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 Jerryâ€™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?