The Perfect Sweet Treat

Ice cream is said to have been invented as far back as the second century BC. Since then, humankind has been caught in a bittersweet struggle between savouring the rich, creamy goodness of this cold treat … and still fitting into our favourite outfits.

Many purportedly “guilt-free” ice creams abound these days, but these alternative formulations often lack either the taste or the mouthfeel of the original.

Until now.

Callery’s is Singapore’s first premium low-calorie ice cream in a pint. It is so low in calories, one serving contains less calories than an apple. Callery’s is made by Hoow Foods, a homegrown food technology company founded by a team of four engineers and scientists from the National University of Singapore, including CEO Ow Yau Png (YP) and chief technical officer Dr Sherman Ho.

YP and Sherman met while they were working in the same pharmaceutical company and bonded over a common fascination for food science. Specifically, the self-confessed foodies were obsessed with solving the perennial paradox: can delicious foods be healthy at the same time? In YP’s words, their vision was “making delicious food healthy again.”

Hoow Foods CEO Ow Yau Png & Chief Technical Officer Dr Sherman Ho

Big on Flavour, Small on Calories

To start, the team set out on a personal mission to create a diabetic-friendly and still tasty low-calorie ice cream. They went around tasting existing ice cream brands in the market, not just in Singapore but also overseas, from Häagen-Dazs to Ben & Jerry’s to Halo Top, the most popular pint in the United States.

Sherman, the resident food scientist, noted that existing low-calorie ice creams tended to be dry and chalky, and hence not so well-received by consumers. He explains, “After analysing the composition of top low-calorie ice cream brands, we realised that the chalky texture was due to manufacturers cutting fat and adding protein, which sequestered too much water from the product. Also, these ice creams often contained stevia, a plant-derived sweetener which leaves a slightly metallic aftertaste reminiscent of monk fruit or liquorice.”

Engineering ice cream to become low in calories was just part of the puzzle; the team also wanted their ice cream to tickle Singaporeans’ discerning taste buds. There was to be no compromise on taste. They knew full well that in a foodie nation, their ice cream was not going to get a pass for simply being healthy – it also had to look, taste and feel exactly like the real deal.

“So we focused on what we wanted – low fat, low sugar, low calories. First, we reverse engineered the composition of best-selling full-fat ice creams. Then we did the same thing with popular low-calorie ice creams. Finally, we combined our knowledge on both types of ice cream to create our unique formulation for Callery’s.”

The result: a creamy, full-flavoured, artisanal ice cream that contains a slim 59 calories per serving.

The Science behind Callery’s

In place of sugar, Callery’s uses erythritol, a naturally-occurring sweetener that contains only about 6% of the calories found in an equal amount of sugar.

Erythritol was chosen as it is a healthier sweetener compared to the more commonly used xylitol and sorbitol. It is easily absorbed into the bloodstream and does not spike blood glucose levels. Moreover, as it does not get metabolised by the body, it passes out intact and has been proven zero toxicity in clinical studies.

While food science provided the creative solution for reducing the calorie count, there was only one way Callery’s ice cream would taste amazing – through the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Inside every pint of Callery’s is a high concentration of premium ingredients, such as single-origin halal vanilla beans from a specially selected Indonesian farm, rich Dutch-processed cocoa beans from West Africa, and fresh French strawberries harvested only when fully sun-ripened on the vine.

Callery’s was launched in 2018 with three flavours: Belgian Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, and Strawberries and Crème. Since then, they have been flying off the shelves of RedMart and NTUC FairPrice outlets.

The popularity of Callery’s first three offerings has inspired the team to get more creative. In fact, two new flavours, D24 Durian and Golden Sands Caramel, have already been developed and will be available for retail in the coming months. (Spoiler alert: Our editorial team got a taste and absolutely love the new flavours. Golden Sands Caramel in particular tastes like a delectable liu sha bao, complete with savoury, slightly sandy morsels of molten egg yolk.)

Sweet Success

Impressively, the Hoow Foods team hit upon their winning ice cream formulation merely four months and five experiments after their first conceived prototype. Yet more impressively, they also developed a systematic process for creating healthier, full-flavoured variations of other foods – a proprietary food technology platform they call RE-GENESYS.

As YP explains, “Callery’s is a product by design and research, not by trial. We knew what had to go in and what would happen when certain ingredients were used, so our experiments were streamlined and informative based on sound food science.”

For the team, Callery’s retail success is only a sneak peek into a much grander vision. Armed with their groundbreaking RE-GENESYS platform, they are branching out beyond desserts to reformulate a wider range of common food products into healthier versions. To date, they have successfully made prototypes of sugar-free baked goods (such as brownies and cookies) and beverages (such as coffee and tea) that retain the full flavour of their traditional variations. Other food experiments in their pipeline include sorbets, staple foods such as bread and noodles, and a variety of low-sugar sauces.

The company also recently raised S$1.7 million in seed funding led by Killiney Group, and is currently working with the heritage coffeehouse to reformulate existing products while retaining the familiar taste that customers love.

One pint, plate and saucer at a time, Hoow Foods is definitely making delicious food healthy again.