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?

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{ 479 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom nerison May 4, 2015 at 2:11 am

BLUE BUNNY vanilla bean! Check it out!

Annette May 21, 2015 at 6:57 pm

I am disappointed with Breyer’s decision to use ingredients that are not natural or healthy such as Tara gum. I just bought 2 Breyer’s ice cream that included this ingredients. This will be my last unless there are changes.

joan greer May 22, 2015 at 11:36 am

always check ingredients in products, I’ve found that once a company gets its feet into the door by being different from other products, they see fit to change,

Palmer May 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

I am so disappointed in the ending of gum to the ice cream. Natural vanilla was the last hold out from the Breyers I used to know. Spread the word my friends the King is dead. No more smooth clean finish ice cream . And no more truly natural taste . I hope they wake up and come up with better transportation then blaming adding gum because they can’t get their product to market in good shape

Walt June 10, 2015 at 11:40 pm

I’ve enjoyed Breyer’s ‘homemade’ like forever — which for me is a long time. Brought home a half gallon tonight, and YUCK.

Maybe the change described here percolated through various areas a little at a time? I’ve had good stuff from them within the last year.

I think the rest of this goes down the toilet, it’s that bad. And with an aftertaste that lasts and lasts.

Walt June 10, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Ah … ‘Palmer’ cleared it up — ‘natural vanilla’ was what I was getting and it has just recently cratered.

I have a strong mouthwash; maybe that’ll get that taste out of my mouth.

I’m feeling a batch of real home made ice cream coming on. In fact, I don’t see why someone doesn’t make it as a commercial product: Milk, cream, sugar, vanilla … Not that hard …

Seems to me that Breyers ought to at least put some kind of instructions on the new package for getting the taste out of your mouth.

Stephen miller June 28, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Bad move !! … X Tara gum
Now on do not eat list
Every good thing has a END !!
Was good while it lasted

Stephen miller June 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm

OMG !!
My next post is after returning from toilet
Not a pleasant trip … Thanks Bryers
And yes the after taste keeps your mind focused
On WTF are they thinking
Feeling POISONED !!!

Duane Benfield July 15, 2015 at 8:02 pm

It’s disappointing that Breyer’s capitulated to complaints from consumers because Breyer’s didn’t taste like “normal” chock-full-of junk, cheap ice cream–wasn’t as creamy. That’s the characteristic that made it stand out as a natural ice cream. Sort of like my grand kids who grew up eating store-bought tomatoes. Give them a juicy heirloom garden tomato and they think something is wrong with it. Anyway, I have since switched to Hagen-Das ice cream.

Tory July 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

I haven’t had Breyer’s in a very long time (10+ yrs) as it started tasting more like ice milk.
I purchased the Vanilla/Choc yesterday b/c of the article that it ranked second behind B&J Vanilla.
Within a hr I had stomach cramps followed by diarrhea & I was disappointed w taste of product.
To verify, I ate a small portion today. It took less than an hr b4 I had a mild stomach ache & gas.
I am not lac. intolerant as I eat Haagen d & bruster’s ice cr w not prob.

I will NOT be buying this again.

Zach July 18, 2015 at 12:20 am

Oops, here’s the main part from that website:

“Tara gum is a galactomanan like Guar and Locust Bean gum. Tara is a high molecular weight polysaccharide with a ratio of galactose to mannose of 1:3, compared to 1:4 in Locust Bean gum and 1:2 on Guar gum. This difference provides Tara gum with properties similar to both.”

jackie July 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Turkey Hill has an all natural brand I beleive I read the ingred. and did not see Tara Gum. just: cream,nonfat milk,sugar, cocoa,vanilla,vanilla bean..

