Australia’s consumption of ice-cream is estimated at 18 litres per head, third only to New Zealand and the US. It comes in an array of varieties and its creamy qualities depend on how the ingredients listed on the tub are blended together and in what ratio.
CHOICE recruited 60 members, as well as some eager staff, to taste-test 32 vanilla ice-creams. The ice-creams ranged from premium to low fat and covered generic and leading brands. We asked our tasters to rate each ice-cream on flavour, texture, overall taste, and whether or not they would buy it. Our recommended ice-creams received the best overall ratings, with significantly more tasters rating them as “good”, “very good” or “excellent” overall.
Interestingly, Woolworths Home Brand rated lowest overall – a finding at odds with our recent taste test of supermarket private label and premium brand products. The market leader, Peters Original, comes in ninth on our list. The most expensive ice-cream, Homer Hudson Vanilla Nirvana, ranks towards the top of the list; however, you can buy the top-performing Coles Classic Vanilla Creamy at a fifth of the price. At the other end of the scale, the least expensive ice-creams rank at the bottom half of the table, so for this particular treat it’s worth spending a little more.
In response to consumer health concerns, more and more manufacturers are making low-fat ice-cream formulations; 13 tested are marketed as low- or reduced-fat or “light”. Bear in mind that "reduced fat" doesn't always mean low fat. By law, low-fat products cannot contain more than 3% fat, whereas reduced-fat products only need to have at least 25% less fat than their full-fat equivalent. Three of the reduced-fat products on test are not low-fat, so always check the nutritional panel on the tub.
Our results suggest that tasters seemed to prefer premium and/or creamy ice-creams. The low-fat group generally received significantly lower scores for flavour, texture and overall taste, with ice-creams in this category being more likely to be described as “icy” and less likely to be judged as “creamy” or “smooth”. Peters Light and Creamy French Vanilla is the best lower-fat ice-cream, comparing favourably with its regular counterparts for flavour. Tasters didn’t describe its texture as “icy” (nor did they for Peters Light and Creamy Classic Vanilla) as they did with other low-fat ice-creams.
Bulla Light 98% Fat Free Vanilla has the equal-lowest number of kilojoules of the ice-creams tested and gets a nutritional green light for both total and saturated fat. More than half of our tast-testers described its taste as "vanilla” and almost half said it had a “smooth” texture. Sixty-three percent said they would be likely to buy it.