Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is summarized by the author as “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” In the chapter “Eat Food: Food Defined,” he offers a rule of thumb:

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.

Part C of that rule came to mind when I saw this in my local Stop & Shop’s ice cream case:


Text on the side of the carton elaborated:

All-natural ice cream crafted with only five essential ingredients for incredibly pure, balanced flavor… and surprisingly less fat!

It’s a lofty claim, but, sure enough, the ingredient list was skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and cocoa powder. When I placed the carton in my freezer, I looked at the ingredient list for the nearly-empty container of regular Häagen-Dasz chocolate ice cream: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, cocoa powder. It’s easy to miss, but the order of the first two ingredients is reversed. Since they’re listed in descending order of percentage of final product, the regular, non-Five version had more cream than skim milk, and the Five had more skim milk.

That reversal is responsible for the lower-fat claim. There’s no butterfat in skim milk, it’s all in the cream, so less cream means less fat (12 grams vs. 17 grams). But less fat also means a less luxurious mouth feel. I could taste the difference between both versions in a blind tasting: H-D didn’t just skimp on the fat, they shorted the cocoa. “Milk chocolate” means “less cocoa powder than our regular chocolate.”

So it’s all hype. I’ll spend my five bucks on the full-fat version, or I’ll make my own. It still has only five ingredients, but it lasts less than five days.

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4 Responses to Five

  1. daphne says:

    You’re like a mythbuster for food. I love the typography of the packaging, and the brilliant marketing. We should put your buddy Straz on a blind test.

    I suggest you make your own. I have tasted your ice-cream. Delish.

    • David says:

      Straz would pick out the weak chocolate instantly.

      As for the H-D typography, it’s a welcome change from the clunkier gold-on-red of the standard cartons, but it looks like every other modern sans-serif rebranding launched in the last few years, see Pepsi and Tropicana.

      My chocolate ice cream is richer than the legendary Toscanini’s “Chocolate No. 2 (Dark).”

  2. Bryan says:

    “My chocolate ice cream is richer than the legendary Toscanini’s “Chocolate No. 2 (Dark).””

    Nothing beats homemade ice cream! Sadly, I need a new machine. I had one of those Krups machines that went into the freezer, but it sprung a leak and the goo ran out. Now I want one of those nifty Italian jobs with a built-in freezer. I make an absolutely killer coffee ice cream.

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