Even as teenagers, childhood friends Benjamin Outmezguine, Dino Vassiliou and Noah Bernett knew they wanted to launch a business together.
“I’d grown up being around the ice cream business,” recalls Bernett, whose father, Richard, owns Ripples ice cream shop in Montreal. “However, the inspiration for this product came from another place. All of us were looking to do something other than the traditional path of school. We all had an interest in entrepreneurship. We wanted to do something that would excite us and that would be innovative and creative.”
The Montreal-based trio came up with the idea of high-protein ice cream, which wasn’t really in the Canadian market at the time. “We decided to do a few test batches and see if we could actually create it, and it was successful. So we started from there,” says Bernett.
That was 2014, when the entrepreneurs were still in their teens. Today, after several reformulations and an extensive rebranding, CoolWay is fast becoming a consumer favourite for its low-calorie, high-protein, rich and creamy attributes, offering ice cream fans a healthier, guilt-free indulgence.
The three partners launched their original product under the name CoolWhey as a high-protein supplement alternative, selling through gyms and supplement stores. While business boomed, in 2016 they decided to shift their focus to retail, introducing a 500-mL ice cream that eventually led to the current formula. “It’s a more well-rounded, healthy ice cream, as opposed to a protein-packed ice cream,” explains Bernett. “That was when we really created our core product, a product that we felt confident moving forward with.”
CoolWay made a splash when it re-launched its ice cream in April 2018: seven premium-style flavours packaged in bright colours and sporting a fun new logo, with the calorie content emblazoned front-and-centre on each 500-mL tub. Each tub contains 24 to 28 grams of protein and just six to eight grams of sugar from natural sweeteners like stevia and organic cane sugar. And because CoolWay’s ice creams are made with modified milk ingredients and plant starches (including potato, tapioca and soybean), they’re a source of fibre, and are lower in fat and sodium than most frozen treats. Currently, CoolWay is available at retailers across Canada, including Walmart, Metro and IGA.
CoolWay uses co-packers in Manitoba and Nova Scotia to produce its ice cream, but has its own Montreal test kitchen where the founders do their own research and development. That includes a lot of experimenting and sampling. “All of us have a lot of ice cream experience at this point—we’re like professional ice cream tasters,” jokes Outmezguine. “We also get a ton of feedback from our customers. We’re always getting messages with flavour requests, so we do listen to that.”
In February, the company launched its new ice cream bars in Costco locations in Western Canada. The bars are available in two of CoolWay’s most popular flavours, Cookies & Cream and Salted Caramel, and feature seven grams of protein and just 80 calories. They’re due to launch in select grocery stores across Canada in May. The company is also rolling out seven new ice cream flavours in March.
“Our vision is to innovate, to be first to market and to try to create a whole portfolio of healthy frozen products,” says Vassiliou. “People who follow our company are looking for the next innovative product. People, more and more, are also looking for functional alternatives to the foods they’re eating.”
While the entrepreneurs hope to grow their presence in the West and in Atlantic Canada in the coming years, they also have loftier goals for the business. “We want to have a positive impact on the world, and help people indulge guilt-free with a healthier product,” says Outmezguine. “We can’t get too specific on what we’re going to be releasing, but the idea really pushes the boundaries of healthy frozen desserts.”
So after all that sampling, do they still love ice cream? “Of course!” says Outmezguine. “We still eat it and enjoy it every single day.”