Taste Test: Cheap Ice Cream Treats vs. Premium Brands

'I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM'

In the heat of summer, not much sounds better than an ice-cold ice cream novelty. National Ice Cream Day falls on the second Sunday of July every year (July 19 in 2015). Ahead of the celebration, Cheapism.com conducted a blind tasting to determine the best ice cream treats and see how inexpensive novelties measure up to premium brands. The task wasn't easy, but a panel of six judges sampled ice cream treats from Dove, Haagen-Dazs, Klondike, Kroger (the store brand), and Nestle. Kroger's store brand was the cheapest overall while Dove and Haagen-Dazs represented the premium segment. The frozen sweets were divided into categories: ice cream sandwiches, bars, and cones. Natural flavor was the most important criterion, followed by a distinctly chocolaty coating or sandwich wafer and a shell or cone with a nice crunch. So, which novelties appealed to the panelists' tastes and which ones melted into a last-place puddle?

HAAGEN-DAZS VANILLA MILK CHOCOLATE ($1.60)

A poor showing by the Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar was a surprise, given its reputation and price. But this novelty didn't stand out in the panel's collective opinion. Most of the tasters found it "bland" and lacking the punch needed for a high ranking.

KROGER ARCTIC BLASTER (25 CENTS)

The cheapest ice cream bar in the tasting crumbled due to a chocolate outer shell that was "lacking a distinct flavor." Some judges also insisted, "The chocolate just isn't very good."

NESTLE VANILLA SANDWICH (83 CENTS)

The reviewers liked the flavor of the Nestle Vanilla Sandwich but detected a slight artificial aftertaste. The outer chocolate cookie layers were too "soggy" for many.

KROGER FUN DAZE SUNDAE (60 CENTS)

The Fun Daze Sundae ice cream cone from Kroger was undone by a "soft, almost stale cone" and a "definite artificial taste." Still, the judges were happy with the "creamy, original vanilla ice cream flavor" and a "strong, nutty" taste contributed by the peanut topping.

NESTLE ESKIMO PIE (83 CENTS)

Nestle's Eskimo Pie snagged a runner-up spot in the bar category. This one prompted a "wow" on first bite from one panelist, who found the follow-through a bit lacking. "The flavor seems to fade fast and end on a bland note," one reviewer added. The ice cream was the main culprit here, as the chocolate was deemed a very close contender for first place.
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DOVEBAR ($1.43)

The DoveBar definitely rises into premium range, which kept it from winning the ice cream bar face-off. Still, the judges liked the chocolate coating on the DoveBar, describing it in terms such as "creamy" and "exceptional," and the vanilla interior was a pleasing complement.

KLONDIKE CLASSIC VANILLA (83 CENTS)

The Klondike Classic Vanilla ice cream sandwich took second place in the category after being judged "a softer sandwich" than the victor, with ice cream that seemed slightly "less creamy." A couple of tasters, however, preferred the texture of this treat.

BEST BUDGET ICE CREAM CONE: NESTLE DRUMSTICK (92 CENTS)

The Nestle Drumstick was the overall favorite in the cone category. "The taste was more organic and less artificial" than Kroger's Fun Daze Sundae, according to several tasters, while the cone had a "nice crunch" and a "less stale texture."

BEST BUDGET ICE CREAM BAR: KLONDIKE ORIGINAL (58 CENTS)

Klondike tied with Dove in the ice cream bar category but reigns over the budget niche at less than half the price of a DoveBar. A "distinct chocolate flavor, a thick shell, and big crunch" made the Klondike Original (with vanilla ice cream and milk chocolate coating) a clear standout.

BEST BUDGET ICE CREAM SANDWICH: KROGER SAMMIE (31 CENTS)

The Kroger Sammie emerged as the most deserving ice cream sandwich. With what the panel described as "a crisp and rich chocolate sandwich filled with creamy vanilla ice cream," consumers can't go wrong. While Klondike and Nestle also garnered favorable comments, neither ranked as high in the judges' estimation.