Breyer's Ice Cream Has Tara Gum

Remember the kid who liked Breyer’s Ice Cream because he could pronounce the ingredients? Milk, sugar… Can he pronounce “tara gum”?

A reader writes in to express her displeasure at parent company Unilever’s decision to add tara gum filler to Breyer’s Ice Cream. Karen writes:

I’m writing about some semi-recent reformulations made to Breyer’s ice creams. I think you could have a real impact on, first, getting the word out about the changes the owning company has made, and more generally, adding to the debate about how much label reading consumers should really have to do, and how pissed they can justifiably be if a company alters a long-standing or heavily-marketed brand or stops operating on the principles that attracted customers to it.

I’m 90% one of those whole-organic-slow foods nuts, and the other 10% of the time a voracious label-reader. Every once in a while, some of it rubs off on my family. Today my mother came to me with a complaint about the Breyer’s ice cream she bought (within her price range, it is the only brand that meets my “seal of approval”…). It was different to her — no better than an arby’s shake(!) she claimed — and she was disappointed. I tasted it and agreed — it had a light, ice-crystally consistency – and then read the ingredient list, of course, which contained a couple of less than quality additions.

I jumped online to confirm and find out about the new ingredients, and easily gathered more info on the websites linked below. I’m doubly disappointed by the wikipedia entry, since it seems to have been taken over by the Breyer’s marketing department. Thanks for listening, and I hope you find this worthy of covering.

Thank you,
Karen

Karen linked us to this website, which contains an official company response to a customer’s questions about tara gum and what it’s doing in Breyer’s Ice Cream. Unilever’s PR Guy Writes:

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.

Obviously you’re going to have distribution problems if you try to sell ice cream on Amazon.com. Lame.

Breyer’s has sold out to the taraguministas. Which ice cream should Karen switch to? Does Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream contain tara gum?—MEGHANN MARCO

Breyer’s Natural Ice Cream And Tara Gum: Unilever’s Response [A Daily Scoop]

Comments

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  1. DeeJayQueue says:

    that’s ok. I hear they line the boxes with preservatives so that they don’t have to list them as ingredients.

  2. kerrington.steele says:

    Double Rainbow ice cream out of San Francisco (sold at Trader Joe’s, and probably other grocery stores) is awesome: something like twice the butterfat, really thick and creamy, not crystally or grainy or anything. Not sure exactly what their ingredients list contains, but most stuff at Trader Joe’s has at least some claim to natural-ness or organic-ness, so it can’t be worse than Breyer’s, at least.

  3. WindowSeat says:

    Ice cream that doesn’t have some sort of stabilizer in it is sensitive to temperature changes, my main complaint about Breyer’s is that it is sometimes gritty. Given the alternatives like xanthan gum which is a bacteria by-product, tara gum seems innocuous. I’d liken the use of tara gum to using cornstarch to thicken gravy. biggie. If it’s really a huge problem, drop $50 on a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker.

  4. ElizabethD says:

    Breyer’s has sucked for years, anyway. I worked three summers during college for an old guy who made (in small batches — today it would be called “artisanal” LOL) all the ice cream sold at his store, and I know from good ice cream. Breyer’s is fluffed up, not densely creamy. Bleah.

    For great ice cream, go to Somerset Creamery in Somerset, MA (near Fall River) on Route 6. I never worked there, but it’s the only ice cream I bother with. Worth the trip. Warning on hot days: melts fast because of high buttercream content and no fillers.

  5. One word: Tofutti.

  6. BillyMumphry says:

    file under: choose your battles

  7. sr105 says:

    So to summarize (and re-title this article): Karen and her mom do not like the new taste of Breyer’s ice cream.

    Wow. That’s got to be an Onion article.

    The article began in a tone implying that Breyer’s was silently betraying their All Natural promise only to read the corporate response, “By adding a natural gum…”, and find out that No, no they’re not.

  8. Pelagius says:

    As long as it’s the only mint chocolate chip ice cream that isn’t flourescent green, they’ll have my business.

  9. John Stracke says:

    I agree that Breyer’s is gritty—I don’t really understand how they keep their premium image. Fortunately, I live in the Boston area (highest per capita consumption of ice cream in the nation), so I have lots of alternatives. In the supermarket, I lean towards Edy’s (aka Dreyer’s); but there’s also Great Brook Farm, a state park which sells ice cream made on-site from their own cows. My preferred way to get there is to walk about half an hour through the state forest; that way I’ve gotten enough exercise not to feel guilty over the calories. :-)

    And I have an ice cream maker, with which I can make a stunningly good chocolate ice cream. (No brag; it’s easy. I just use good ingredients: organic milk and quality chocolate.)

