Ice-cream reviews

Creamy, premium or low-fat: which vanilla ice-cream suits your taste?
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01 .Introduction


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.

Low-fat formulations

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.


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Coles Classic Vanilla Creamy                     31c/100ml

Weis Vanilla Bean                                   80c/100ml

Streets Blue Ribbon Extra Creamy            33c/100ml

 11-Coles  30-Weis  Blue-Ribbon

Low fat and still tastes good

Peters Light and Creamy French Vanilla    37c/100ml





Healthier option

Bulla Light 98% Fat Free Vanilla                 31c/100ml







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Price ($)Overall scoreFlavour score (%)Texture score (%)Energy (kJ per 100g)Total fat (per 100g)Saturated fat (per 100g)Sugars (per 100g)
Classic Vanilla Creamy (A)0.3175757895210.97.626.2
Vanilla Bean0.874748098313.210.123.4
Extra Creamy (A)0.3372707585810.67.519
Gourmet Ice Cream Classic Vanilla0.9706875103014.79.519.5
Vanilla Nirvana1.55707075111017.411.120.4
Rich and Creamy Vanilla (A)0.2670707088212.17.920.1
Light and Creamy French Vanilla0.376967716552.71.620.3
Creamy Classics Premium Quality0.3662636885911.47.620
Original Vanilla0.286261677506.43.921.7
Light 98% Fat Free Vanilla0.316163655151.6117.1
Madagascan Vanilla Bean1.4616264108018.412.214.7
Vanilla Flavoured Ice Cream0.1660576583110.87.320.1
Creamy Vanilla0.3460626386211.47.619.9
97% Fat Free (A)0.266061596943220.9
Classic Vanilla1605964945138.820.7
Light and Creamy Classic Vanilla0.376056686552.71.620.3
Light Creamy Classics Premium Reduced Fat0.35960596905.63.619.4
Traditional Country Ice Cream0.2459616283110.87.320.1
Vanilla Ice Cream0.1159626084410.46.814.3
Real Dairy Ice Cream0.3158585781910.26.622.1
Light Vanilla (A)0.335655616822.7220.6
No Sugar Added Classic Vanilla 97% Fat Free0.55555625152.71.69.5
Light Vanilla0.345354606612.51.725.8
Reduced Fat Vanilla Ice Cream (A)0.215353577386.64.621.3
French Vanilla 99% Fat Free1.150525457510.723
Vanilla (Ice Confection)0.1148476086910.35.517.2
Vanilla Reduced Fat0.114848537626.84.824.7
Vanilla Ice Cream0.2147484882210.57.420
So Good Vanilla Bliss 97% Fat Free (Soy)0.554644576302.90.716.2
Vanilla Ice Cream Light (B)0.114448496622.51.817.3
French Vanilla0.8444455968810.77.214.6
Vanilla Ice Cream0.1139345384910.56.416.1

How we analyse

Taste test CHOICE asked 60 members to take part in an in-house taste test. This group was split into two sessions, each of which tasted 11 samples of ice-cream. The remaining samples were tasted by CHOICE staff. We selected vanilla-flavoured ice-creams available from supermarkets, and presented a scoop to each taster in a plastic container with no brand identification. Tasters were asked to consider the taste, flavour and overall acceptability of each ice-cream using a scale of 1-7 (very poor to excellent) and whether or not they would buy it.

Nutritional analysis We record the energy, total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium of each ice-cream, taken from the nutritional information panel on the packaging.

Using the table 

Nutrients Based on information provided on the label.
Traffic light criteria are based on the latest nutrition recommendations and dietary guidelines established by government health experts in Australia and internationally.
Sodium All ice-creams are under 100mg/100g for sodium and get the green light.
Price per 100mL is based on prices paid in Sydney supermarkets on 13 December 2010.

Table notes

(A) Contains gelatine as a stabiliser.
(B) There were only 29 responses for this sample, so figures here are not as directly comparable with others.

What's happened to Homebrand?

Woolworths Home Brand Vanilla ice-cream ranked highest in our test of private label and premium brands, with tasters praising its creamy taste and smooth texture. This time, however, it came last. Woolworths told CHOICE that although there had not been a formulation change, a batch had reached the shelves that didn’t meet Woolworth’s quality standards, which we may have used in this test.

We asked a handful of staff to taste the ice-cream from the tested batch as well as a new one; all said the ice-cream from the new batch tasted noticeably better. We can only conclude that better quality control should be practised, and any batch that’s not up to standard in the test kitchen should not be rolled out onto the shelves for consumers.

Each ingredient used to make ice-cream plays a role in providing flavour, consistency and texture.

