Ice Cream Brands Made With The Highest And Lowest Quality Ingredients

multi colored ice cream scoops
multi colored ice cream scoops - Tanya Sid/Shutterstock

At its core, ice cream is made of milk or cream, a sweetener, and flavoring. It sounds simple enough, but we all know that not all ice cream brands are created equal. So what truly separates the good from the bad? It comes down to the quality of the ingredients used.

High-quality ice cream includes excellent ingredients and vibrant flavors. Think mint chip with actual mint as opposed to artificial flavoring, and real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Top-grade brands also exercise intentionality behind their sourcing, often using organic products. On the other hand, lower-quality brands cut corners by using a wide range of preservatives and additives. This can help extend the ice cream's shelf life and decrease production costs. Sadly, saving a few bucks comes at a price, since many of these lower-quality ingredients contribute to some of the unhealthiest ice cream brands on store shelves.

If you have a soft spot for this sweet treat, you want to know which companies are worth your money — and luckily, we've got the inside scoop. We've dug into more ice cream brands than we can count, and read the fine print on those nutrition labels. The result is this list of the ice cream brands made with the highest and lowest quality ingredients. Before you head down that frozen food aisle, keep reading. After all, knowledge is power — and ultimately, life is too short to eat bad ice cream.

Read more: The Ultimate Ice Cream Brands, Ranked

six humphry slocombe pints
six humphry slocombe pints - Humphry Slocombe / Facebook

Bay Area brand Humphry Slocombe has solidified itself as the cool kid on the block, and not just because it avoids preservatives and dyes. Humphry Slocombe has created some funky flavors that actually taste incredible and are made from exceptional ingredients. The fact that the brand sources locally whenever possible is just the cherry on top.

Some of the flavors, like Secret Breakfast, are staples on the menu. Others are seasonal or limited edition varieties, like Creme Fraiche, made using local crème fraiche from Cowgirl Creamery. For another truly local creation, try the Pink Jesus. This flavor was developed in partnership with Sonoma Hills Farm, the first certified organic cannabis farm, and is inspired by its Pink Jesus strain. Don't worry, it's kid-friendly — the only high you'll get is from natural sugars. But with raspberry, lavender, and caramel elements — along with a relaxing rose hue — it'll definitely help you chill out.

You can visit one of the company's storefronts on your trip to the Bay Area. But if you're nowhere near California, fear not. Humphry Slocombe offers nationwide delivery, so this high-quality ice cream can show up right on your doorstep for dessert.

Blue Bell ice cream containers
Blue Bell ice cream containers - Alizada Studios / Shutterstock

At first glance, Blue Bell Ice Cream might look deceivingly high-quality. With a short list of ingredients, you would think the company was keeping it all natural. However, if you look closer, you'll notice the company cuts corners with some pretty basic ingredients. For one, Blue Bell's Homemade Vanilla uses more than just the ingredients you would find in your average pantry. Aside from several gums, the flavor also contains high fructose corn syrup. And while it has both natural and artificial vanilla flavors, we're not quite sure of the percentage of each.

In a Mashed survey, 20% of participants voted Blue Bell the worst store-bought ice cream brand. That's not exactly a title to flaunt, but perhaps its low-quality ingredients have something to do with it. After all, this Texas brand can use pretty packaging, but when that lid comes off, taste buds don't lie.

Adirondack vanilla ice cream
Adirondack vanilla ice cream - Adirondack Creamery / Facebook

Many high-ranking ice cream brands began as passion projects, and Adirondack Creamery is no exception. Growing up, Paul N. Nasrani spent his summers on a Pennsylvania farm, helping churn ice cream by hand. This hobby continued well into adulthood, and eventually, Nasrani left his finance job to make ice cream full-time. Yep, his ice cream is that good. And the ingredient list reflects exactly what you'd expect to find in a homemade recipe. At the core of Adirondack Creamery's ice cream is milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks, with different natural flavors and ingredients depending on the variety.

The company keeps things simple — but simple definitely doesn't mean boring. Take its Kulfi-Pistachio Cardamom ice cream, which uses real pistachios, cardamom, and pure vanilla to achieve a naturally decadent flavor. Meanwhile, its Pumpkin Pie variety contains real pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves to get you in that autumn spirit (although truthfully, we'd enjoy this flavor any time of year). The brand's ice cream can be found in the eastern states, stretching from North Carolina to New Hampshire. And because the company sources its dairy from small family farms in the area, you can expect it to be fresh and free of artificial growth hormones.

Great Value ice cream shelf
Great Value ice cream shelf - The Image Party / Shutterstock

Walmart's signature brand might be inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. Great Value ice cream uses several gums, additives, and artificial dyes. These can give popular ice cream flavors their color and help maintain their freshness longer, but they also lower the ice cream's overall quality.

For example, Great Value's Mint Chip achieves its soft green hue through a combination of Yellow 5 and Blue 1. These chemicals are far from natural, and according to a review in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, they've been linked to harmful side effects. The review reported that Yellow 5 is known to be contaminated with carcinogens and Blue 1 can cause hypersensitivity reactions.

