International Dairy Foods Association

Milk Industry Foundation National Cheese Institute International Ice Cream Association

Ice Cream Labeling

What Does It All Mean?

There are many choices in today's ice cream case to suit a wide variety of consumer tastes. There is plenty of information on food labels, but what does it really mean? Here, the International Ice Cream Association sheds some light on how ice cream and related products are labeled.

Labeling Definitions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets standards of identity for many foods so that consumers will get a consistent product, no matter what brand or type they buy. For ice cream, FDA permits the use of nutrient descriptors such as "light," "reduced fat" and "lowfat" so that consumers know exactly what they're selecting in terms of nutritional content. These FDA standards follow the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which governs all food labeling.

Here are some of the terms consumers are seeing in the supermarket, and exactly what those terms mean:

  • Ice cream is a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10% milkfat.
  • "Reduced fat" ice cream contains at least 25% less total fat than the referenced product (either an average of leading brands, or the company's own brand).
  • "Light" ice cream contains at least 50% less total fat or 33% fewer calories than the referenced product (the average of leading regional or national brands).
  • "Lowfat" ice cream contains a maximum of 3 grams of total fat per serving (½ cup).
  • "Nonfat" ice cream contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving.

Quality Segments

In addition, there are commonly used marketing phrases that describe ice cream products in terms of quality segments, such as "superpremium," "premium" and "economy." Several factors can contribute to a product's quality segment, such as price, brand positioning, product packaging, quality of ingredients and the amount of overrun (air) in the product. Overrun refers to the amount of aeration the ice cream undergoes during its manufacture that keeps the mixture from becoming an inedible frozen mass. Overrun is governed by federal standards in that the finished product must not weigh less than 4.5 pounds per gallon.

  • "Superpremium" ice cream tends to have very low overrun and high fat content, and the manufacturer uses the best quality ingredients.
  • "Premium" ice creamv tends to have low overrun and higher fat content than regular ice cream, and the manufacturer uses higher quality ingredients.
  • "Regular" ice cream meets the overrun required for the federal ice cream standard.
  • "Economy" ice cream meets required overrun and generally sells for a lower price than regular ice cream.