Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.
The first time Alec Jaffe made ice cream, it was for a class assignment for the Jewish day school he attended in Irvine. While he doesn’t draw a direct line from that assignment to the launch of a company, he mentions it — almost as an afterthought — in an interview with J.
He and his brother Zach are the duo behind Alec’s Ice Cream, the latest brand to enter the premium, organic ice cream market. Located in the former Three Twins ice cream facility in Petaluma, the business launched in November and already can be found in more than 100 specialty markets in the Bay Area.
The Jaffe brothers grew up in Laguna Beach after moving from Miami when they were very young. In addition to attending the Jewish day school Tarbut v’ Torah, the Jaffes said Shabbat dinners were a regular occurrence in their household.
“Shabbat dinners were also a big part of our growing up, and as a way to incentivize us to enjoy it, our mom let us invite our friends. So I always associated Shabbat dinner with being super fun,” said Zach. “Family dinners and having home-cooked dinners from scratch definitely shaped our appreciation for food in a big way.”
In addition, said Alec, his aunt owned a small farm in the Santa Barbara area, exposing them to sustainable agriculture at an early age.
Alec, 28, and their youngest brother Kyle were the big ice cream lovers of the family, always choosing it as their preferred dessert. (Zach, 27, is the outlier; he prefers savory to sweet.) Starting an ice cream company didn’t occur to Alec right after college. But after graduating from USC and working in the sports and entertainment industry and then at a tech startup, he decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship.
As a young adult, he built upon that first experience making ice cream and shared batches with his family and friends, always getting excellent feedback.
Furthermore, whenever he’d go to the grocery store to supply his own ice cream habit, leaving with three or four pints, he felt there was a hole in the market.
“There are a lot of brands that are very health-oriented and are low-calorie or plant-based and sacrifice on taste, or there are the traditional brands, which have a lot of lower-quality ingredients that don’t leave you feeling great,” he said. “There are so few brands that use all sustainable ingredients. We wanted to see if we can make organic ice cream that delivers incredible flavor and taste, that’s made the right way.”
While the brothers scoured the state, looking for a facility, they said it was just dumb luck when they found the recently vacated factory of Three Twins in Petaluma. (After 15 years, the popular brand went out of business at the start of the pandemic.)
“We looked at working with a copacker to make it for us, or opening up a brick-and-mortar ice cream shop, and neither of those options were really right for us,” said Alec. “The Three Twins factory allowed us to have complete control over our process. It’s a big step for a new business, but we felt that gave us the best opportunity to do that.”
They’ve also been able to raise quite a bit of capital to help them expand.
So what makes their ice cream different from other organic, premium brands? It’s the texture, says Alec. “We get the creamy texture and mouthfeel of our ice cream by whipping less air into it than other brands,” he said.
They entered the market with five flavors — vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, salted caramel latte and honey blueberry lavender — and are working on more, to be released soon.
Of course, other Jews in the Bay Area have ice cream ventures: the brothers behind San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery (though theirs is only available at their shop), Robyn Sue Fisher of Smitten and Aylon Steinhart of Eclipse (nondairy), to name three. And then, of course, there’s Straus Organic Dairy.
Alec’s gets its dairy from local organic farms in Petaluma, and as newcomers, the brothers are still learning about the long Jewish farming presence in the area.
“We had never been to Petaluma before, and it’s really cool to learn its history,” said Zach. “It makes it extra special to be here.”
To find the nearest pint of Alec’s, visit alecsicecream.com/pages/aic-finder. Shipping is available with a 5-pint minimum in a package with biodegradable materials.