Ice cream vs frozen desserts: Know what you eat

Ice cream
Fresh fruit with scoops of creamy speciality ice cream in assorted flavors with raspberry, berry, blueberry, strawberry, walnut , pistachio, chocolate, sugar cones and a scoop for serving. Photo: Shutterstock/stockcreations

All hell broke loose, a couple of years back, when it was declared that some of the biggest ice cream retailers in the world, could not legally call their iced deliciousness, 'ice-cream' and had to refer to them as 'frozen desserts' instead. 

In India, this led to an ad war fought between Amul and Kwality walls, the two most loved ice-cream brands of the country. 

Are the details of this controversy fuzzy for you? Here’s a refresher on the case: 

Amul, the country’s largest dairy provider put up an iconic advertisement advising people to indulge in ice cream made from real milk instead of the frozen desserts made from ‘Vanaspati’. Amul was then taken to court by Hindustan Unilever (parent company of Kwality Walls) for slander against its much-loved dessert. 

Most simply put, ice cream is made of milk solids/ fats, whereas frozen desserts use vegetable oil or Vanaspati. The use of different ingredients naturally renders varied nutritional benefits to the two. For example, vegetable oil contains trans and saturated fats which rank high in the unhealthy index.

Mango sorbet
Mango sorbet with mint and blueberries. Photo: Shutterstock/Gaus Alex

Food for thought

The incident hardly made a difference in our loyalty towards our favourite ice cream brands, but that was perhaps because we didn’t really know the difference between frozen dessert and ice cream. 

We know what you’re thinking; if the taste is delightful, then why should this difference or the knowledge of it, matter? 

The answer is rather simple. It has taken years and multiple efforts by brands, governments and consumers to cultivate a culture of conscious consumption. And it is extremely unfair to advertise a product in a manner that is misleading to the consumer. It is unfair not only to the consumer but to the competitor brand that is selling the more authentic version of the said product.

Let me explain. If I buy a handbag thinking it's leather, and then find out that the bag is actually made of canvas and merely resembles leather, in texture, look and feel; I will naturally feel cheated. 

The case is similar for food - a product that insinuates or claims to have milk or cream in it, when it doesn’t, is nothing short of misleading and unfair. 

The health factor

From a health aspect too, if we are comparing ice cream against Frozen desserts; the latter actually has trans and saturated fats, which are harmful when consumed in higher quantities. Not only do they add to one’s weight and waistline, but they also lead to heart ailments and overall poor health. That being said, one should note that the calorific value is the same for both ice creams and frozen desserts.

Where the price of the products and ingredients are concerned, dairy fats cost INR 300 per kilo, while vegetable fats cost around INR 60 per kilo. This, however, does not result in any price difference for the consumer, who pays the same amount for both ice cream and frozen dessert. This very issue has often been raised by ice cream brands against frozen desserts brands. But since the making of the product only accounts for 12% of the maximum retail price (which includes other costs like research and development, product development and marketing), the desired price reduction wouldn’t add up to much. 

Vanilla ice cream
Vanilla ice cream. Photo: Shutterstock/5PH

The aftermath of the awareness

So, when it was found (now nearly more than a decade back) that certain iced delicacies that call themselves “ice creams” don’t indeed have any cream (that is milk/ dairy fat) in them- it was only fair to the consumers and their competitors; that they change their product category from ice creams to frozen desserts.

Now companies that use Vanaspati in making their cold confectionaries, are legally obligated to call their products frozen desserts and mention the ingredients explicitly on the back label. 

However, to stay ahead of the game, the genius retailers have found a loophole- they do mention the required details, but in an obscure corner of the box! Consumers have to hunt for these details- which let’s face it, not many of us do.

Mango ice cream
A scoop of mango ice cream. photo: Shutterstock/BennyPwong

Do remember that according to The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be able to call a product ice cream it has to fulfil the following criteria: 

1. It must contain a minimum of 10% dairy or milk fat 

2. It cannot have more than 100% overrun (Overrun is the amount of air that’s whipped into the ice cream whilst it’s being made - it basically results in the overall density of the ice cream and its texture). More overrun means the ice cream is lighter and fluffier in texture. However, lesser overrun, means the ice cream is more premium and at times more expensive.

Based on the above criteria, these are various types of ice creams available in the market:

Premium- At 11% to 15% milkfat they have a slightly higher fat content than required. Their overrun is also low between 60% to 90%.

Super Premium- they have really low overrun like lesser than 20% and high-fat content usually more than 14%. This difference reflects in their premium price point too.

Standard- They follow the norms of 10% milkfat with 100% overrun.

Economy – While they follow all the norms to qualify them as ice cream, they have a lower selling price as compared to the standard category of ice creams, predominantly owing to the pricing of the ingredients used. 

Gelatos, in case you were wondering, are the Italian cousins of ice creams. They have a minimum of 4% milkfat, have a particularly low overrun at 20%, which makes them über creamy and delicious. 

Now that you know the difference between ice creams and frozen desserts, be sure to check the label of the next ice cream (or frozen dessert) you buy! 

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