In Ice Cream Wars, Israelis Scream for Ben & Jerry's

In TheMarker's blind taste test, the Vermont ice cream-making duo wins tops mark for both price and taste.

Israelis all know that their prime minster prefers pistachio, and no scoop is priced too steep. And while the average Israeli family has a more modest ice-cream budget, consumer spending on the creamy frozen treat climbs with each passing summer.

Last year, according to the Nielsen market research firm, whose data is based on retail sales of packaged bar-coded ice cream, Israelis purchased NIS 273 million of ice cream.

With the year's hottest months just around the corner, TheMarker conducted its own taste test and price check of major store-bought ice cream brands.

The survey involved blind taste tests of the seven leading brands on the local market. Testers were asked to rate the treats for both taste and texture on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

Subjects were asked to guess if the ice cream was made from a base of cream or vegetable fat, and whether the dessert was dairy or pareve (non-dairy). They were also asked to describe their general impressions on the taste of the brand.

The beloved Vermont brand Ben & Jerry's came in first, followed by high-class creamery Haagen-Dazs.

In a separate taste test of diet ice creams, Strauss' Cremissimo Light came in first.

When it comes to price, it turns out most supermarket chains sell ice cream for more than the manufacturers' suggested retail price. Nestle's Joya ice cream brand, for example, was selling for NIS 35.49 at the major grocery chain of Super-Sol, which is at least 18% higher than the suggested price of NIS 27-NIS 30. We found the product at Mega supermarkets for NIS 33.27, which was still at least 11% higher than what the manufacturer suggests.

"The ice cream category is characterized by frequent price promotions," Mega officials said in response,"as a result of which most ice cream products are not sold at their catalogue price, but instead are always subject to price promotions that the retail store offers with the approach of the summer months." The Super-Sol chain declined to comment.

TheMarker's taste test also found that the more expensive ice creams were not always the best. First-place Ben & Jerry's, for example, was priced at Super-Sol at NIS 5.12 per 100 grams while Strauss' Magnum brand, which finished fifth, cost NIS 5.54. The most surprising example was Cremissimo, which, although dairy, is made with vegetable fat. It came in third place in the blind test, ahead of Nestle's premium Joya brand and Strauss' premium Magnum product. And Cremissimo is substantially cheaper than the competition at NIS 1.50 per 100 grams.

There were also notable price disparities for the same product at different supermarket chains, with one carton of Ben & Jerry's selling for 27% more at Mega than Super-Sol. Pricing information was taken from the Mega and Super-Sol websites and from mysupermarket.co.il, a website featuring prices from a number of different retailers. Suggested retail prices are from the manufacturers.

The blind taste test was conducted using each brand's plain vanilla and plain chocolate ice creams. An effort was made to choose products that would represent regular vanilla and chocolate and would contain as few additional ingredients as possible. The final grade that each brand received was an average of the ratings it got for its vanilla and chocolate versions and for the testers' overall impression of the brand. The test was conducted on May 16, with the help of nine ice cream enthusiasts from TheMarker's staff.


1st place: Ben & Jerry's
Dairy, made with cream

Ratings (from 1 to 10, in which 10 is the top rating):
Vanilla—7.7
Chocolate—7.6
Overall impression—7.9

The taste testers noted that the ice cream had a special, fine taste. They knew that it was made with cream and also particularly liked its texture and appearance— just like real ice cream is supposed to look. Some of the testers said they could identify it specifically as Ben and Jerry's.

2nd place: Haagen-Dazs
Dairy, made with cream

Ratings:
Vanilla—6.9
Chocolate—7.4
Overall impression—7.5

The tasters liked both flavors but had particular praise for the chocolate. They complimented Haagen-Dazs' smooth texture and said they could sense the use of genuine vanilla and fine chocolate. All of the testers recognized the product as cream-based and some could identify it as Haagen-Dazs.

3rd place: Cremissimo (Strauss)
Dairy, made with vegetable fat

Ratings:
Vanilla—6.0
Chocolate—6.8
Overall impression—6.4

The tasters remarked that the vanilla tasted fine, rich and surprising, but some thought that may be because of added vanilla bean. The chocolate got praise for its strong taste and stable texture. Although the two Cremissimo versions tested were made with vegetable fat, most of the testers thought it had a cream base.

4th place: Joya (Nestle)
Dairy, made with cream

Ratings:
Vanilla—6.2
Chocolate—6.0
Overall Impression—6.1

The tasters liked the texture of the ice cream but some thought it reminded them of aerated whipped cream. Both flavors got high marks, but some said they detected an industrial aftertaste that bothered them and lowered the ratings for the ice cream. Only four testers guessed that Joya is made with cream rather than vegetable fat, although most identified it as dairy rather than pareve.


5th place: Magnum (Strauss)
Dairy, made with cream

Ratings:
Vanilla—5.2
Chocolate—6.6
Overall impression—6.0

Because the Magnum ice cream line does not include plain vanilla and chocolate, the testers were asked to evaluate the vanilla and chocolate ice cream base of the samples they were served. The vanilla had espresso in it, which the testers said was hard to ignore because it dominated the vanilla flavor. Most of the participants didn't like that. The chocolate got more enthusiastic reviews, noting, for example, that it had a good cream texture. Two testers, however, thought it melted too quickly. Most identified it as dairy and made with cream.

6th place: Feldman
Dairy, made with vegetable fat

Ratings:
Vanilla—6.7
Chocolate—4.4
Overall impression—5.6

The testers particularly liked the vanilla. They noted that the ice cream had a smooth, stable texture, but the chocolate ice cream didn't get rave reviews, with some saying it had an aftertaste or that it was too sweet. Some thought the samples were pareve, although they were dairy.

7th place: La Cremeria (Nestle)
Dairy, made with vegetable fat

Ratings:
Vanilla—4.8
Chocolate—5.9
Overall impression—5.1

Although most of the testers very much liked the texture, the ratings suffered due to the taste. The vanilla was said to be too sweet and fatty tasting, although they liked the chocolate more, saying it was clearly made with real chocolate. Some thought the samples were pareve, although they were dairy.

AP
David Bachar