Even if you opt for Vanilla or Chocolate, you'll still find guar gum, which causes gas in some individuals per the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Assuming you're not lactose intolerant, stomach upset is a telltale sign of low-quality ingredients. We'd rather shell out a few extra bucks and enjoy our ice cream experience without the painful aftermath.

Straus Creamery chocolate ice cream
Straus Creamery chocolate ice cream - Straus Family Creamery / Facebook

What's better than using locally sourced dairy from a nearby creamery? Using dairy straight from your own farm. That's precisely what Straus Family Creamery does when crafting its line of ice creams. The brand's Super Premium flavors include classics like Vanilla Bean, Mint Chip, and Dutch Chocolate. For something less conventional, go for the Snickerdoodle, made with organic gluten-free shortbread cookies and organic cinnamon powder. Meanwhile, the Maple Cream is made with organic maple syrup and organic maple flavor, so you can expect that pure maple taste we all love.

If you notice everything on the ingredient list is prefaced with "organic," know that it's no accident. Not only is this family-owned creamery USDA-certified organic, it also purchases organic and non-GMO ingredients to complete its recipes. To top it off, these ice creams are also devoid of fillers and artificial ingredients. Overall, Straus Family Creamery likes to keep it simple with real, well-sourced ingredients and its top-notch, tasty ice cream is proof of that. To try it for yourself, just head to your local store. Straus products are found everywhere from Safeway and Albertsons to Whole Foods.

Blue Ribbon ice cream stacked
Blue Ribbon ice cream stacked - WoodmansFoodCarpentersville / Facebook

Blue Ribbon Classics ice cream has a long list of questionable ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, additives, and preservatives. It also uses bio-engineered food products, which is code for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are a hotly debated topic. While we need more research to understand their full effects, there are some things we do know. Agricultural GMOs have altered genes resistant to herbicides, meaning many farmers can use herbicides alongside their GMO crops to kill surrounding weeds. Some fear that these herbicides accumulate in the crops and cause negative health effects when consumed.

One commonly used herbicide in the GMO world is Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate. An analysis published in Mutation Research discovered that glyphosate exposure was linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Furthermore, an Environmental Sciences Europe study showed that glyphosate wasn't the only downside to using Roundup. This study linked long-term exposure to Roundup to endocrine-disrupting effects. Although the research was completed on mice, many would rather be safe than sorry. Since Blue Ribbon Classics' ice cream doesn't specify which GMO products are used and how they're grown, we can only speculate. But considering the wide use of Roundup across GMO crops, we'd be extra cautious.

peachy keen Alden's ice cream
peachy keen Alden's ice cream - Alden's Ice Cream / Facebook

Alden's Organic is all about making high-quality ice cream accessible to everyone. The brand prides itself on using organic and non-GMO ingredients, from sugar to natural flavorings. It also avoids high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and flavoring, and carrageenan — all of which you'll commonly find in lower-quality ice creams.

When it comes to milk and cream, Alden's keeps its standards high. The brand sources them from organic family-owned farms whose cows eat organic feed and graze for a minimum of 120 days. The company's traditional ice cream includes flavors like Old Fashioned Vanilla, Strawberry, Orange Cream, and Mint Chip. However, if you're looking for incredible dairy-free ice cream options, opt for one of Alden's frozen desserts or vegan ice cream sandwiches instead.

Although Alden's Organics is an Oregon-made brand, it's available across the nation. You can find these products everywhere from Costco and Kroger's to Whole Foods Market and more niche local stores.

hands holding Hudsonville ice cream
hands holding Hudsonville ice cream - dearbornfarmmarket / Facebook

Hudsonville has teamed up with Little Debbie to create fun, colorful flavors like Unicorn Cakes and Oatmeal Cream Pies. However, Little Debbie isn't exactly the ambassador of high-quality ingredients. As such, we weren't surprised to find a variety of food colorings on the ingredient list.

Take Hudsonville's Cosmic Brownies ice cream, which uses yellow, red, and blue food dyes — hey, they have to create those cosmic colors somehow. Unfortunately, an Environmental Health review found that synthetic food dyes affect children's behavior by increasing hyperactivity and lowering attention spans. Since the study was done on children, it's hard to say what the effect would be on adults. However, with all the artificial food coloring out there, these chemicals add up. And if you've got kids at home, chances are, they'd be reaching for Hudsonville's ice cream in your freezer.

If you're a fan of Hudsonville, read the back of the packaging. Many flavors — even ones that don't appear as colorful — will include added colors. However, the company's Creamery Blend Vanilla seems to have been spared. So if you love the Hudsonville brand, but are looking for better ingredients, keep it classic with vanilla. You can always add some creative ice cream toppings to jazz it up.

pints of Alec's Ice Cream
pints of Alec's Ice Cream - Alec's Ice Cream

California seems to have a thing for high-quality ice cream. Perhaps it's the state's entrepreneurial spirit combined with sunny weather that churns out such a vast number of ice cream companies. Whatever the reason, we're happy to see this trend, because Alec's Ice Cream is next on the list. This Petaluma-based company delivers delicious ice cream flavors like Matcha Mint Chocolate and Honey Blueberry Lavender. As an ode to the famous Southern Californian beverage, Alec's Ice Cream also created the Palm Springs Banana Chocolate Date Shake — a mouthful in more ways than one. You can find these flavors at grocery stores across the United States or even order online.