Rosemary July 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Stopped buying . Have you noticed that all do not say ” ice cream” some are labelled “frozen dairy “

Rosemary July 28, 2015 at 8:05 pm

I mean ” frozen dairy dessert” . Very Disappointed

janice August 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

I started reading the contents in what eat, I was surprised that Bryers ice cream had added Tara Gum, and as far as I’m concern it isn’t natural anymore. I dumped 2 half gallons of it down the drain and had to explain to my kids, whom I’m trying to feed healthy and natural as possible; for that I will not be buying Bryers ice cream anymore. ????

janice August 15, 2015 at 6:48 pm

I started reading the contents in what eat, I was surprised that Bryers ice cream had added Tara Gum, and as far as I’m concern it isn’t natural anymore. I dumped 2 half gallons of it down the drain and had to explain to my kids, whom I’m trying to feed healthy and natural as possible; for that I will not be buying Bryers ice cream anymore. ????

Jay Smith August 17, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Just looked up Tara gum as my son who suffers from a nut allergy seems to be getting eczema & itching a lot. I know this was related to food allergies in his past. He loves vanilla ice cream but since finding out he is allergic to the ‘locust bean gum’ additive I now question if the Tara gum in his favorite ice cream is behind his latest bout of eczema. Why do we have to keep adding these strange additives… miss the old 4 ingredients! ????

John Hedrick August 19, 2015 at 11:14 pm

As a kid, I saved my paper route money to buy Breyers when it was on sale. After 40 years and Breyer’s surviving ownership by a cigarette company, I gave up Breyers when it was destroyed by Unilever. The best all natural, Philadelphia style, ice cream sans gums available at a popular price point is Turkey Hill All Natural available at Kroger outside its Pennsylvania locale. I recently found The Fresh Market has an All Natural private label reasonably priced ice cream sans gums and additives.

p. kates September 7, 2015 at 8:19 pm

I hadn’t had any ice cream in years. Bought some some Bryers ice cream the other day due to the heat we are having here. After reading the definition of tara gum which is added to Breyers ice cream and having loose bowels and diarrehea I threw in down the drain and won’t buy it again! Why do they have to ruin our food with these unnatural additives?

Allison S. September 22, 2015 at 3:08 am

Thanks to Bryers new trend toward expensive Frozen Junk Dessert, I made my first batch of REAL Mango Ice Cream. Ingredients: 1/2 & 1/2, cream, ripe juicy mangos, sugar, egg yolks. I also made a Dark Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream.

The Whole Bryers Problem can be summed up in this sentence, “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.” They want greater distribution so they will compromise quality to achieve it. In fact, I know of NO ONE who had any complaints about their original, natural ingredients…. except them.

Lynne Fox January 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm

They are trying to dazzle us with baloney. It’s all about shelf life, not deliciousness of the product.
In their representative’s words: “We use tara gum from natural plant sources to help Breyers ice cream stay creamier and more enjoyable FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME.” (emphasis mine)
I don’t buy Breyer’s anymore, nor will I until the ingredients once again include only things I would include in ice cream I make myself.

Susan Evans February 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

It had been awhile, so I checked the ingredients on Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream this morning and to my horror found Tara Gum. Many years ago I could could hardly wait for Breyers to be sold in Colorado. Too bad. The bubble has now burst. No more Breyers as far as I am concerned until it’s really pure again.

Susan Evans February 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm

I just read the Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ingredients again. Now I realized I need to check more often. I’m so careful about no additives in what I buy, and make a lot of my own ice cream. I guess it’s back to making my favorite mint chocolate chip, too. So sad. Good-bye, Breyers, until you get yourself straightened out. I’ll be watching.

Al wendel February 8, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Keep the gums etc. lose our business

Al wendel February 8, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Keep the gums etc. lose our business.
Wendel family all 44 in diff. States

Al wendel February 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Stick the gum

Wendel family

Cindy Schmitt March 11, 2016 at 10:14 pm

Tara gum has been added to Tillamook mudslide also, l am so disappointed!

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Hunnytree May 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Get a Cuisinart ice cream maker and DIY.

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