  10. Solo says:

    Base ingredients: saturated fat from animal, sugar.

    In my opinion this is enough to pull me away from it. There’s absolutely nothing you need in ice cream. So bitching about the other added ingredients for the sake of health is laugable.

  11. jamier says:

    I agree with Solo. I’ve never heard of tara gum, but I’ve used other emulsifiers/thickeners like guar gum and agar agar in my hippie healthy vegan cooking. There’s nothing essentially wrong with this.

    There’s almost NOTHING they could legally add to ice cream that could be worse than the cheap bulk cream in there. They stuff an animal in a cage with antibiotics, hormones, pesticide-laden surplus crops, and meat from other sick/dead animals. Then they have machines squeeze it until goo comes out: there’s your #1 ingredient! The cow’s rumen is a natural machine for creating deadly saturated and trans fats.

    Buy soy or rice cream. It’s delicious and I think the texture and taste is much better than cow cream. So Delicious is a great place to start.

  12. LAGirl says:

    mmmmmm…ice cream……..

  13. Amsterdaam says:

    Uhm, Tara Gum is natural. What is the complaint here? And in her letter she states that she found “a few” added ingredients. What were the other ones?

    Personally, if an artifical additive will make my product better and make it last longer, load me up. I’m not rich enough to to the whole foods/organic market every day. I think we actually ends up with more wasted food when your fruit goes bad in a day and a half.

  14. Antediluvian says:

    @Solo: Huh. When you say “saturated fat from animal,” you make it sound like lard, not cream. Gosh, was that intentional?

    I’m pretty sure no one eats ice cream exclusively as “health food.” Rather, and I strongly suspect you already know this, people who want ice cream would like to make informed choices about the ingredients in the product.

    And yes, it’s legitimate to “bitch[]” about ingredients in dessert, and in this case, the marketing of that product.

  15. Antediluvian says:

    I’d be fine with this new formulation if they also added willow gum.

    I still miss Tara, although Kennedy was sweet too.

  16. etinterrapax says:

    Yeah, all this really proves is that if you want really good ice cream, you have to buy local. They have to be concerned about temperature fluctuations because of travel time to stores, and then the time it takes the store to put it in the coolers–it sits out on pallets until they do. So the ice cream thaws partially and re-freezes several times before it gets to you, and that’s what makes it gritty. The only way to ensure that you get what you’re looking for, without making your own, is to buy from a creamery that, best-case, makes its ice cream on site.

  17. gardencat says:

    I tried Bryers ice cream a couple of times in the past…it has a flavor and texture deficit. I don’t care that it has so called “all natural ingredients.” It’s definitely not my definition of good old fashioned Ice cream.

  18. multiplyfunction says:

    Karen starts off asking a pretty good question… Should consumers be notified of changes being made to long-standing ingredient lists? If one chooses a product based on listed ingredients and nutritional value, what should they expect from the manufacturer? Certainly after they’ve researched a product and given it a permanent place on their grocery list they would stop reading the label and wouldn’t necessarily be aware of any changes.

  19. Gopher bond says:

    Penn State Creamery FTW!

  20. Schminteresting says:

    Try Edy’s (Dreyer’s) slow-churned. Rich and very creamy.

  21. Frank Grimes says:

    Blue Bell (Brenham, TX) available in TX and OK and I think other parts of the MW/SW. Best. Ever.

  22. kimsama says:

    I will always have a thing against Kennedy because she deigned to take Tara’s place.

    And, yes, PSU Creamery FTW! Mmmm…Peachy Paterno…

  23. Solo says:

    @Antediluvian: Indeed, I understand the frustration and the feeling of betrayal when one finds out there’s more on the ingredient list than the cutesy commercial told you.

    However, 5 grams of saturated fat per serving (1/2 cup = 4 fl oz) is pretty high. It does not matter if it’s lard, bacon or cream, saturated fat from animals is saturated fat. Also cholesterol. cholesteros is not the best for you either.

    Also pure sugar. Refined sugar is one of the worst carb. Worst influence on insuline system. Builds insuline tolerance. Helps develop diabetes.

    Ice cream tastes really good. But is not good at all for you. I would add that yes, consumed with moderation, in limited quantities, in a balance diet, ice cream consumption is inconsequential. But from looking around me, moderation seems to be really out of fashion.

  24. Sudonum says:

    @Frank Grimes:
    Blue Bell is available from the FL Panhandle all the way to AZ now. Quite a feat actually since in order to maintian quality they ship everything in their own trucks. And yes it is the best mass produced ice cream ever.

  25. rmuser says:

    “Tara gum” doesn’t sound that hard to pronounce.

