From the monthly archives:

September 2006

Breyers Natural Ice Cream and Tara Gum: Unilever’s Response

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 11, 2006

Remember cute Breyers commercials where the little boy reads the back of a non-Breyers ice cream container and can’t pronounce the artificial ingredients? Then he picks up a container of Breyers and can pronounce all of the ingredients because there are only four well-known natural ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, natural flavors. Well, now there is a fifth: tara gum. No, it’s not as scary to pronounce as cargenceen and gaur gum; but it’s not the simple ice cream that was formerly advertised. Tara gum is a new ingredient that Breyers has added to their ice creams to make them creamier.

Admittedly, when I first reviewed Breyers Natural Vanilla ice cream it didn’t even occur to me to look at the ingredients. A commenter informed me that the Breyers Natural Vanilla recipe was no longer as simple– tara gum had been added. Sure enough, I looked at the ingredients on the package and there it was. Since then, I have spent some time investigating this new addition to Breyers ice cream and will discuss my findings in a 4 part series. Today, in the first story of the series, I will outline the basics about tara gum and detail Breyers response to some questions I asked them. In the upcoming weeks I will post a taste test comparing Breyers All Natural Vanilla with and without tara gum, specify odd ingredients in other brands’ ice creams, and conclude with a story about the future of ice cream ingredients.

Tara gum is a natural ingredient from the tara tree, a plant commonly found in South America and Africa. Studies have shown it to be safe for human consumption. New Zealand and Australia Food Standards approved it as did the World Health Organization. However, the results of these studies were not entirely positive, as tara gum is indigestible and causes various problems when consumed in high quantities (>5%) by rats and dogs. Though, most humans will not consume this amount of tara gum and should not have anything to worry about.

Due to my curiosity about tara gum I contacted Unilever (the parent company of Breyers) with a number of questions about the product. These questions included:

When tara gum was first added to Breyers ice cream?
Is tara gum (or a similar substance) added to all of the Breyers ice creams or only
certain flavors? Also, is it added to other Unilever brands, such as Ben and Jerry’s?
Is there any plan to add tara gum to other brands of ice creams in the future?
Does the addition have anything to do with the Double Churned ice cream that is now being
Why was it decided that tara gum should be added to the ice cream?
Have you received complaints about the new additive?

A PR representative from GolinHarris got back to me with the following response:

In response to your questions regarding the use of tara gum in its ice cream, Breyers is proud of its all-natural heritage. It’s a position we take very seriously and one we work hard to maintain. We value the confidence our customers have in our products and go to great lengths to ensure exceptional quality and great taste.

So when consumers expressed concern over the texture of our products, we responded. By adding a natural gum to Breyers All Natural Vanilla ice cream, we’ve helped to protect the product’s texture while staying true to our all-natural commitment. We use tara gum from natural plant sources to help Breyers ice cream stay creamier and more enjoyable for longer periods of time.

Because ice cream is temperature-sensitive, this addition has further allowed us to ensure the ice cream’s quality throughout it distribution. As you can imagine, ice cream’s taste and texture can be unfavorably affected if exposed to temperature fluctuations during shipping or storage. Our customers describe the problem as ice cream with a “gritty” or “grainy” texture. In fact, growing distribution and increased handling of our ice cream in the marketplace has indeed resulted in greater chances for temperature abuse and heightened potential for texture problems.

Clearly, Unilever’s/Breyers response didn’t address the majority of my questions, which made me think that they’re not completely convinced that tara gum fits into the category of traditionally “natural products.” So my curiosity about this mysterious ingredient intensified and I decided more research was necessary. Stay tuned for my findings as I explore and analyze the ingredients of non-Breyers ice creams. Is this tara gum phenomenon is unique to Breyers or is it an industry-wide trend?


Scoop 105: Homemade Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream Review

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 10, 2006

Today’s review is possibly more about the dessert I made tonight than the ice cream I served with it.  Molten lava cake with vanilla ice cream was possibly the most amazing thing I’ve eaten in a long time.  We had some friends over for dinner and made Gorgonzola and spinach risotto and chocolate molten cake for dessert.  I have had cakes like this in restaurants and made one once a number of years ago.  The idea recently came back to me and I decided to give it a shot. Only a few ingredients comprise this cake; you severely under cook it and serve it up a few scoops of ice cream and viola– absolutely amazing.  The vanilla ice cream I used (Breyers Natural Vanilla) complemented it well.  The chocolate and melted ice cream swirl together to cream perfectly balanced creamy, vanilla and chocolaty, hot and cold bites.  The ice cream melts almost entirely because of the temperature of the cake and only a few solid chunks of ice cream remain.  This is a must for any dinner party, especially since it can be made ahead of time and cooked while coffee is being made and dishes being cleared.

