Saturday, December 17, 2016

Discussion Time: Is mainstream ice cream dead?

Maybe a better question is, do you still feel the same way about Breyers, Edys, Friendlys, Turkey Hill, Perrys, Blue Bunny and all the rest? I've been struggling to find a good way to ask this question as the year comes to a close. I just can't help but feel that those of us who search the freezer aisle for a good mainstream ice cream are running out of options.

I don't always want something super dense and calorie filled like B&J and H-D, nor do I want to settle for something cheap and unrewarding like a store brand. I don't want to spend ten to twenty dollars on a pint of ice cream that I have to have shipped to me no matter how amazing it might be. I just want to walk down the aisle and pick something that fits my mood at that exact moment. It shouldn't be that hard to find a mainstream cookie dough with enough flavor and dough bits. It shouldn't be that hard to find a cookies & cream flavor that isn't gummy or weak. Why can't I find a strong fruit flavor with real bits that doesn't blow up my food budget or leave an artificial taste?

Yes, I'm being bitter and cranky but I worry about what the future holds. I've said it several times now that Turkey Hill all natural ice cream is my only real refuge in the mainstream space. Even the regular Turkey Hill flavors just aren't as good as they use to be, but they haven't fallen nearly as far as say Friendlys or Breyers. (just to clarify, Turkey Hill's regular line up is my current go to mainstream brand that I bring home for family consumption, I only buy the other brands if the TH selection is too limited).

I guess I just don't understand why we're losing the war here. There are so many options in the freezer aisle yet I struggle to bring home regular flavors to my family. This just seems so wrong. Has cost cutting killed mainstream ice cream? Is it possible to still deliver a good product at the price consumers expect? To be clear, I'm not saying you can't like these products. Instead, I'm just asking you if the changes we have been seeing bother you as much as it bothers me. I know, I'm probably overthinking this and hopefully this doesn't come off like a jerk post. I'm just worried about the industry. If I started an ice cream company, I'd want to serve the regular family that buys regular ice cream. The fancy stuff is fun, but why can't that big carton of mainstream frozen stuff bring the same amount of joy as it did when I was a kid?

Please let me know what you think. Have a good weekend everyone.

21 comments:

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

I proudly support the smaller ice cream companies these days. Are they more expensive? Absolutely. But do these companies actually care about ingredient quality, flavor/texture quality (whether there's mix-ins or not), and customers' needs/requests for superb ice cream? 98% of the time, absolutely. I refer to ice cream as balanced indulgences, and I refuse to settle for "frozen dairy dessert" that doesn't taste worthy. Am I an ice cream snob? Yes. To me, it's worth the top dollar to pay for ice creams that actually deliver MORE than what's expected. I will say though - since Edy's has cleaned up their act and has improved ingredients (even going all non-GMO now), they're excellent. That's what I purchase in stores. Otherwise, I justify ordering/purchasing online for fun, hard-to-find, HIGH QUALITY ice creams and frozen custards online. There's my take :)

Bob said...

It is not we are "Running" out of options per say. The quality of these ice creams is just subpar. All of us growing up would agree that the first ice cream you have is something you grab from a local walmart or grocery store. You first go home and have say Breyers and go WOW this is incredible. Then you may branch into HD or B&J and think man this is even better. The problem is the best ice cream is usually the ice cream from local Mom & Pop Stores, or from that you order online. Its like once you go to a high quality or fine dining restaurant you never want to go to a chain again. Same thing with ice cream. Resorting back to the fast food or local choices (Ben and Jerry's, Breyers, Turkey Hill) just do not seem as good anymore, and you want to reach for the stuff that may cost a bit more, or packs more of a better flavor/mix-in/swirl combination.

I have to agree the flavors have been medicore this year from B&J and other local brands everyone can get their hands on. I think it was a bad year for mainstream ice cream in 2016. I have to say though some other emerging companies like Little G's really surprised me. Salt & Straw had some incredible flavors, same with Ample hills who reign supreme in the ice cream game (IMO). I think once people reach out and try some other options they may look at local grocery store ice cream as meh. Just like if you have a high quality meal at a fine dining restaurant you may never look at fast food the same or as medicore.

but for a quick pickup some flavors off those mainstream lines will always be incredible flavors, but everyone has their personal preference on what they want to spend or invest in.

Danielle said...

Dubba, I completely agree with you. I still love and adore TH but that's about it. I refuse to buy the super high end unless it's on sale, and even then I find the flavors are just too out there. Ii like simple and clean. Thus my love for TH All Natural Sea Salt Caramel. I'm hoping the industry gets so flooded the mainstream companies will be forced to rethink their recipes and ingredients in order to keep from closing down.

Latchkey Nerds said...

Blue Bunny is still good...actually to me they really stepped their game up this year. Most of their flavors have been outstanding for a non-super premium. Ben and Jerry's had an awful year, and I think I'm over them. It's a shame, because I like them as people, but the brand itself took a nosedive.

