Nutrition Meets Food Science


When the heat approaches, kids get excited about eating ice creams. Even adults become kids and start looking at ever increasing flavours in ice creams. Consumption of ice cream in India keeps increasing with the upcoming flavors and styles. According to 2017 Mintel report on global ice cream market, its consumption in India has increased 13% over the last 5 years. According to Euromonitor the amount of ice cream and frozen dessert sold in India was, 4.5 lakh tonnes worth Rs 11,743 crores in 2017 and is expected to be about 5.5 lakh tonnes worth Rs. 18,786 crores.

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Global consumption of ice cream in 2015 was 15.6 billion litres of which Indian consumption was 0.3 billion or about 2%. Although it is tiny, in future it is set to be very significant. Current market leaders are Amul (Gujarat Coop), Hindustan Unilever, Vadilal, Mother Dairy and some others.

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Ice cream has the standards given by FSSAI which includes kulfi, softy etc and may include natural sweetening agents like sugar. It may also contain fruit, eggs, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, spices, nuts and their products. Bakery products like cake or cookies may be added. It may also contain stabilisers and emulsifiers, colours and flavours, among other things. The fat content of ice cream must be at least 10% but the medium or low fat ice cream may contain less. When this fat is from dairy milk then the word ice cream may be used while if vegetable fat is used, the product is termed as frozen dessert.


Many forms of dairy ingredients have been used in ice cream including whole milk, skim milk, cream, butter, butter oil, condensed milk products as well as dried milk products. Ice cream is composed of milk fat and solids-non-fat (SNF), sugar, stabiliser, emulsifier, flavourings, water and air. As milk fat is the most expensive ingredient, higher its content, higher is the cost of ice cream.

Products with less than 10% milk fat may not be called ice creams. Ice milk products may contain only 4% fat whereas fruit flavoured sherbets usually contain less than 2% fat and fruit ices and ice lollies may contain no fat.

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Ice cream also contains an important ingredient, namely, air and so it is a whipped product. Air is incorporated into it as small air cells which are necessary to prevent ice cream from being too dense, too hard and too cold in the mouth. There is an increase in volume due to addition of air and it is called overrun.

Functions of Ingredients

Each ingredient serves specific function in final product. Fat gives a rich flavour, smooth texture and body. Solids non-fat contributes to flavour, body and a desirable texture. More SNF allows higher overruns without affecting texture. Sugar adds sweetness and lowers freezing point so it does not become too hard.

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Stabilisers like guar gum, karaya, agar, pectin or cellulose derivatives form gels improving the body and texture. They bind to water so the product does not melt easily and resist formation of large crystals with coarse texture. Egg yolk is a natural emulsifier due to the presence of lecithin. Other emulsifiers like mono- & di-glycerides are also used. Emulsifiers disperse fat droplets evenly through the mix and prevent clumping. Emulsifiers also improve whipping properties. Flavours and other ingredients provide consumer appeal.


After the ingredients are mixed at warm temperature, the mix is pasteurised and then homogenised which breaks up fat globules into tiny droplets and distributes it evenly in the mix. Temperature is lowered to about 4°C and aged for several hours so that the fat solidifies, the stabilisers hydrate and swells and the viscosity of the mix increases. The mix is then simultaneously whipped and quickly frozen in freezers to prevent large ice crystals as the larger ice crystals gives sandy mouthfeel. Constant whipping distributes these crystals evenly. The temperature is lowered to about -5°C and the ice cream is pumped while it is still semi-solid. This follows the addition of all the bigger pieces like nuts, fruits, chocolate etc. and the ice cream is hardened to -34°C in storage.

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Kulfi: It is called traditional Indian ice cream. Although looking similar to ice cream, kulfi is denser and creamier. Popular flavors are rose, mango, cardamom, saffron and pistachio. Newer variants with fruits and nuts are available nowadays. Traditional process is evaporation of sweetened and flavored milk slowly with constant stirring. Semi-condensed mix is then frozen in small moulds using ice-salt mix. As it does not have any air incorporated, it is harder and denser. It may be available in stick, roll or other formats.

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Sorbet: These may contain low milk fat or solids. They are sometimes prepared without dairy products. It is commonly prepared using fruit juice, puree and sometimes with wine or liqueur. Sometimes it may also contain gelatin, egg whites, cream or milk.

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Gelato: It is popular in Italy. It contains less fat and more milk solids with less air incorporated so it is a much denser product, but more flavourful.

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Frozen yogurt: It was marketed as similar to ice cream but healthier as the product is fermented and contains lactic acid bacteria which are good for gut health along with some vitamins. This product is more acidic than ice cream since fermentation produces lactic acid and contains less fat.

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Soft Serve: This product is softer than ice cream because it has aeration done at the time of freezing and less fat, and stored at higher temperature of -4°C. Commonly it is prepared and sold immediately.

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Globally, ice cream market is growing rapidly. Not only volumes are increasing but different variations are being introduced with many exotic flavours. Many additions like cookie and cake pieces are also included. Herbs too are added. Sugar substitutes and lower fat formulations are already being introduced to reduce calories. With this growth in the ice cream industry future may see some healthy ingredients in the ice creams. Many innovative changes may be seen in years to come.

Dr Jagadish Pai

Editor, PFNDAI

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