One in five vanilla ice-creams have no vanilla, cream or fresh milk

Survey reveals how new rules mean cheaper ingredients are usurping traditional elements

Britain’s longest heatwave since 1976 has seen ice-cream sales soar, but a survey has revealed that some brands are sold without vanilla, cream or fresh milk.

Vanilla has traditionally been Britain’s favourite flavour but a Which? investigation of supermarket and branded vanilla ice-creams found a number of them were lacking some key ingredients.

One in five of the ice-creams examined by the consumer watchdog had none of the three ingredients shoppers might reasonably expect to find in vanilla ice-cream. Only half of the 24 surveyed contained all three traditional ingredients.

Of the five products offering soft-scoop vanilla ice-cream without fresh milk, vanilla or cream, three were supermarket own-brandsfrom Asda, Morrisons and Tesco. Soft-scoop vanilla ice-creams from Wall’s and Ms Molly’s, which is exclusively sold at Tesco, were the other two products missing the three key ingredients.

Vanilla ice-cream is traditionally made from fresh milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla, which are frozen and aerated.

ice creams compared

In a number of the products Which? looked at, cream and milk were substituted with partially reconstituted dried skimmed milk, and in some cases, whey protein. Vanilla was often replaced with a general “flavouring”.

Additional non-dairy ingredients in some of the ice-creams included palm oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil and water.

Until 2015, a product labelled “ice-cream” in the UK had to contain at least 5% dairy fat and 2.5% milk protein, but since the introduction of the Food Information Regulationsthese rules no longer apply.

The change was brought in to enable more products, such as vegan and reduced fat versions, to be labelled as ice-cream on the open market.

The watchdog said the move had created a new market of ice-creams to suit a broader range of tastes, but that the removal of the original regulations had also allowed cheaper ingredients to replace those used in traditional recipes.

There are currently no requirements for manufacturers to meet before a product can be called ice-cream. Only products labelled as “dairy ice-cream” should contain at least 5% dairy fat, some protein from a dairy source and no vegetable fats.

The price of vanilla soared earlier this year, making it more expensive than silver. It currently sells for around £440 a kilo.

Vanilla has become the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron, the harvesting of which is extremely labour-intensive.

Vanilla beans, which are part of the orchid family, are hand-pollinated on family farms. Each flower opens for only part of one day during the season. If it is not pollinated on that day, no pod is produced. Once picked, the curing process, which involves drying the beans in the sun by day and allowing them to sweat in a box at night, takes three to six months.

Vanilla is grown in tropical regions. More than 75%is produced in Madagascar, an island off the south-eastern coast of Africa. The region was struck by a powerful cyclone last month that damaged many plantations.Some manufacturers use synthetic vanilla flavouring, known as vanillin, but it is less potent and scented than its natural counterpart.

A Which? spokesperson said: “Shoppers may be surprised to find out that the vanilla ice-creams available to buy in supermarkets can vary wildly in terms of the ingredients they contain.

“For those looking for a more authentic ice-cream or trying to avoid controversial ingredients such as palm oil, our advice is to check the ingredients list, and look for these three key ingredients – natural vanilla, dairy cream, and fresh milk.”


Nazia Parveen

The GuardianTramp

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