Honey, Lavender Inspire Premium Ice Cream Sandwich

Ruby Jewel 3

Photo Credit: Ruby Jewel

When Ruby Jewel Founder Lisa Herlinger walked into a coffee shop 18 years ago, she was inspired by the fresh lavender on the counter and the drizzling of honey on top of her coffee. It was a memorable moment, and it led to one of her original Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwich flavors: Lemon Lavender.

Making its debut at the Portland Farmers Market in 2004, Lemon Lavender has shown staying power throughout the years, currently standing as Ruby Jewel’s No. 2 bestseller and a 2022 Natural Products Expo East NEXT Finalist. There’s something about Lemon Lavender that is a metaphor for current industry trends — it’s managed to be something nostalgic, yet still feels new and premium.

Herlinger got her start 18 years ago after noticing a void in the novelty ice cream category.

“Everything was full of preservatives and ingredients you couldn’t pronounce,” she said. “When I developed the ice cream formula for Ruby Jewel, we developed it to be not too sweet and use real milk, cream and egg yolk. Honey has a great texture that’s really unique, and it [Lemon Lavender] has always been the flavor that’s easiest to produce. I give credit to the honey for that.”

When Herlinger first started out, all of her ingredients came from the farmers market. Honey was an ingredient that really shone through, especially in the flavor varieties that the Portland area has to offer. Over the years Ruby Jewel has used different honey varietals with different color expanses, including blackberry.

Marketing Manager Megan Benson said that the honey is what gives Lemon Lavender more of a premium product recognition. The Lemon Lavender has been an anomaly, however, especially when one thinks about top sellers being more traditional flavors like chocolate or cookies and cream. It doesn’t fit a traditional flavor mold, but the honey and lavender combination has stood the test of time and been a crowd-pleaser.

“Honey is not a cheap ingredient, but it does give it more of a natural tie-in to the other flavors and premium quality,” she said. “This was our first Expo East, and it was our first NEXTY submission. It was great to get our product in front of the judges and to have that distinction was amazing. It drummed up the excitement for Expo East and internally. We’ve worked really hard over the years, and to get that recognition was really exciting.”

Benson said that the majority of the NEXTY finalists have been plant-based and functional, and Ruby Jewel was the only one that was not plant-based in the category. “I think that speaks to brand value; we didn’t sacrifice who we were, and that speaks volumes.”

As for the future, the tea and coffee category may be inspirational once again. Herlinger and Benson both have had their taste buds and minds focused on matcha sweetened with honey, along with other tea-honey combinations.

“I made matcha ice cream and I sweetened that with honey, and it’s something that we could talk about. Honey pairs very well with that,” Herlinger said. “Ice cream, we do it well, and because we are so premium, that’s what makes us unique in the category.”