A mom of two young children is wondering: What’s in ice cream sandwiches these days? Christie Watson’s kids love eating ice cream. But one recent morning, she saw an uneaten ice cream sandwich sitting on her patio table. When she looked closer, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It wasn’t melting.
“I noticed that my son had left his ice cream sandwich outside,” she said, “and I was wondering why is there still ice cream in there?”
The Walmart Great Value sandwich had barely melted 12 hours later….even though it was an 80-degree morning.
“I thought that’s quite weird,” she said. “So I looked at the box, and it doesn’t say artificial ice cream. It says ice cream.” Was it a Fluke?
Watson says she grabbed a second sandwich and left that out overnight, and ended up with the same result.
“Monday I came out and looked at it,” she said, “and there was still ice cream there. So I thought to myself: what am I feeding to my children?”
WCPO’s John Matarese wondered, too, so we they a test.
They set out Walmart Great Value sandwich, a Klondike Bar sandwich, and a cup of Haagen Dazs in the hot sun for 30 minutes. Although all three of these contain at least some toxic ingredients, Haagen Dazs has the high percentage of actual cream.
- The Haagen Dazs melted quickly into a puddle.
- The Klondike sandwich melted to a fair extent.
- The Walmart sandwich, though it melted a bit, remained the most solid in appearance, and still looked like a sandwich.
They contacted Walmart, who stated: “Ice cream melts based on how much buttermilk, butterfat, and cream are in it. Our sandwiches contain less, so they are more affordable. But they are healthy and meet all FDA guidelines.”
Why Do Some Ice Creams Melt Faster than Others?
The degree to which an ice melts has mostly to due with its overrun.
It is also important to understand how overrun calculations affect the concentration of ingredients in ice cream. This is never stated on the label of any brand. Overrun is the percentage increase in volume of ice cream greater than the amount of mix used to produce that ice cream. In other words, if you start off with 1 litre of mix and you make 1.5 litres of ice cream from that, you have increased the volume by 50%. Economy and standard brands of ice cream are the lowest quality and have the greatest percentage of overrun (greater than 100% and as high as 120%) meaning they will require an increased percentage of emulsifiers to increase their volume than higher quality brands. This keeps manufacturing costs low since there is a smaller quantity of medium to higher quality ingredients used for every litre of final product.
Premium and super-premium brands have a lower percentage of overrun (less than 90% and as low as 25%) and don’t use as many emulsifiers in their formulations. This results in the highest body and quality of ice cream. It also means that more nutritious ingredients typically make up for the volume. This increases manufacturing costs due to a greater quantity of high quality ingredients used for every litre of final product.
If your store brand or parlor ice cream melts rapidly, that’s a good sign as it likely has a low overrun and little fat destabilization, which means a lower percentage of toxic emulsifiers and stabilizers. When made with wholesome and natural ingredients, homemade ice cream will always melt quickly. There is simply no healthy way to keep the fat from destabilizing naturally.
Keep in mind that any frozen treats that are made with dairy products and engineered to be low fat (i.e. frozen yogurt, low-fat ice cream) will typically have the highest overrun and emulsifier/stabilizer percentages. Here’s a breakdown of brands, fat content, solids, overrun and cost:
* Fat content: usually legal minimum, e.g., 10%
* Total solids: usually legal minimum, e.g., 36%
* Overrun: usually legal maximum, ~120%
* Cost: low
* Fat content: 10-12%
* Total solids: 36-38%
* Overrun: 100-120%
* Cost: average
* Fat content: 12-15%
* Total solids: 38-40%
* Overrun: 60-90%
* Cost: higher than average
* Fat content: 15-18%
* Total solids: >40%
* Overrun: 25-50%
* Cost: high
The highest overrun percentages are found in ice creams that use guar gum and xanthan gum, typically in a 3:1 ratio respectively.
Ingredients Spill The Beans
A check of ingredients confirms why Haagen Dazs melts quickly, like ice cream from days of yore.
- Walmart’s ingredient list includes corn syrup, guar gum, and cellulose gum.
- Unilever’s Klondike Bars’s ingredient list is very similar to Walmart’s, with similar gums added.
- Haagen Dazs contains mostly cream, as well as milk, sugar, and eggs, and vanilla, and can contain glucose syrup, vegetable oils and other emulsifiers.
A cup of Haagen Dazs or another premium ice cream costs about $3. For the same price you get a dozen ice cream sandwiches from Walmart, or other stores. At the end of the day, Hagen Dazs isn’t expensive, you get exactly what you pay for.