  26. spanky says:

    I don’t like ice cream with gums in it either. Not for any kind of health or ethical reasons, but because it makes the ice cream a funny consistency, and I don’t like it.

    I very rarely eat ice cream, though, so when I do, I just get a cone while I’m out or maybe a pint to bring home. Usually some local, artisan type stuff, without gum.

    I can certainly understand the disappointment when a company that spent so much time and effort touting their ingredients changes them, though. I’d feel pretty ripped off and disappointed if I’d bought some of that, too.

  27. adamondi says:

    I definitely have to say that if you don’t like what is in commercial ice cream, make your own. It really is the easiest dessert in the world to make. And all you have to do is invest the $50 on an ice cream maker that was spoken about earlier. Then you get to control everything that goes in it. Also, I have never tasted anything better than the chocolate ice cream that my wife and I make from scratch in our ice cream maker.

    Complaining that a natural additive called Tara Gum has been added to an “All Natural” ice cream is a waste of time. Besides, I don’t think it is difficult at all to pronounce “Tara Gum.” So it still passes the can-the-kid-from-the-commercial-pronounce-it test.

  28. Chris says:

    I don’t get it.

  29. suckonthat says:

    While I can’t speak to wanting to keep things “all natural” (as long as they aren’t a proven carcinogen or taste bad, I don’t particularly care), the commercial with the little kid has always pissed me off. There is a misconception that if something sounds like a chemical, it isn’t natural. I certainly don’t want to read acetic acid, sodium chloride, acetyl methyl anthranilate, benzyl formate on any of my food labels! Oh but wait, they are just the chemical (and just about everything in nature is a chemical) names for vinegar, salt, jasmine oil, and a component of cranberry juice, respectively, and guess what, they are all natural. Likewise, a lot of rat poisons can be considered “all natural” and I definitely don’t want to ingest any of that.

  30. theora55 says:

    The absence of gum thickeners is why i always liked Breyers and Haagen-Daz. Way better than Ben-n-Jerrys. I like the granularity that others perceive as gritty, and the mint-choc-chip is the best.

  31. Mr. Gunn says:

    Sounds like they need to re-think their distribution channels, because that’s what causes the crystallization. Tara gum is supposed to help prevent that, not cause it.

  32. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    @Pelagius:
    The real mint chocolate chip ice cream is the one from Baskin Robbins. The other imitations like Breyer’s don’t live up to the original.

  33. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    @Sudonum:

    My friend was all excited because he saw a Blue Bell truck at the local (rural) grocery store. That explains why it didn’t come on the same truck as the rest of their frozen goods.

  34. bchains says:

    wah… tara gum won’t kill you, but the fat and sugar will.

  35. asherchang says:

    Wikipedia’s been compromised by Breyer’s PR reps? If this is true, it probably won’t be very difficult to find any account made on WP just to impose someone’s interests on an article or two… (Goes on a meat-puppet hunt)

  36. Antediluvian says:

    @kimsama: Yeah, I kept hoping somehow we’d see Tara again, but sometimes the dead gotta stay dead. And I can totally understand resenting someone who takes the place of the ex (and if I could remember my example, I’d share it with you — oh yeah, the 2nd Darren).

    But I really liked Kennedy and thought she was good with — and for — Willow. I’d like to have seen more of them.

  37. mconfoy says:

    Oh Tara Gum, that’s so terrible. Please I say as I chew gum :-). And great, everyone has local dairies. Like anyone that does not live there cares.

    There is a reason Bluebell is so good, as is the Edy’s Rich and Creamy. They use less buttermilk and instead use more cream. So what tastes richer and better is actually lower in fat and calories. Italian Gelato is almost all cream and it tastes the best. Godiva makes a good icecream, though expensive and not many flavors — all have Belgian chocolate in them.

  38. spanky says:

    @bchains:

    People aren’t concerned about the health effects of the tara gum. They are concerned about the fact that it makes ice cream nasty. Ice creams with gum (usually gaur gum) in them have a completely different consistency than real ice cream with the traditional ice cream ingredients. The gums make it globby and slimy and phlegmy.

    So yes, ice cream can still be bad for you. The real negative effect of the gums is that it’s not worth it anymore.

  39. SexCpotatoes says:

    This is by far, my favorite line: “I’m 90% one of those whole-organic-slow foods nuts”

    I’m a slow-food nut, I only eat retarded animals. Anything that’s too stupid to break out of a slaughterhouse is tasty enough for me!

    Bonus, The Cows… They Talk :
    http://www.mentallyincontinent.com/article155.html

  40. mad_oak says:

    WHY ARE HALF GALLONS OF ICE CREAM NO LONGER A HALF GALLON?????