All of Alec's Ice Cream flavors contain only the best organic ingredients. Plus, the company sources from regenerative farms. This agricultural style focuses on helping the environment rather than harming it by removing carbon from the air and replenishing the soil with nutrients. Alec's Ice Cream also contains original A2 protein dairy as opposed to the A1 dairy products used in conventional products. A2 protein dairy is thought to be superior — and there's science to prove it. In a Nutrition Journal study, milk containing both A1 and A2 proteins caused digestive discomfort and inflammation. However, milk containing solely A2 protein did not aggravate stomach issues, even in those who reported lactose intolerance.

Baskin Robbins ice cream cone
Baskin Robbins ice cream cone - gothiclolita / Shutterstock

Baskin-Robbins brings out some serious childhood nostalgia, especially with flavors like Peanut Butter and Jelly. However, to create these fun colors and flavors, the company uses several chemicals and preservatives. After all, Baskin Robbin's Cotton Candy flavor wouldn't be so bright without Brilliant Blue FCF, and Pistachio Almond wouldn't have its pretty green tint without adding Blue 1 to the mix.

We do have to give Baskin-Robbins props for choosing natural ingredients in some of its varieties. For example, the Mango Tango uses turmeric-curcumin for color and real mango pulp for flavor. But if you take the brand as a whole, there are far too many synthetic, low-quality ingredients like fillers, gums, high fructose corn syrup, and polysorbate 80. Baskin-Robbins also uses refined vegetable oils in several of its ice cream recipes, which you won't find in most high-quality brands. If you're buying this brand from your local store, do your due diligence and read the ingredient label closely.

ice cream for bears flavors
ice cream for bears flavors - Ice Cream for Bears

The aptly named Ice Cream for Bears is all about getting back to raw roots. The company believes in eating as close to nature as possible, and at the core of all its ice cream flavors are just four simple ingredients: cream, milk, eggs, and honey. Yep, you heard that right — the brand uses real honey instead of processed sugars. This means its pints of ice cream have zero grams of refined sugar. Of course, honey is still nature's candy and is full of real sugars. However, honey has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties along with several nutrients.

Currently, Ice Cream for Bears carries three all-natural varieties which are available at select grocery stores across the nation, including Sprouts Farmers Market. In addition to the core ingredients, Queen and Bean uses vanilla extract and vanilla bean to achieve a naturally rich vanilla flavor. Nocturnal uses cocoa and butter for a decadently dark chocolate experience. Lastly, Butterbear contains natural flavors to create a classic butterscotch caramel ice cream.

Turkey Hill Brownie Fudge Swirl
Turkey Hill Brownie Fudge Swirl - Turkey Hill

If you look closely at the carton, you'll notice Turkey Hill isn't an ice cream at all, but a frozen dairy dessert. It doesn't quite meet the Federal Drug Administration's criteria to be an ice cream, which is not a strong start for this brand. But since you'll find Turkey Hill next to ice cream in the frozen food aisle, we've included it on this list — and we've deemed it one of the lowest-quality options for several questionable ingredients.

For starters, Turkey Hill's ingredients list resembles more of an ancient scroll than it does a nutrition label. It also contains many chemicals the average Joe wouldn't be familiar with, from polydextrose to propylene glycerol mono esters. Several of these hard-to-pronounce chemicals are thickeners and emulsifiers, but that doesn't make them harmless. One of these, monocalcium phosphate, might be fine in small doses, but larger amounts are another story.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, excess phosphates can pull calcium from your bones and weaken your skeletal system over time. The foundation recommends getting your phosphorus needs from natural food sources like plants and animal products rather than food additives. This is because phosphate in food additives is completely absorbed by the body, so those with already existing kidney issues might want to avoid them entirely.

Cosmic Bliss coconut ice cream
Cosmic Bliss coconut ice cream - Cosmic Bliss / Facebook

Cosmic Bliss is all about intentionality, from the ingredients it choosse to its sourcing methods. The company creates organic products free of sugar alcohols and synthetic chemicals. Instead of high fructose corn syrup, the brand opts for ingredients like coconut sugar and maple syrup. Also, its dairy comes from 100% grass-fed cows — and the brand doesn't stop there. Even its packaging is designed to limit environmental impact. That all sounds pretty sweet to us.

Since the company started as a dairy-free brand, it has some excellent vegan products made from coconut milk. Its popular plant-based ice creams include Chocolate Peanut Butter, Legendary Cookie Dough, and Sweet Cherry Amaretto. Meanwhile, the company also boasts dairy options like Chocolate Euphoria and All the Good Things, which combines fudge, peanut butter, and caramel for an absolutely blissful dessert.

Cosmic Bliss is sold at Whole Foods Market, Raley's, and Sprouts as well as smaller retailers. If you don't live near these locations, you can let the company know where you'd like to see its products. After all, the customer's health and happiness are at the forefront of Cosmic Bliss' business.

Read the original article on Daily Meal