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Friday, July 6, 2012

Fake Ice Cream Alert

For some reason I didn't realize until just now that the "ice creams" (a.k.a. "frozen dairy desserts") that are being sold as "Loaded" (Edy's), "Sundae Xtreme" (Friendly's), "Blasts" (Breyer's), and "Stuff'd (Turkey Hill) are not actually ice cream.

This is not breaking news -- you can learn about it in fragments on Straightdope, Fatwallet, and Wikipedia, and doubtless other places as well.

But I had actually bought some of this stuff, thinking it was ice cream, and noticing the difference in taste and consistency, without actually realizing that it wasn't ice cream.

It turns out that to label yourself "ice cream", you need at least 10% cream to satisfy FDA requirements.  I have a feeling that none of these lines comes close to that.

A somewhat innocent explanation would be that they put so much other good stuff (peanut butter cups, oreos, brownies, etc.) into the "ice cream" that there was simply no way they could meet the 10% cream requirement.  That would be fine, as far as it goes.  But that's not all that's going on -- they also changed the ingredients of what's left -- the "ice cream" -- so that it has very little or no cream in it at all.  At this point, the stuff holding the peanut butter cups etc together tastes more like Cool Whip than ice cream.  Maybe not bad, but certainly not ice cream.

The Turkey Hill variety (Stuff'd) lists no cream whatsoever on the ingredients.  Apparently, the "cream" component is a mixture of milk and corn syrup.  The Friendly's variety lists cream, but it comes after corn syrup, so there probably isn't that much of it.

I find both of the product labels highly misleading.  The Friendly's label, right under the Friendly's name, says "Where ice cream makes the meal(R)."  So that's their "Trademark" -- does that give them license to put "ice cream" on a package of something that is NOT ice cream?  This reminds me of the time I arrived at a "Kinko's 24 Hours" at midnight only to find that they were closing up for the night.  The explanation was that "Kinko's 24 Hours" was a trademark, and did not actually mean that every single Kinko's branch was open 24 hours.  The employee helpfully told me where I could find an open Kinko's, about six miles away.  (They changed the sign sometime after that; this was also before Kinko's was acquired by Fed Ex).

The Turkey Hill package is similarly misleading.   The back of the box has a large invitation labeled "Turkey Hill Experience", with a prominent picture of a cow, inviting us to "Come learn how our ice cream is made . . . brainstorm your own ice cream flavor . . . [and] design your own ice cream package."

And of course, the supermarkets sell this as "ice cream."

It has always seemed to me that ice cream has gone up in price over the years more than just about anything else.  When I was growing up (40 years ago now I guess), one could buy an ice cone at Baskin Robbins for 18 cents (the basic Tastee Freeze at Dairy Queen was a dime, fifteen cents with chocolate coating).  The price has gone up by a factor of ten since then.  Few things have gone up that much -- milk certainly hasn't; although I wasn't pricing milk back then, I know it wasn't 40 cents a gallon.  Candy bars have gone from 10 cents to 50 cents.

The CPI calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the buying power of a dollar in 1970 is equivalent to the buying power of $6.00 ($5.92 actually) today.

Another thing that is perhaps worth noticing is that many "ice cream" brands have a "regular" price of about $6.00 per 48 oz (yes, they all went down from half a gallon to 48 ounces about 10 years ago, with no change in price), but they all go on sale at regular intervals for about half of that.  Obviously, everyone is still making a profit at $3.00 per 48 oz.  So why should they be able to get away with charging double that?  Especially for stuff that isn't even ice cream?  Bottom line is that the "ice cream" "market" is highly oligopolistic.  You'd think there'd be an opportunity there -- either an antitrust lawsuit, or simply a new market entry.  Or a misleading advertising case based on the use of "ice cream."

One last thought on the non-cream ice cream:  Perhaps they should do away with the milk part entirely, and market themselves as vegan food.  

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