Does Any Company Still Make All-Natural Ice Cream without Gums or Stabilizers?

While ice cream brands like Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s (both owned by Unilever) have gone to the dark side, Häagen-Dazs has a new line called “Five” with only five natural ingredients. As it should be. They offer Lemon, Coffee, Vanilla Bean and Milk Chocolate. We read the ingredient lists of  each of these flavors and they don’t contain anything we wouldn’t use at home, but perhaps we should question Alkali processed Cocoa (and many other products) as being natural, since natural processed Cocoa is available.

haagen dazs five chocolate natural ice cream

Haagen Dazs Five (only 5-ingredients) All Natural Ice Cream

The Strause Family Creamery in the San Francisco, Ca. area also still makes a variety of ice cream flavors that are All-Natural and do not contain gums or stabilizers for those lucky few that live within there small area of influence. Some others all-natural brands that our visitors have mentioned in the comments include Three Twins Ice Cream, All-Natural Turkey Hill Ice Cream and Harris Teeter Natural Ice Cream.

Even Premium Brands like Turkey Hill, Blue Bunny and Alden’s Organic Ice Cream include locust bean gum and/or guar gum. No thanks.

What’s the Big Deal about All- Natural Anyway?

It seems a little funny to discuss eating ice cream and health in the same sentence, but if there is a choice, we will chose natural ingredients everytime over artificial or industrially processed ingredients, especially if it tastes better anyway. It also goes along with a philosophy of trying to know where your food comes from and when possible, choosing foods that are grown closer to home. How can carageenan and most gum products fit into that philosophy when these products have to be shipped half-way around the world?

The World Powers of Ice Cream Production

Western Europe spends about $21.5 Billion and the U.S. spends $16 Billion on frozen deserts each year. Who would have thought that anyone, anywhere could out eat the U.S. in ice cream?  Maybe they out spend, but not out eat. Yeah, that’s the ticket. The Swiss giant Nestle Global and UK/US Unilever Group each controlled about 17% of the World frozen desert market. Wells Enterprises Inc (formerly Wells Dairy;U.S.) is the third largest player and controls 5% of the world market.

Nestle owns Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand Ice Cream and Dreyers acquired Snelgrove Ice Cream. Häagen-Dazs is actually owned by General Mills, but is licensed to Nestle in the U.S.

Unilever owns ice cream brands such as Breyers, Ben and Jerry’s, Walls, Magnum, Good Humor, Cornetto, Carte d’Or Light, Solaro, Algida, Langnese, and Inmarko.

Wells Enterprises Inc. owns Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

Thickening, Stabilizing and Emulsifying Agents Added to Industrially Produced Ice Cream

I don’t know (and don’t want to know) where to buy industrially processed food products like Tara gum, Carrageenan or Mono & Diglycerides or how much they cost, but if the nice Breyer’s customer service lady tells me the addition of these products is for cost saving purposes, I will believe her. So these products cost less to add to ice cream than milk and cream.  But they are also deliberately added to change the properties of the ice cream.

  • Carob or Locust Bean Gum (Ceratonia siliqua)- added as a thickening or gelling agent for food technology. It is produced mainly in Mediterranean countries. The gum is processed with acids and sodium borate. The carob/locust bean powder tastes similar to cocoa powder, so that explains why carob tastes similar to chocolate.
  • Guar Gum or cluster bean (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba)- also a thickening agent, and has 8 times as much thickening power as corn starch.. 60% of the Guar gum is exported from Pakistan and India. Guar is a Nitrogen fixing legume.  It was once used as a non-prescription dieting aid because it caused the stomach to swell when it bound with water making people feel full. It was banned by FDA as a diet aid.
  • Tara Gum (Caesalpinia pectinata)- provides freeze-thaw stability in ice cream by preventing the formation of ice crystals in ice creams – Tara is a native tree of Peru and other South American Countries and is produced from by mechanical threshing, roasting, sieving and drying.
  • Carrageenan (Chondrus sp)is added to ice cream as a thickener and as a stabilizer. It is refined from sea weed, mostly from the Philippines. Carrageenan is processed by boiling or soaking seaweed in alkali (similar process used for Dutch processed cocoa). The dissolved carrageenan is leached into a solution, filtered, then coagulated in alcohol before drying.
  • Annatto color is added simply for color. It comes from the Achiote tree (Bixa orellana) grown in tropical Central & South America. The color comes from the outer layers of the seeds and is process by mechanical abrasion in an aqueous alkaline hydrolysis process that isolates bixin, which is a carotenoid.
  • Mono & Diglycerides are added to ice cream as emulsifiers and stabilizes which helps to mixing ingredients like oil and water and keeps them from separating over time. They can be processed from animal or plant fats triglycerides (partially hydrogenated) or can be synthetically produced from fatty acids and glycerol. They work as an emulsifier due to their unique chemistry which allows one end of the molecule to be soluble in water and the other end to be soluble in fat. Both Mono and Diglycerides are made by heating natural oils. Glycerin (or glycerol) are by products of making soap and bio-diesel (split off from fat molecules). Mono & Diglycerides are classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids, so they do not have to be listed as fat and may actually contain trans fats.

