Who does not like an ice cream if offered on any occasion? Of course people with compromised health conditions like diabetes, over weight etc, voluntarily abstain from indulging in ice cream, though they have the desire for the same. Conventionally ice cream is a concoction of sugar, dairy cream, sugar and flavor in which cream provides texture, sugar the taste and the flavor, real or artificial tickles the olfactory senses. Variants of ice cream are also made incorporating natural fruits and their derived products, chocolate ingredient, confectionery and caramel components and many others. Looking at the recipe, one is struck by the amount of sugar that is present in the product and more appropriately it should have been called frozen sweet cream or iced sweet cream. Probably during the early stages of ice cream industry in the eighteenth century, the type of ingredients available then could not give a smooth textured product as we are accustomed to now and therefore the water in the recipe got frozen into ice crystals apparently giving it the name which has become a popular generic name over a period of time.
Ice cream as we know to day is a product composed of milk fat, milk solids-non fat (MSNF), sugar and many functional additives which include stabilizers, emulsifiers and flavoring substances. Water and air constitute the most critical components that give the product the typical mouth feel enjoyed by the young and the old alike. Milk fat in ice cream products can vary from 10% to as high as 20% and higher the fat better is the eating quality of ice cream. In contrast there is a category of products similar to ice creams called Ice Milk with fat content 3-6%. Sugar levels are generally adjusted to 13-17% while MSNF is in the range 5-11% in ice creams and 11.5-14% in Ice Milk. There is a separate category of products going under the name Sherbets containing fat less than 3%, sugar up to 35% and MSNF 1-3%. Frozen Desserts are products not conforming to specifications of standard ice creams especially with regard to quantity and type of fat contained in them. These specialty ice cream-like products with low fat content and plant derived fats to avoid cholesterol issues are made for health freaks. Frozen yogurts, another member of the ice cream family is made from fermented milk solids and contain plenty of probiotics as a bonus.
Froozer is a new product introduced in the US market based on strawberry, blueberry and raspberry and does not contain any milk solids. This product made from frozen fruit pulps can compete with true ice cream in terms of taste, texture and mouth-feel though it has neither the fat nor other typical ingredients that go into ice cream and imagine, a 100 gm serving is equivalent to more than 65 gm of the natural fresh fruit. Availability of a fantastic range of functional ingredients makes it possible to simulate any products which are popular with the consumers. In mid-nineteen nineties, similar products were developed in Malaysia using fruit pulps and MSNF to simulate ice creams and were appropriately called frozen fruit creams. However such products could not get adequate consumer response at that time but to day with health concerns upper most in the minds of consumers, they may yet click.
Under the current Indian food legislation, the standards set forth for ice cream is rather stringent and there is very little scope for any innovation that would have resulted in more healthy products. The frozen dessert category of products similar to ice creams opened up a route for replacing milk fat with vegetable fat, considered much more healthier than any animal fat including milk fat but still stipulates inclusion of MSNF and sugar. With so much knowledge emerging on the health front, one would have thought that a wiser policy must prevail allowing freedom to the industry to develop and offer to the consumers frozen products with healthier ingredients like fruits and others and encourage consumers to switch over to such products instead of the conventional ice cream. Ice cream is consumed mainly for the pleasure of eating, the nutrition aspect being secondary and encouraging the industry to offer products similar to ice cream but more nutritious and safer makes eminent sense. Government policies should not be a hindrance but a facilitatory step for such initiatives on the part of the processing industry.