“Taste the Arctic” — Arctic-flavoured ice cream, made in Switzerland | Polarjournal
In large parts of the Arctic, the tundra offers a rich table of berries, mushrooms and edible plants, especially in summer and autumn, which Arctic peoples have always been able to take advantage of. Image: Carlo Lukassen

The Arctic is often portrayed as a hostile place. But in fact, the region has always offered almost everything needed to live to the people living there. In addition to fish and meat, the tundra is also home to a number of plant species that had found their way into indigenous cuisine. A small Swiss start-up company now wants to bring this variety of flavours to people in the form of ice cream. At the same time, they’re not afraid of offering rather exotic flavours.

Labeled Taste the Arctic, the young Zurich-based company World Ice AG plans to “take the ice cream world by storm” with its first product line, as founder Peter Müller tells PolarJournal. “The Arctic inspires young and old, ice cream as well. It’s only logical to combine two such cool things.” The plan is to initially offer a product range of six to eight flavours, all Arctic-inspired and with ingredients. Müller does not want to focus on familiar items such as blueberries, moorberries or cranberries, but on real novelties such as red saxifrage, lyme grass or dwarf birch sap. “Ice cream with these berries is known everywhere in the far north. But the Inuit, the Vikings and other inhabitants of the Arctic had also used other plants in their diet. And we want to bring them closer to the people,” Müller continues.

Icelandic hákarl, also commonly referred to as fermented shark, is a well-known and infamous specialty. In this process, meat from Greenland shark and other species of shark are processed by fermentation and served with Icelandic liquor. This was the initial idea for Taste the Arctic. Image: Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The idea for Taste the Arctic came to Müller during a trip to Iceland four years ago. “There were four of us on the road at that time and we had also tried hákarl along with brennivín. And someone jokingly said that it should be offered as ice cream,” Müller remembers. “At first, we all laughed. But the longer I thought about it, the more exciting I found the idea. So I looked into the eating habits of the Inuit and found out that the Arctic has a lot of flavours to offer.” Müller is currently working with food engineers on the finer points of transferring the flavour of the plants into ice cream production and on the consistency. “Technically, it wouldn’t be that difficult. But we want to make sure that the flavour really comes across in the ice cream, without having to resort to too many enhancers. We want to achieve authenticity in the most natural way possible.” That’s why Müller also visited Greenland and Iceland several times and talked to locals, chefs, hunters and fishermen. “It was incredible to see how many different edible plants, fungi, roots and even mosses there are, in addition to the fish and meats.”

Ice cream is more popular than almost any other food product in the world. The origins are not exactly known, but may date back to the ancient Persian empire and are described as a form of sorbet. Ice cream with flavour is known only since the 17th century. File photo: ElinorD, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wiki Commons

In addition to taste, the founders of World Ice AG also have to take into account legal requirements, hygiene regulations for production and much more. Also, Müller and his team focus on sustainability and also a vegan version of the products. “We want to ensure that our products not only meet today’s standards, but exceed them. That’s why we work with locals residents who supply us with the ingredients. Because they know best how to collect and supply in an environmentally sound and sustainable way.” When asked what the exotic flavours mentioned at the beginning will be, Müller smiles. “We’re actually working right now to get the brennivín and the hákarl from Iceland into an ice cream as well. This may sound quirky. But after all, durian, the stinking fruit, is available as ice cream and it’s very popular.”

Reindeer is a popular food among people living in the Arctic. The makers of Taste the Arctic also want to deliver this in the form of an ice cream. Photo: Heiner Kubny

Another flavour, according to Müller, is also said to consist of extracts of reindeer, which tastes very sweet when combined with certain berries. Müller explains that they don’t just turn meat into ice cream, but work with extracts. Reindeer is very popular as a food and is used in many ways in Arctic cuisine. “We are aware that the inhibition threshold among the population outside the Arctic is very high to want to try such products,” Müller says. “But we believe that curiosity and confidence in Swiss quality will take away people’s inhibitions somewhat. Besides, we also test all the products ourselves in advance. My wife and my two children are our biggest critics.” Müller and the World Ice team plan to launch their product range in one year’s time, in April 2023. They rely on a mix of self-distribution and collaboration with restaurants. If the product range is a success, Müller would like to expand it: “There are so many ways to combine flavours in ice cream. We certainly won’t run out of ideas.”

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

Featured image: Hanna Klimovic via Wiki Commons CC BY SA-4.0

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