Are Thickening, Stabilizing and Emulsifying Agents Bad for You?

Not according to the USDA, in fact they are currently considered to be Natural by the USDA and these products can be also certified as Organic. All of these products also have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA.

Though classified as GRAS by the FDA, there has been much chatter about possible health issues from consuming Mono & Diglycerides since they are similar molecules to trans or hydrogenated fats since there are no open bonds in the molecules. Some argue that these molecules are only produced in labs and are not found in nature. It is true, that they are not found as free molecules in nature, but the human body actually produces both Mono & Diglycerides during the catabolic metabolism of fats. These molecules are further broken down into Glycerin (glycerol) and 3 fatty acids before being broken down completely to extract the energy from the molecules.

What a Gum Manufacturer Says about Adding Gums to Processed Foods

At Gumtech.com, they say “gums are good”, and that gum technology stabilizers are extremely cost efficient and “Adding gums to ice cream is no different than adding starch to a pudding.” They also state that gums are used at very low levels of less than 1% and usually even lower at about 0.1%. They also point out that gums do not mask flavors like starches and gelatins, so they are cheaper to use since less flavor needs to be added. Gums have fiber and add very few if any calories when used is these small quantities. Most gums are all natural and can be certified Kosher and organic and are gluten free. Gums do everything from adding cling, fiber and mouth feel, to reducing calories, replacing fat, stabilizing emulsions and for thickening.

cat won't eat breyers ice cream with tara gum

Even our cat has turned her back on Breyer’s Ice Cream. She refuses to lick the bowl. That told us something.

I woke up this morning with a craving for Locust Bean, Guar and Tara Gum And I would like that with a side of Carrageenan. OK, fine. So according to the all knowing FDA, gums are good and safe. Remember, this is the same FDA that approved Vioxx and Fen-Phen but assumes no liability themselves. Truth is, we are not overly concerned with potential health effects of these ice cream additives. We are concerned about taste and mouth feel and simply prefer to have our ice cream without gums and stabilizers. We would like to know why the cat rejects the new Breyers Butter Pecan Frozen Dairy Desert, when she used to beg for the old Butter Pecan Ice Cream. We will follow her suggestion and stay away from it ourselves. FYI, we found this link useful to find out where your milk comes from.

I want to thank Breyer’s for all the years that we were able to consume their great ice cream. I want to thank Unilever for shaking us free of  our ignorant and lazy bliss. We will go back to making homemade ice cream as we should have anyway. We will use only Milk, Cream, Sugar and natural fruits and nuts. We usually consume the small batches we make anyway, so it never has a chance to get icy. If it did get a little icy, who cares? It will still be better than any ice cream you can buy anywhere. And neither the FDA, the USDA or Unilever can stop us.

In Conclusion, Why Not Make Your Own Ice Cream?! :-) Last year we purchased an automatic ice cream maker and here is our review – we love it!

Comments

  1. The best ice cream I’ve ever tasted is Three Twins. No stabilizers, gums, etc… My favorites are Sea Salted Caramel and Madagascar Vanilla; yummy! Not sure if you consider Tapioca Syrup an additive.