Milk fat can be added as cream, butter or pure milk fat, and gives ice-cream its characteristic smoothness and creaminess. Generally, the higher the milk fat content, the richer the ice-cream. Coles Finest Madagascan Vanilla Bean has 18% milk fat – the highest of the lot – and therefore the highest percentage of saturated fat.

Non-fat milk solids include ingredients such as the solids of skim milk, protein, milk sugar (lactose) and mineral matter. They give body to the ice-cream and help develop smoothness. They do very little to enhance flavour, but work to increase viscosity and resistance to melting as well as lowering the freezing point. It’s important that ice-cream not have too many non-fat milk solids, as these cause an icy texture due to the formation of lactose crystals.

Sweetening agents enhance the flavour of ice-cream; common sweeteners are cane sugar (sucrose) and glucose syrups. Sugar lowers the freezing point of the ice-cream mixture, resulting in slower freezing and so requiring a lower temperature for proper handling. Peters No Sugar Added Classic Vanilla, as its name suggests, has the lowest sugar content of all the ice-creams on test and instead uses the sweeteners acesulphame potassium (950) and sucralose (955).

Stabilisers such as vegetable gums increase the viscosity of ice-cream by controlling the size and growth of ice crystals to give a uniform and smooth consistency. Common stabilisers used include vegetable gums such as carrageenan (407); processed eucheuma seaweed (407a); sodium alginate (401); locust bean gum (410); guar gum (412) and xanthan gum (415), as well as powdered cellulose (460) and sodium carboxymethylcellulose (466). Gelatine can also be used, and is found in six of the ice-creams on test (see the table).

Emulsifiers improve the whipping qualities of the mix by ensuring the milk fat remains evenly distributed. Commonly used emulsifiers include mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (471), citric and fatty acid esters of glycerol (472c), polysorbate 80 (433) and propylene glycerol esters of fatty acids (477).

Air (overrun) gives ice-cream its desired texture. Without incorporating air, the ice-cream mix would freeze as a solid mass. During the freezing process, the overrun increases its volume.

Colourings make ice-cream attractive to the eye and correspond to the associated flavour. For the ice-creams on test, the natural colouring annatto (160b) is mostly used. Caramel I (150a) and Caramel IV (150d) are also used in some.

Flavourings Manufacturers don’t need to specify the names of the flavourings used in their ice-creams or whether or not they’re natural. Natural vanilla extract is expensive, so less expensive ice-creams tend to use artificial flavours. In this test, Sara Lee, New Zealand Natural, Homer Hudson, Coles 97% Fat Free and Coles Classic Vanilla Creamy claim to use a natural vanilla flavour. Coles Finest, Weis and Homer Hudson specify a percentage of vanilla extract that they use.

Jargon buster

Regular ice-cream is defined by the Food Standards Code as a sweet frozen food made from cream and/or milk products that must contain no less than 10% milk fat and 168g/L of food solids.

Premium ice-cream There is no set requirement for these types. “Premium” is purely a marketing term. Products like Homer Hudson and Connoisseur Gourmet don’t have ‘premium’ on the label but carry a premium price tag.

Reduced-fat ice-cream should contain about 25% less fat than its full-fat equivalent, this is about 7% fat for ice-cream.

Low-fat ice-cream must contain no more than 3% fat.

% fat-free claims are restricted by the industry Code of Practice to products that contain no more than 3% fat. i.e. 97% 98% or 99% fat free. Five ice-creams on test use these claims on their labelling.

Ice confection is a term used for a product that doesn’t meet the definition of ice-cream. In this test, only Coles Smart Buy is labelled an ice confection.

Soy-based ice confection In this type of product, milk solids are replaced with soy protein. Sanitarium So Good Vanilla Bliss is the only soy-based ice-confection on test.


The ideal storage temperature for ice-cream is -25°C; it should never be stored any warmer than -18°C. Avoid heat shock (large or long periods of temperature fluctuations), as this will cause the formation of large ice crystals which give the ice-cream that icy or sandy texture.  To avoid heat shock you can also practice the following:

  • Take a cooler to the supermarket so the ice-cream (as well as any other frozen or refrigerated foods) can stay cool when you're travelling home.
  • Get the ice-cream last, and try to get a tub that's further down in the freezer (if it's a chest freezer), or towards the back (if it's in a stand-up freezer).
  • Don't choose a product with ice crystals around the container. This is a sign that its undergone temperature changes and so might have a gritty/icy texture.
  • Put the ice-cream in the freezer as soon as you get home and don't leave it out on the kitchen bench for too long after using it.
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