  • Flavor: 5
  • Flavor Intensity: 4
  • Texture: 4
  • Originality: 3.5
  • Overall: 5
  • Ease to make: 2.5


Scoop 105: Berry Berry Coconut Smoothie Review at Health Bar

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 9, 2006

I got my butt kicked today at an Intro to Thai Kickboxing class at Results the Gym on U Street.  It was supposed to be an INTRO class, not one that left me wanting an ice bath at the end. However, afterwards I rewarded myself with a smoothie from Health Bar (next to the gym at 17th and U NW) in hopes that the pain would subside.  Berry Berry Coconut has coconut milk, pineapple juice, blueberries, strawberries and frozen yogurt.  The pineapple juice and coconut milk were probably the strongest flavors.  It was tasty and smooth and made me feel much less hypoglycemic after my workout.  I would recommend Berry Berry Coconut for a post-workout treat; though I imagine some of Health Bar’s other smoothies aren’t bad either—just try to avoid the kickboxing class first and you might enjoy the smoothies a little more.

  • Flavor: 4
  • Flavor Intensity: 4
  • Texture: 3.5
  • Originality: 3.5
  • Overall: 3
  • Cost: $4.68


Breyers Ice Cream and Tara Gum

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 8, 2006

For those of you who have been waiting for my report on the Tara Gum now found in Breyers Ice Cream, I will be posting Breyers’ response on Monday.  It will be the first in a 4 or 5 part series discussing the issue.  Following the first part, I will examine other brands’ ingredients and conduct a taste test between the Breyers Natural Vanilla with Tara Gum and the Breyers Natural Vanilla without.  (I found a carton at Whole Foods that must have been made before they began adding Tara Gum.)  So, please stop back on Monday for the beginning of what I hope to be a very engaging topic.

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Scoop 104: Baskin Robbins World Class Chocolate Ice Cream Review

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 7, 2006

This week a new Baskin Robins/ Dunkin Donuts opened right near my house.  I’ve been for mini donuts once and tonight I went for ice cream.  When I was younger there was a Baskin Robbins that we used to go to after soccer games.  They had a camera and put up pictures on the wall and it was always a big deal if you or your soccer team were in one of the pictures.  Also, the Baskin Robbins was in walking distance from school.  About once a year during gum class we would all walk to the Baskin Robbins to get ice cream.  It was always an event to look forward to.

One of my favorite Baskin Robins ice cream flavors used to be World Class Chocolate.  I haven’t been to a Baskin Robbins for years so I didn’t know if they still carried it.  Good news: they do.  Better news: it’s still amazing.  The ice cream is probably the best textured ice cream I’ve ever had.  The flavors are white chocolate and chocolate mousse, so the texture is silky and mousse-like.  But, it’s not whipped or extremely light the way mousse it.  And the flavors are just wonderful.  I highly recommend trying World Class Chocolate at Baskin Robbins.

P.S. $2.08 for a single scoop is a tough price to beat!

  • Flavor: 5
  • Flavor Intensity: 4
  • Texture: 5
  • Originality: 3.5
  • Cone: 4.5
  • Overall: 5
  • Cost: $2.08


Scoop 103: Homemade Chocolate Pecan Brownie Ice Cream Review

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 6, 2006

Today I have another review of a mix and match ice cream recipe: Chocolate Pecan Brownie. I used Stonyfield Farms After Dark Chocolate frozen yogurt as the base ice cream. (I taste tested this several days ago and the review is forthcoming.) I then added some about a 2 x 2 inch homemade brownie with pecans to the 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt. Finally, I threw in a few extra chopped pecans for an added texture. I blended the mixture for just a few seconds so the brownies didn’t get too chopped up and it still remained thick (I didn’t want a shake but more of a “mix-in”).

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot. I think the homemade brownies were really what did it. It just goes to show that the quality of the ingredients is what’s important.

  • Flavor: 4
  • Flavor Intensity: 3.5
  • Texture: 3.5
  • Originality: 3
  • Overall: 3.5
  • Ease to Make: 1.5

Homemade Brownie Pecan Ice Cream

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Scoop 102: Homemade Raspberry Shake Ice Cream Recipe Review

by Ice Cream Maker Reviews on September 5, 2006

Alright, I’m back to posting. Sorry I’ve gotten a bit behind. In the next few days I’ll get all my ice cream reviews from the past week listed (yes, I’ve still been trying something new each day!).

As I have enormous amounts of unconsumed ice cream in my freezer, I have decided to do some more “homemade” ice cream recipes, using store bought ice cream and other commonly found ingredients. (Oh, and I’ve realized buying new ice cream each day isn’t very economically feasible for someone who has recently returned to grad school…). Since not everyone has an ice cream maker or the time to make homemade ice cream, I’ll experiment and review these pseudo-homemade recipes.
Today’s choice was a raspberry shake. I blended:

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened frozen raspberries
  • ¾ cup Turkey Hill Vanilla Ice Cream
  • A few tablespoons of skim milk.

It was delicious. I like my shakes a little on the thin side (malts should be thick, not shakes) and so I used a little more milk than some might. I think the quality of the vanilla ice cream was what made this recipe so good. It was sweet and fruity, but not overwhelmingly so.

As you can see from the picture, my cat was a big fan of this dessert!

  • Flavor: 4.5
  • Flavor Intensity: 4
  • Texture: 4
  • Originality: 2.5
  • Overall: 4.5
  • Ease to make: 1.5

Cat Eating Raspberry Ice Cream Shake