making a difference for dairy

What's in the Ice Cream Aisle?

Definitions of Frozen Dessert Products

Ice cream and frozen desserts come in many flavors and types that allow the consumer to choose from a host of delicious choices. Whether the flavor is vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin pie or cookie dough, ice cream and its related products share certain basic characteristics that are often unknown to — or misunderstood by — many consumers.

Frozen desserts come in many forms. Each of the following foods has its 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 a milkfat content of between 1 percent and 2 percent, and weigh a minimum of 6 pounds to the gallon. They are flavored either with fruit or other characterizing ingredients.
  • Gelato is characterized by an intense flavor and is served in a semi-frozen state that is similar to "soft serve" ice cream. Italian-style gelato is denser than ice cream, since it has less air in the product. Typically, gelato has more milk than cream and also contains sweeteners, egg yolks and flavoring.
  • Sorbet and Water Ices are similar to sherbets, but contain no dairy ingredients.
  • A Quiescently Frozen Confection is a frozen novelty such as a water ice novelty on a stick.
  • Frozen Yogurt consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients such as milk and nonfat milk that have been cultured, as well as ingredients for sweetening and flavoring.
  • Novelties are separately packaged single servings of a frozen dessert -- such as ice cream sandwiches, fudge sticks and juice bars -- that may or may not contain dairy ingredients.