Skip navigation
A Midsummer's Ice Cream

A Midsummer's Ice Cream



Vanilla continues to be America's favorite flavor, but when it comes to ice cream and frozen novelties, customers' taste buds are anything but simple.

With the wide variety of ice cream, ice milk, sherbet, ices and other commercially produced frozen dairy products and novelties as well as the varying flavors and forms available, it's sometimes confusing to distinguish among them.

Basic Categories
Frozen desserts come in many forms. Each of the following foods has it own definition and many are standardized by federal regulations.

Ice cream consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk, and ingredients for sweetening and flavoring, such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips. Functional ingredients, such as stabilizers and emulsifiers, are often included in the product to promote proper texture and enhance the eating experience. By federal law, ice cream must contain at least 10 percent milkfat, before the addition of bulky ingredients, and must weigh a minimum of 4.5 pounds to the gallon.

Frozen custard or French ice cream must also contain a minimum of 10 percent milkfat, as well as at least 1.4 percent egg yolk solids. Sherbets have milkfat content between one and two percent, and a higher sweetener content than ice cream. Sherbet weights a minimum of six pounds to a gallon and is flavored either with fruit or other characterizing ingredients. Gelato is an Italian-style ice cream characterized by rich, strong flavors, and a dense and slow melting texture that lingers on the tongue. Gelato contains sweeteners, milk, cream, egg yolks and flavoring. Frozen yogurt consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk which have been cultured, as well as ingredients for sweetening and flavoring.

Novelties are separately packaged specialty frozen desserts that are often molded or shaped in single portion sizes and designed as grab 'n go items穆uch as bars and pops, candy bar taste-alikes, cones, push-ups, sandwiches and sundaes.

Label Terms
Reduced fat ice cream: contains at least 25 percent less total fat than the reference product.

Low-fat: 3 grams of fat per serving or less.

Light: 50 percent less fat or 33 percent fewer calories than a brand's regular ice cream.

Ice milk: can mean low fat, light or both.

Nonfat: less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving.

No sugar added: neither ice cream no add-ins can be sweetened with extra sugar; can use artificial sweeteners.

Lactose free: breaks down sugar molecules to ease digestion. Not reduced-calorie or low-fat.

Specialty products
There are many other specialized frozen dessert types. Here are some of the most common ones.

Cassata: Log or cylinder shape ice cream specialty, ready to slice, available in a variety of flavors.

Fat-Free Frozen Dessert: Made with skim milk; contains less than 1/2% fat, stirred during freezing, creamy texture.

Frozen Fruit Dessert: 99% fruit, creamy texture, contains no sugar, soft serve style with a variety of fruit flavors.

Frozen Fruit Juice Dessert: Made with fruit juice concentrate, similar to sorbet. Soft serve style with fruit flavors.

Ice Cream and Sorbetto: Vanilla ice cream with fruit ice.

Ice Milk: Similar to ice cream, but lower in milkfat, milk solids and in total food solids. Containers may be the traditional paperboard cans, with metal reinforcement rims at top and bottom, or plastic tubs with reclosable covers. Vanilla is the primary flavor, though ice milk mixes can also offer greater flavor variety.

Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert: Made with vegetable fats and soy protein. Hard freeze or soft serve, regular or full fat product contains 12-15% fat; "lite" product contains 2% fat.

Sorbet: Water ice with minimal overrun, may be slushed after freezing and typically has intense flavors.

Spumoni: Italian-style ice cream specialty desserts made, traditionally, in a dome with three separate flavors each surrounding the next, with the most intense and smallest quantity flavor on the inside.Typically individually wrapped.

Tartufo: Italian confection similar to truffles, made of premium ice cream rolled or dipped in a coating.

Water Ice: Sometimes called granita, granite, or sorbetto, mix of water, nutritive sweeteners and flavorings; may contain egg whites. Contains no milk or milk derived products and has no added fat.

Resources: The International Dairy Foods Association web site:

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.