Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Round 1: Häagen-Dazs Gelato Collection

Pre-trial photo of the defendants behind bars.
I'd be lying if I said I had high hopes for the new Häagen-Dazs Gelato collection. Though long a champion of Häagen-Dazs products, one glance at the ingredients (#3 or #4 - corn syrup) made me hypothesize that this was a case of packaging a cheaper product and selling it for the same price. It was with this sense of gravity that I purchased three pints of the new Gelato collection: Straciatella, Dark Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Caramel. And since I was feeling judgmental, I've decided to write my review as two closing arguments and a verdict.

PROSECUTOR CLOSING ARGUMENTS: Historically, the ice cream bases offered by Häagen-Dazs have mostly stuck to natural ingredients--excepting mix-ins--something they once prided themselves on. Historically, the basic ingredients for gelato are milk, eggs, sugar and the central flavor ingredient (chocolate, pistachio, etc.). It seems, however, that Häagen-Dazs took a different gelato-making course. As a result, the flavors one finds in their latest collection are like diluted Häagen-Dazs with a terribly cloying aftertaste. To make matters worse, they are simply retreading existing territory. Conceptually, Sea Salt Caramel seems nothing more than their Limited Edition flavor Salted Caramel Truffle without the truffle mix-ins. And the Dark Chocolate Chip is virtually identical to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor Chocolate Chocolate Chip, excepting the ingredient "corn syrup." Chocolate ice cream has long been a strength of Häagen-Dazs, despite the discontinuing of most of its chocolate-based flavors, but the gelato's chocolate-base tastes somewhere between Dairy Queen and low-fat ice cream. To use layman's terms, it tastes "gross." There is also the irrefutable evidence that, in the same season Häagen-Dazs introduced the Gelato collection, it has ended its Five collection, which prided itself on simplified all natural recipes that used only five ingredients. I submit to you that Häagen-Dazs is guilty of delivering a shoddy product in the name of cost cutting.

DEFENDANT'S CLOSING ARGUMENTS: When eating gelato, two things a person notices are the smooth texture and how light it is to eat. The Häagen-Dazs Gelato collection has succeeded in accomplishing these traits with their new product. The ingredient list of Dark Chocolate Chip may indeed be, quote, "virtually identical to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor Chocolate Chocolate Chip," but some people prefer a smoother texture. That is precisely why many people choose to purchase gelato instead of ice cream. And Sea Salt Caramel gelato? It is much lighter than the ice cream product noted by the prosecutor. We could debate all day about the similarities of these gelato flavors and existing ice cream flavors, but these two frozen desserts have always had a shared legacy. Frankly, some gelato flavors do it better. For example, Stracciatella isn't simply repackaged chocolate chip; Stracciatella has loads of chocolate shavings in every bite! Corn syrup is not on trial here today; Häagen-Dazs is. And the only thing Häagen-Dazs has done is expand its product line.

VERDICT: Having heard the arguments, I can say you both have excellent points. Is a new product to be judged based on its brand or as a freestanding product with its own merits? I cannot help but be reminded of Ben & Jerry's increased use of corn syrup these past few years, but the recent utilization of the ingredient in Häagen-Dazs products is disconcerting. Earlier this year, I noticed a softer texture in my "Vanilla Swiss Almond," long my favorite grocery store pint. I called shenanigans, and the shenanigans were corn syrup. Häagen-Dazs hasn't put it in all their pints yet, but if this new Gelato collection is any indication, they will. To me, this is not acceptable business practice from a luxury ice cream maker. But, in truth, Häagen-Dazs has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law. (Just ask Monsanto about using corn products.) Therefore, I am remiss to say I must let them off with a warning. But I do so with a plea, "Please return my Vanilla Swiss Almond back to its former glory."


This round's winner: Straciatella.

The AICM (April Ice Cream Madness) Tournament continues with Round 2: Ben & Jerry's Class of 2013...

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