, and Pieper says the start-up is ready to scale up and supply “all volumes needed”.
The products retail for €4.99 in the Netherlands, with a listing at leading Dutch supermarket Jumbo, several Danish supermarkets and will be sold in the UK for £5.49 (€6.37) from next month onwards.