While the researchers at Fraunhofer have been toiling away on all manner of important technologies, from electric vehicles and printable batteries to antibacterial film and water conservation technologies, it's good to see they've also turned some of their expertize towards the equally important task of bringing the joy of ice cream on a summer's day to those with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance. A new plant-based ice cream alternative developed by Fraunhofer researchers called Lupinesse has already hit store shelves in Germany and is apparently pretty close to the real thing.

The purely plant-based product is made from the seeds of the blue sweet lupin and is completely free of lactose, gluten, cholesterol and animal proteins and fats, which also makes it ok for vegans and those sensitive to gluten due to celiac disease. The researchers say that attempts to create food products from lupins were all but abandoned in the late 1990s, until a suggestion from Gerhard Kloth, a lupin expert, to use the blue sweet lupin.

The researchers claim it this specific lupin variety combined with a special production method that is the secret behind the ice cream's flavor. The blue sweet lupin is particularly rich in protein and it is this high quality protein from the seeds that is responsible for the product's creamy consistency. Additionally, the lupin protein also has cholesterol-regulating effects. But unfortunately for ice cream lovers everywhere, the new ice cream has about the same amount of fat as regular ice cream.

Lupinesse comes in four flavors: Vanilla-Cherry, Strawberry-Mousse, Walnut Dream and Choco-Flakes. It is currently only available on the shelves of the Germany's largest supermarket chain, Edeka, in Southern Bavaria and the Southwest, where it retails for 2.99 euro (approx. US$4.20) for a 450 ml (0.47 quart) tub. Judging by the only online review I could find (and relying on Google Translate), the stuff apparently tastes pretty good. If that's the case then don't be surprised if Lupinesse starts getting a wider release.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, Germany has created a spinoff company, Prolupin GmbH, which is in charge of producing and marketing Lupinesse.