'Frozen Dairy Dessert' vs. ice cream

I scream you scream, we all scream for… "Frozen Dairy Dessert?"

As it turns out, the sinfully tasty Breyers Ice Cream I love isn’t actually ice cream. At first, I felt betrayed. But I’ve come to grips with this new moniker. Here’s why.

Let’s blame the BOGO for this unexpected discovery.

Recently, Breyers was an irresistible buy at Publix: buy one, get one free. The deal gave me, a married and therefore powerless man, a rare opportunity to both choose and covet a carton of my own. No spousal intrusion, just me and my flavor of choice.

She picked vanilla; I opted for mint Oreo.

It was at home, while patiently waiting for her to finish a meticulous and time-consuming scooping ritual that I occupied myself reading the labels. And that is when my curiosity piqued.

In relatively small print in the lower right corner of the carton, hers read "Ice Cream." Mine read "Frozen Dairy Dessert."

They were the same size and the same price. They came from the same case. Yet they were labeled so differently that the revelation left me perplexed -- and hungry for an explanation.

For guidance, I turned to International Dairy Foods Association, which represents dairy manufacturers. A spokesperson explained that the Food and Drug Administration requires ice cream to contain at least 10% milk fat. Otherwise, it cannot be named ice cream.

So, a tasty frozen carton such as my mint Oreo can look like ice cream, taste like ice cream, and contain 9.99999% milk fat, but cannot legally be called ice cream.

Thus, Breyers chooses "Frozen Dairy Dessert." 

We asked Breyers about the difference between these two. In a broadly worded statement, it said, "Both Breyers' Frozen Dairy Dessert and Ice Cream products start with cream, sugar and milk, but in different proportions."

So, my mint Oero treat is technically ice cream, but not legally.

As it turns out, ice cream labeling is more complicated than I ever imagined. The legalese in the Code of Federal Regulations (title 21, part 135 if you’re interested) is thick with jargon, long sentences, and strict formulas.

In addition to federal rules, the industry lays out guidelines for terms such a "premium" or "super premium." 

IDFA Guidelines

The most intriguing euphemism is "overruns." That is the industry’s way of saying air. The IDFA says "super premium" ice creams are likely to contain less air than "economy" ice creams.

In the case of Breyers, its "Ice Cream" and "Frozen Dairy Desserts" were the same price. 

It’s possible that a lower milk fat content is cheaper to produce than traditional ice cream – thus boosting Breyers’ bottom line with "Frozen Dairy Dessert." Breyers did not address that, but did suggest that my mint Oreo ice cream substitute might feel different in the mouth.

"Our Frozen Dairy Dessert has less fat and a smoother texture than Ice Cream," Bryers said.

Ultimately though, it is flavor (not the name) that matters to most consumers. And I have come to peace with that fact that the ice cream I love is actually "Frozen Dairy Dessert."

…as long as it’s buy one get one free, that is.