Anonymous said...

I love ice cream so much but also can't find a mainstream flavor to re-purchase. I don't really like B&J's or HD as much as I used to so have stopped buying those as well. I had ice cream on my list today at the grocery store and just couldn't find anything that looked appealing.

The only brand I would love to try is Little G's but $20 for a pint is insane.

Anonymous said...

Dubba, do you know what happened to Graeter's Madagascar Vanilla? Only one store in my area carries it and they never have it any more. Wondering if it has been discontinued? The frozen food manager didn't know and I still see it on their website.

You are a better source. Thanks!

Dubba Scoops said...

@Liz: hey, if ordering online makes you happy, go for it!

@Bob: yeah, I try to factor in the whole being spoiled by better brands and stuff, but I like to think I can still enjoy the basics. It may seem like just words, but I really do end most of my days with all natural turkey hill. I like that classic simplicity that reminds me of the Breyers of my childhood.

@D: there is the new "all natural" that relies too heavily on gums, that is not cool.

@Latchkey: I always thought blue bunny was good, they just seem to have more exposure or something this year. It could be as simple as their clear packaging is catching more eyes or maybe distribution is better. That said, they did trim down to 46oz per packaging after trying for years to maintain their "two extra scoops" labeling.

@Anon: maybe try another store? :)

@Anon#2: no way they kill their vanilla!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Just wanted to chime in about Graeter's vanilla - I've actually never seen that flavor available in local grocery stores (and I'm in Ohio); but I know for a fact it's available in their online store ;)

sunnyday04 said...

I think that everyone has nailed it on the head, really. I know it's easier said than done, but maybe you could think of it as buying wine... hear me out :P You save the nice expensive ones for and every now and then treat.... one that you savor. Maybe you just try and eat the serving size portion--1/2 cup-- buy a special ice cream cup that is cool, personalized (like... a Star Wars one, one with your kid designed, one you picked up on vacation, etc.) and a special ice cream spoon and put it in that rather than in a big ole boring bowl where it looks like a tablespoon full of regular old frozen mush. Make it an event! And then have the cheaper stuff that you eat on the every day... when you just want something sweet and comforting. Maybe buy some fun toppings to try with them, or add in your own mix-ins to amp it up.

I know you have a blog you have to create posts and new material for... sating the masses and such... but, you can do that even with ice cream that is lack(lick?)luster. You are still providing reviews and letting us know your honest opinions, even when the product is a bust. The aforementioned suggestions would just be for your personal enjoyment. LOL And I'm certainly not trying to tell the master how to eat ice cream--nor are they novel suggestions. But, just trying to make the best out of a bad situation :D

D... said...

Yeah, I do think they are dying. Or at the very least something I dont consider them anymore despite the fact that that stuff is what I grew up eating. Its a combination of factors. 1) Ice cream has become more of a luxury food product and because food in America is relatively cheap, its something we can seek out high quality options at a relatively small overall financial burden. 2) All of the fillers, artificial ingredients, high omega 6 seed oils, etc that they put into the cheap brands. Thats a non starter for me. If I could find a lower butterfat cheap ice cream that went with the milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and flavor approach I would likely buy it.

Anne Sutton said...

Try Aldi's new ice creams....they are like a Ben and Jerry's knock-off. They are really good for the price which is 1/3 of B&J. Yeah, I think sometimes you are kind of hard on mainstream brands. I find Turkey Hill to be a good choice most days at any rate.

Anonymous said...

I feel like mainstream ice cream is going to be like mainstream beer brands. People will continue to buy it. It will have a bizarrely loyal consumer base. But because it sells on price point and not ticking off that consumer base, mainstream brands just don't have any motivation to be anything more than 'passable'. It will do for a children's birthday (ice cream not beer) or last minute get together and that's basically the market these brands try to corner. To the extent that my life is a millennial cliche, I know better than to show up at a party with a pack of Budweiser or carton of Breyers. People will consume it, but everybody knows there is better stuff available for not that much more money. Plus, there is push now to create a story around the product: 'ooh, this is good! Where did you find it?' 'Have to tried this other version?', 'Have you tried mixing it with this?'. People like discovering and sharing small brands. It's just harder to rave about mainstream ones. Everybody knows them. It's not 'your' brand and adds nothing to 'your' story. I'm not claiming that ice cream should have to do this. My generations' need to redefine itself does sometimes boarder on ridiculous, but ice cream for the most part right now either sells on 'price point' or 'story'. Unfortunately, taste by itself just isn't get more cartons off the selves so mainstream brands have no reason to focus on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%. I rarely look at price when I crave a specialty food item. To me, I see many foods as affordable luxuries. By that I mean even a $10 pint wont kill me. That being said, I've been so totally bored with and disappointed in the mainstream products I have not purchased anything other than pints in at least 5 years. Turkey Hill is not available in south Florida. I wish it was. B&J flavors are lackluster. HD is a snoozefest. Talenti is decent but Im bored with those flavors too. I do love Mcconnells but its not easy to find and the pint flavors are very limited. 3 Twins is a decent product with some interesting flavors. Its to the point where I don't even bother looking anymore, just to avoid inevitable disappointment.

