Raising the bar
Brandeis alum Michael Shoretz ’09 uses his passion for nutrition to create healthy ice cream
FAMILY: Carol Ann Finkelstein, Shoretz’s mother and president of Beyond Better Foods, stands with Shoretz by the first airplane to carry ENLIGHTENED Crisps.
How often have you found yourself torn between choosing an apple or a bowl of ice cream? The struggle between choosing to eat healthy and indulging in your favorite treats is a difficult one, but Michael Shoretz ’09 doesn’t believe that you have to compromise. That is why he created the company Beyond Better Foods, which launched ENLIGHTENED Ice Cream in 2013.
According to Shoretz, the ice cream is not just “better-for-you” but actively healthy. “Our ice cream is probably more similar to a well-formulated protein bar than any other ice cream on the market,” Shoretz said in a phone interview with the Justice.
As a Health: Science, Society and Policy major at Brandeis, Shoretz was able to learn about making healthy choices available to the public. Shoretz was inspired by his love for fitness and nutrition to make one of his favorite treats healthy. He found that even “better-for-you” ice cream was lower in fat but still high in sugar and lacked macronutrients such as protein. He believed that he could create a product that was not just less bad for you but actually good for you.
In 2010, Shoretz began experimenting in his kitchen, trying to formulate a recipe that was both healthy and tasty. At first, the endeavor was to satisfy his own personal curiosity; he had no prior experiences with creating food products. “I just had experience eating ice cream,” Shoretz said. As his experimentation progressed, Shoretz sought out help to create the perfect recipe.
“I worked on the formulation for over two years in the kitchen, starting in 2010, [because of a] personal interest. And then kind of becoming more formularized with the help of scientists and dieticians and actual experts in the ice cream industry,” Shoretz said.
By the end of his project, Shoretz had created an ice cream bar that had 50 to 75 percent less sugar, 30 to 40 percent fewer calories and twice the protein of any other ice cream on the market.
The ice cream treats are sweetened with monk fruit and erythritol, which are all natural, zero-calorie sweeteners.
The bars are now available across the country in health food and specialty stores such as Whole Foods and mainstream supermarkets such as Hannaford.
ENLIGHTENED Ice Cream comes in both ice cream bars and sandwiches in 10 flavors including coffee, peanut butter, fudge and orange cream.
This year, Beyond Better Foods expanded its repertoire to include ENLIGHTENED Crisps, savory snacks that come in five flavors including mesquite BBQ and sea salt. However, in order to keep with Beyond Better Foods’ goal of offering “simple, clean ingredients,” the crisps are made of broad beans roasted in sunflower oil. They are certified vegan, kosher, gluten-free and non-GMO. Like ENLIGHTENED Ice Cream, the crisps are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.
Pleased with the progress the company has made with introducing the crisps, Shoretz hopes to keep creating other healthy alternatives to food products.
“We just want to continue to innovate and bring products with really superior nutrition and brand taste to the market, and we hope to do that in many areas of the supermarket,” Shoretz said.
As for now, the positive reviews for ENLIGHTENED products pour in every day. On March 4, Shoretz was featured in the New York Times for his success creating healthy ice cream.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of people who take the time to write long emails or call us or send us messages or even write letters just thanking us for creating our product and sharing with us how our product has helped them. It’s very gratifying, and we are happy to be able to help so many people,” Shoretz said.
Beyond Better Foods is also active in supporting charities. According to its website, the company supports an array of organizations focusing around holistic health.
These include the American Diabetes Association, Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, Walk for Obesity, Kids Walk for Kids with Cancer and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“We support a number of organizations through free product giveaways. We’ve given out well over 100,000 ice cream bars to charitable causes to date,” Shoretz explained in a follow-up email to the Justice.
Shoretz first became interested in healthy living when his father was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, which inspired him to major in HSSP. While studying at Brandeis, he especially enjoyed taking “American Health Care: Law and Policy” with Prof. Sarah Elisabeth Curi (LGLS).
Shoretz recalled in an email to the Justice that it was a “fascinating, well-taught class with a professor who cared about the subject and more importantly, engaging with her students.”
In 2008, Shoretz received a World of Work Fellowship from Brandeis that allowed him to spend the summer in Washington, D.C. to research calorie posting requirements for restaurant chains. His research mainly focused on understanding consumers’ decisions around eating and why people make healthy choices.
“That summer of research solidified my interest in a career connected to health,” Shoretz explained, “[The research] really got me excited about the food industry, especially as it relates to trying to give people information and affect healthy outcomes.”
Shoretz’s passion for health didn’t stop at nutrition. He also took part in Olympic weight lifting on campus. In 2008, Shoretz and a friend wrote a proposal to use a special Student Union fund to revitalize the fitness center, which was, according to Shoretz, in disrepair.
After a popular vote from the student body, the proposal was approved and the gym underwent a $100,000 renovation.
It was likely this drive to make healthy choices available to the public that helped Shoretz create Beyond Better Foods. However, Shoretz has experienced challenges in the initial stages of his start-up company.
“It’s a constant challenge as a smaller company to spread the word about your product and market your product,” Shoretz noted.
To Brandeis students hoping to start their own businesses, Shoretz advises to stick to your passion. “If you wake up every morning and you’re still excited about the idea, stick with it because the most telling factor of whether a business is going to succeed or fail in the early stages is persistence,” Shoretz said.