    Theses are the ingredients for Sea Salted Caramel: Organic milk, organic cream, organic evaporated cane juice, caramel (organic sugar, organic cream, organic non fat milk, organic tapioca syrup, organic caramelized sugar, sea salt), organic egg yolks, organic non fat milk, organic vanilla extract.
    http://shop.threetwinsicecream.com

    • We were just at Whole Foods the other day looking at ice cream labels and discovered Three Twins was one of the few completely all-natural ice creams. Tapioca syrup is made from cassava through a natural enzymatic process, so I don’t mind it as an ingredient. A good addition to the all-natural ice cream category.

  2. Just had a teaspoon of Edy’s “Grand”, coffee flavor. Full of gums, confirmed on the label. Strongly flavored of coffee (flavoring?) but not grand by a long shot. Won’t buy again. 7/12/13

    • You’ll be surprised and then annoyed when you start reading food labels, discovering how much junk is added to packaged foods. And yes, Edy’s Grand Ice Cream is not so grand after all.

    • Ice Cream Queen says:

      Trader Joe’s has the BEST coffee ice cream. Try it — I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

      • Trader Joe’s Coffee Bean Blast Super Premium Ice Cream Ingredients: Cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, coffee, espresso beans, cocoa (processed with alkali), coffee extract, carob bean gum, guar gum.

        Better than most ice cream ingredient lists, but I would like it more without the carob bean and guar gums.

  3. Christina says:

    I completely agree. I don’t think the gums are healthy, even if they are less fatty. The taste, texture, and flavor is also affected. I remember really enjoying Breyers. I never bought Edy’s. Now, Breyers tastes like Edys. What happened to American pride in a high quality product from the early 1900s?

  4. I love Strauss Ice Cream. No stabilizers or gums, totally natural. My favorite is Caramel Toffee Crunch – yum!

  5. HÄAGEN-DAZS is about the only brand I buy anymore. Breyers used to be the best. I remember trying other brands that were maybe on sale for the week and just ended up throwing them away. Brands like Edy’s and Blue Bell. They were just too soft. Too “creamy.” I kept buying Breyers then it started to dawn on me that it too was soft. I thought for awhile my freezer wasn’t operating properly anymore, and contributed the softness to just being not frozen at a proper low enough temp. So when I learned all these unusual abnormalities was due to the new ingredients (gums, etc…) Breyers was using, I was terribly disappointed. I grew up on the stuff. It was one of the great little pleasures of life. Such a shame.

    • Tim- I know exactly what you mean by too “creamy”. When we called Breyers to complain, they said that they changed the recipe to make it more “creamy” because that’s what so-called taste-tasters preferred. I want real cream to make it creamy not guar gum!

  6. Locust Bean Gum

    Organic Locust Bean Gum is roasted and milled. It a very natural ingredient that if milled requires NO sodium borate. It is NOT used as a thickening agent, it’s used to stop ice crystal growth. What happens is there is water in your custard mix you create, the Locust Bean Gum takes that water droplets and makes them even smaller, then when you freeze the mix the ice crystals are tiny that gives a creamy smooth texture that also keeps better too.

    • Joe – I want cream to make my ice cream creamy, not locust bean gum. I doubt Breyers or similar big ice cream brands are using Organic locust bean gum either. If they are putting it in there to make it taste creamier, it is because they are using less quality ingredients and locust bean is a cheap way to make up for it.

      One of the creamiest ice creams from the store I have had is from Häagen-Dazs and there is not one speck of locust bean gum in it.

      And that “creaminess” that locust bean provides is what everyone is complaining about. It just doesn’t feel right. It tastes fake. Whether it be a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier or creamy-taste maker – I prefer it not to be in my ice cream, IMHO.

  7. GuarGum says:

    DON’T EAT ICE CREAM WITH GUAR GUM. Most people’s stomachs can’t process it. It sticks in the stomach and make you feel nauseated and bloated the next couple of days.

  8. I made pretty good ice cream at home with milk, cream, sugar, and eggs. It wasn’t as good as the best ice creams I’ve had, so I ended up studying with a Michelin 3-star pastry chef to learn his secrets. He and all the other top chefs use stabilizers, non-fat dry milk, and multiple sugars including dextrose and trimoline. And guess what? It make the ice cream better. I could go on for pages about why, but I can now make ice cream with flavors and textures that match the best I’ve ever had. I can’t do it with the ingredients in grandma’s pantry.

