After nearly a decade of dreaming up ice cream flavors for D.C. restaurants and indie grocers, Milk Cult is moving into Whole Foods freezer aisles across the country. The Union Kitchen-based ice cream sandwich company, which was founded in 2013 and had an early brush with controversy over insensitive naming practices, is now shipping out four of its frozen novelties to Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast regions, as well as Southern California.
Milk Cult’s nationwide push includes two ice cream sandwiches: one with nutty, vegan avocado ice cream in between fudgey chocolate wafers, and a version of vanilla ice cream on what Cornell calls a “classic public school lunch cookie.” There are also two bar-like products with a candy shell, called Dippy Boys. One flavor, inspired by Milk Cult’s partnership with sausage shop Meats & Foods on Florida Avenue NW, coats vanilla ice cream in salty potato chips and a chocolate shell. Another features vegan Makrut lime ice cream inside a hibiscus candy shell that’s studded with crunchy candied rice at the bottom of the bar.
The Dippy Boys name started as a placeholder but became permanent, co-founder Ed Cornell explains, joking that it’s “horrible” but “we’re kind of stuck with it.”
Milk Cult previously plunged itself into hot water with cavalier naming practices in 2015, when a “Bangkok Brothel” flavor of vegan coconut milk ice cream drew criticism from advocacy group People Against Rape Culture. After meeting with D.C.-based advocacy group Honoring Individual Power & Strength (HIPS), Cornell and co-founder Pat Griffith did not immediately change the name of the existing product but issued an apology and pledged to donate sales to nonprofits. Milk Cult’s owners say they changed the name of the flavor before it went to market.
Milk Cult’s founders and staff still mix products at Union Kitchen. The labor-intensive process includes baking cookies in the morning, mixing ice cream, and letting everything set overnight.
When Cornell isn’t making products for wholesale for Whole Foods and small stores like Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont or NYC’s Park Slope Food Coop, he’s delivering pints to restaurants on the back of his dirt bike. Milk Cult has partnered with chefs like Seth Wells of Rose’s Luxury, Boby Pradachith of Thip Khao, and Tom Cunanan (formerly of Bad Saint, now at Pogiboy) to create ice cream for their restaurants.
“We feel very lucky to work with talented chefs,” Cornell says. “That’s not the key to our financial part of our business, but it really is a place where we get to do fun and interesting things.”
Milk Cult isn’t the only D.C.-based ice cream company making big moves this spring: Ice Cream Jubilee announced in April that its pints can be found in all Whole Foods stores in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
This post has been updated to include information about an insensitive ice cream name Milk Cult used in the past. It was updated again to reflect the correct name for Honoring Individual Power & Strength and include a response from Milk Cult’s owners about how they approached the past controversy.