Ice cream brands feel ripple effect of vanilla shortage with spice substitutes

Dozens of supermarket and branded vanilla ice creams contain no vanilla, no cream and no fresh milk, an investigation by a leading consumer body has found.
Dozens of supermarket and branded vanilla ice creams contain no vanilla, no cream and no fresh milk, an investigation by a leading consumer body has found.
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Dozens of supermarket and branded vanilla ice creams contain no vanilla, no cream and no fresh milk, an investigation by a leading consumer body has found.

One in five of the vanilla ice creams examined by Which? contained none of the three ingredients consumers might reasonably expect to find in them. The watchdog found just half of the 24 ice creams in the survey contained all three ingredients traditionally included, with the remaining 12 containing either some or none.

Of the five products containing no vanilla, cream or fresh milk, four were supermarket own brand products - Soft Scoop Vanilla Ice Cream from Asda, Morrisons and Tesco, and Ms Molly’s, exclusively sold at Tesco – and the branded Wall’s Soft Scoop Vanilla Ice Cream.

Vanilla ice cream is traditionally made from fresh milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla, which are frozen and aerated to produce the final product.

However, Which? found a number of the products in its survey substituted cream and milk with partially reconstituted dried skimmed milk and in some cases whey protein, while vanilla was often replaced with a general flavouring.

Ice cream producers are being hit by a global shortage of vanilla which has seen prices for a kilo of the pods rise to over £500, making it more expensive than silver.

Around 80 per cent of the spice is grown on the African island of Madagascar, but production of the notoriously hard-to-cultivate plant has been decimated by a 2017 cyclone which wiped out over a third of the harvest.

Extra non-dairy ingredients in some of the ice creams included palm oil, coconut oil and water.

A product labelled ice cream in the UK had to contain at least five per cent dairy fat and 2.5 per cent milk protein until 2015, when the introduction of the Food Information Regulations meant the rules no longer applied to allow for vegan products and reduced fat options to be sold as ice cream.

Which? advised consumers to check the product labels before purchasing, adding: “For those looking for a more authentic ice cream or trying to avoid controversial ingredients such as palm oil, our advice is to check the ingredients list and look for these three key ingredients – natural vanilla, cream and fresh milk.”