Sunday, July 11, 2010

What's in a Name?

Edy’s Slow Churned. Dreyer’s Fun Flavors. Breyer’s Overload. These varieties offer some unique options such as Twix ice cream and Girl Scout cookie ice cream. But let’s look a little closer.

If you are buying these products, often you are not buying ice cream. What are you buying? “Frozen dairy dessert.” Sometimes "light ice cream" or "iced milk product." And the number one ingredient? Usually little Miss Muffett’s favorite milk by-product, whey.

I work to keep this blog positive, promoting every individual’s pursuit of ice cream. But it concerns me when the consumer is being sold a lower quality product in a concealed way, just as the major American chocolate companies have been doing for years much in the same way—by using filler. Edy’s/Dreyer’s started making their half gallon containers smaller a while ago to keep prices down for consumer, but now they’re giving the consumer a lower quality product. Breyer’s even has the audacity to call their product ice cream on their website next to an image of a product that plainly states the product is frozen dairy dessert on the label. I began noticing this about a year ago, but admittedly it could very well have been going on for years without me realizing it. This discovery has answered my questions about why some products have tasted less creamy, instead seeming more pudding-esque in texture or like the marshmallow swirls you find in Phish Food ice cream.

I try not to be an ice cream snob and consume all brands, not just the high end stuff. But now I see that my internalized complaints about the half gallon products of Edy’s/Dreyer’s and Breyer’s are born of the fact that they weren’t inferior ice cream because they weren’t ice cream at all! (Each of the companies do still carry at least one line of pure, undiluted ice cream, but the number of flavors offered in those lines are decreasing, especially in chocolate-based ice creams.)

In short, if you don’t see the word ice cream in the logo on a half-gallon flavor, chances are it ain’t ice cream. It’s worth the financial investment to go with a local dairy’s product, which actually is.

UPDATE: (excerpt the New York Times article "How Much For Artisianal Ice Cream?")
"On the subject of the more inexpensive ingredients that go into, say, a $1.50 ice cream sandwich, Mr. Leeson is blunt. “Commercial ice cream is the dumping ground of the dairy industry,” he said. The residue at the bottom of the vats after the milk and cream are drained off, he said, is dried and then reconstituted into the components of cheap ice cream: milk fat, whey and dry milk powder. Like all the artisans interviewed, Mr. Leeson said that in the supermarket freezer case, it is virtually impossible for small brands to compete with Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s, both of which are backed by the marketing power and distribution systems of global food giants (Nestlé and Unilever, respectively)."

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