Anonymous said...

The only answer that springs to mind is the simplest one; find, say, two products that you really like and can depend on for quality and a reasonable price. For me, that's HD vanilla and strawberry. Never let me down. I keep them on hand, and when I'm at the store, unless something really jumps out at me (I'm not immune to new products with fancy packaging) they're what I buy.

Running the risk of tedium? Perhaps. But I'm _never_ disappointed. There is a certain comfort in repeatability.

I can see how for you, Dubba, it might be difficult - you probably feel duty-bound to try everything that comes around the pike, and that would get expensive. And they're clearly not all going to be great - most won't, probably. For the regular consumer of frozen happiness, I think the choices winnow down to a trusted few, with the occasional splurge on something silly.

Anonymous said...


Oh - and I mentioned this to Dubba a while back - if any of you have access to and haven't tried them yet - give Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches a shot. Just a simple, regular sandwich, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate ... bread, I guess. But man - these things will make you feel like a kid again, I swear. And I dare anyone to eat just one. Can't be done. They are amazing, the crack of ice cream treats. Hereabouts, they shake down to around 1.25 per sandwich. You get a big box of 12 for about 8 bucks. And they sure last a lot longer that a pint of premium in my house! I can generally get 3 or 4 days out of a box, unless I go crazy. Which happens.

Anonymous said...

I must be the only one who doesn't think Turkey Hill all natural tastes good! Tastes just like any other store brand to me, very bland. Glad you enjoy it tho Dubba.

Sascha Bartels said...

Often, I've had better luck with store brands than with national brands. Walmart has some pints that I really like, like the almond, chocolate coconut. Since I still have never seen talenti's version, Walmart will work. A couple other good ones there as well, like peach cobbler. Kroger has done good private selection pints, most notably the hazelnut mascarpone. Quite delicious. And meijers purple cow line is awesome, no pints though, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I know everyone doesn't have access to Tillamook, but I have been really impressed with it - for a mainstream, grocery store ice cream. I just tried their holiday flavors (pumpkin cookie butter and white chocolate peppermint bark). Both are superb.

Unknown said...

Edy's/Dreyer's? The slow churned line was still solid last time I had some (but apparently Shop Rite doesn't carry it anymore).

I rarely buy ice cream anymore though... just the same old boring flavors...

Jeremy Scott said...

They're a few winners for a weekly Ice Cream, or say, the one that'll most likely be go-to and in the freezer.
Dreyers - Hands down the always consistent baseline for a good ice cream. Nothing to funky at all. Ice cream with a clean finish. Not gummy, Not "warm" or chewy, not icy, it's the Goldilocks "just right" ice cream. In a "mix-in" they are not too heavy handed or short handed. Take for example the Chocolate Chip or Mint Chip....I defy you to find another brand that offers the same ratio of Chip too cream. Also, too find a brand that gives chips of real chocolate that have been tempered to give a perfect thud crunch when chewed, or a melt when left on the tongue! I try every ice cream I can. I just don't consume a lot at a time. I like reading Dubbas reviews. We disagree often, thats ok, I love listening to what other people have to say. I will agree with Dubba that spending copious amounts of money to have Ice cream Shipped in is ridiculous, and generally underwhelming, perhaps because of the cost? Not sure. What I am sure of is Ice cream is fun, delicious and apparently very popular to talk about!!

Anonymous said...

The mainstream ice cream market is NOT dead, there still is a significant customer base and great demand, the problem is that the one real notable quality mainstream brand that was all natural and excellent for over a century, not too rich, not poor in quality, at a reasonable price was BREYERS ALL NATURAL ICE CREAM!

The ingredients were PERFECT and there were no gums, stabilizers, artificial flavors, or other fake ingredients!!!!

Breyers has "DESERTED" their loyal customer base when they decided to cheapen out and offer up horridly slimy, artificial, FROZEN DESSERT in place of their iconic
ALL NATURAL ICE CREAM which used to be available in ALL THEIR NUMEROUS FLAVORS
from Peach, to Butter Brickle, to everything else they made. With the exception of a few ice cream flavors, and even they have some stabilizers, and gums, Breyers makes NOTHING worth buying.

The only good Breyers ALL NATURAL replacement on a national level is
Turkey Hill ALL NATURAL style but they only offer a very limited number of flavors at any time, usually not more than half a dozen if that....while if you went back to the late 70s and 80s...Breyers offered perhaps three dozen flavors of all natural varieties at the same time.

I sorely miss the old Breyers from the 80s and before that we all loved, I wish
Unilever would sell them to a smaller company that really cared about the product.