    Articles like this rub me the wrong way because they because they spread prejudices that don’t make any sense. Ingredients like carrageenan and locust bean gum and agar have been used in cooking for over 500 years, all around the world. Xanthan gum is a product of fermentation; it’s every bit as natural as yeast bread or vinegar. Dextrose and invert syrups exist naturally in fruits and honey.

    If you don’t acknowledge this, you’re ripe for manipulation by big companies. The reason there are no gums in Haagen Dazs is that they molecularly alter milk proteins to act like stabilizers. This is more high-tech and less natural than just using a gum, but it helps sell ice cream to an ignorant public.

    I don’t have a problem with the way haagen dazs is made, but I don’t like the dishonesty behind it. And I don’t like the ignorance behind articles like this one.

    • Paul – If stabilizers are so great, than how do you explain all the comments on this page by people who loved the old Breyers that contained only milk, cream and sugar? I know of people who have had custard-based ice cream made with eggs, but prefer the clean mouth feel of an ice cream that lacks any stabilizers, including eggs.
      I’m happy for you that you studied with a Michelin 3-star pastry chef that uses stabilizers. To you, the ice cream tastes better. To me, not so.
      And let’s be honest. Today’s stabilizers, such as carrageenan, are not made like they were 500 years ago. Egg yolks are fine. However, any of these processed stabilizers are not to me, for multiple reasons.
      And it’s funny that the only place I can verify your accusation of Haagen Dazs “molecularly altering milk proteins to act like stabilizers” is on other blogs where the comment is from you. You said you heard it from Jerry himself (from Ben & Jerry’s). I need a little more proof than hearsay that comes from a direct competitor. And isn’t it funny that Ben & Jerry’s is now owned by Unilever. Like Breyers, they also changed Ben & Jerry’s recipes by adding more of those great stablizers, like carrageenan and guar gum. Must be because they wanted to make a better ice cream, right? Not! It’s because of their bottom line. It’s cheaper.
      If I’m ignorant, then let me wallow in my bliss of milk, cream and sugar.

  9. By the way, the reason the new Breyers tastes bad isn’t because of stabilizers, it’s because it’s crap ice cream. Stabilizers can be used to make good ice cream better (egg custard is a stabilizer, folks … that’s the purpose it serves in French-style ice cream) … or they can be used to try to make crap ice cream somewhat less crappy.

    I liked Breyers when I was a kid; today it’s inedible.

    • Paul – You say Breyers is crap ice cream and tastes bad, but it’s not because of the stabilizers. Then what? The only thing left is milk, cream and sugar. Are they using bad milk? An inferior process? Please explain. I already addressed the use of eggs and other stabilizers in reply to your other comment above, so we won’t rehash that again. And eggs don’t always make better ice cream. Again, refer to above comment.
      Companies will say they need to use stabilizers to prevent ice crystals from forming during transportation. If vendors don’t handle the ice cream properly and maintain a constant temperature, the ice cream can heat up, melt and refreeze which causes the formation of ice crystals. But you don’t need a lot of stabilizers to accomplish this. Big companies are using stabilizers in larger proportions to make up for other costly ingredients and methods. I think we know the difference between eggs and carrageenan as stabilizers. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

  10. Polysobate 80 used as an emulsifier created such a bad reaction I thought I was drugged. then ended up with a migraine, sort of breath and palpitations. Took 4 days to shake the effect

  11. While shopping in Harris Teeter yesterday I could not find one ice cream without all the crap ingredients. Harris Teeter even has their own line, called ALL NATURAL, in capital letters. How surprising that the 4th ingredient was high fructose corn syrup!!!! So disgusted with the ice cream options!

    • Sara – Yes, I find its faster and easier to make our own ice cream than spending time looking for “Natural” ice cream at the stores. It’s getting harder and harder to find and when they are truly natural, they are usually quite expensive. Take a look at our Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Review. The maker is relatively inexpensive, is easy and fun to use and you know exactly what ingredients goes into your ice cream. We use it all summer long and surprisingly quite often even during the winter months.

  12. Great article! Death to the FDA. They will say anything is safe for human consumption as long as the $ is right. I.E.(Aspartame)

    • Thanks, Twin. And yes, the FDA is run like any other government entity. Would not trust anything with its “Stamp of Approval” on it. People get sick and even die from food that was inspected and approved by the FDA all the time. But you never hear the blame on them.

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