  41. mad_oak says:

    Oh…. one other thing…. ALL YOU WHINY PURISTS OUT THERE, SHUT THE HELL UP!!! Wanna know WHY Breyers changed the formula??? CUZ NOBODY IS WILLING TO PAY FOR THE GOOD STUFF! Here: Go play with your balls http://www.amazon.com/Play-Freeze-Ice-Cream-Ball/dp/B000HH… Makes some ice cream with your kids.

  42. Ooh, Blue Bell is yummy. There’s also this awesome place in Austin where the smack the ice cream around to mix it with stuff.

  43. spanky says:

    In Denver, Bonnie Brae has the best ice cream, in my opinion.

    My objectively correct opinion.

  44. Liks is pretty good to [here in Denver].

  45. ajrfman says:

    Tara gum has ruined the taste of Breyers All Natural Ice Cream. It makes the Breyers Pledge of Purity about as worthless as the Fox News “Fair and Balanced” pledge.
    Who wants to eat ice cream that tastes as if someone added a cup of lard to it? There is a difference between “creamy” and “slimy.”

  46. ciaconne says:

    I have recently purchased my favorite Breyer’s strawberry ice cream. I haven’t had one for two years, since I worked overseas. However, it is not the Breyer’s I remembered. It feels as if it has been whipped, very soft to scoop (almost feels half melted though it’s not) and light watery taste, and I had trouble finding strawberries, where it used to have lots. It also has the exact texture as Karen described here, with an ice crystalline feel, as if contaminated with water. The difference is so dramatic and almost certainly not due to distribution problems that I googled to find this post to confirm the demise of a great ice cream. What can be worse to a brand than blind cost cutting? I think Unilever destroyed it.

  47. Ponygirl says:

    I’m bit of a Ice Cream junkie and I have felt for the last few years that Breyer’s qualty has steeply declined. I personally think it was at the time Breyer’s and Ben & Jerry’s were merged. Perhaps the powers that be choice to have B&J be the quality product.

  48. babsfan6 says:

    I purchased a half gallon of butter pecan ice cream to serve guests at a small party and everyone thought it was gritty. They were right!

  49. PhebeMossberg says:

    For all you people complainging about “grittiness” in ice cream.. those are ice crystals, the ICE part of the ICE CREAM. And breyer’s had plenty of them when it had no tara gum. Now, it tastes like every other ice cream out there…. less vanilla beans, and it STUNS me how so many people eat ice cream full of gums and call it CREAMY, they must not have much a palate to not be able to distinguish between a texture that is CREAMY, and one that is SNOTTY. Gums make food SNOTTY, CREAM makes things CREAMY, cream has no stickiness to it, while all the gums do.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Well, I can certainly vouch for the temperature stability of the reformulated Breyers’ ice cream. I accidentally left a half gallon of their “Take Two” Chocolate and Vanilla out on my kitchen counter overnight.

    Next morning, I was astonished to see that the shape of the ice cream had barely changed! I never imagined that ice cream (or whatever it actually is – ice dairy product) could reach room temperature without turning into soup! The chocolate half and the vanilla half were still neatly seperated. I kid you not.

    So, I put the “ice cream” back in the freezer to see what it would be like once it re-froze. Not that different, actually…

    Yeah, that’s “all natural.”

  51. Dave Brunson says:

    Breyers has dropped quality.
    long time ago they had a TV add, Real ice cream begins with cream. They went on to say how low quality ice creams use milk as the main ingredient and theirs is cream and to always look at the label before buying. At that time they did use cream as the main ingredient now it’s milk. I will not buy it now just because they talked quality then dropped quality to make more money

  52. NewsWordy says:

    I had just purchased a carton of Rocky Road which some time ago I had eaten before. It looked and tasted so sticky… I figured it was my imagination or bad memory. Another day after the another tasting again it seemed much gooey-er than I remembered so I picked up the carton and looked for evidence in the ingredients. I was astounded to see “tara gum.” I felt betrayed. Then I saw Unilever now owns the Breyer’s brand and began to understand. They messed with the success of a company who for years stood for natural, pure and pronounceable words. I read Unilever’s justification for adding the gum and they have chosen reduced shrinkage in favor of reduced customer satisfaction… and therefore sales.

    Because the ice cream tastes like any of the cheap brands it will sit on the shelf longer since it really is no longer a premium brand thus making the stabilizer useful for longer shelf-life… they will need it. So it seems they have created a situation where they justified their actions.

    Okay, I am not a big customer but you can be sure I will be buying a different brand. How sad!

  53. aed939 says:

    An ice cream brand that has about the same quality of old pre-Unilever Breyers is Turkey Hill “all natural recipe” line in the black boxes. Six flavors with no gums.

    http://turkeyhill.com/products/all-natural-recipe.aspx