10 Ice Cream Products At The Grocery Store That Aren't Really Ice Cream

When browsing the frozen section at the grocery store, you may not realize many of the ice cream treats aren't actually ice cream at all. Federal law regulates a tight definition of what can be called "ice cream." According to the FDA's definition, real ice cream must "contain at least 10% milkfat, before the addition of bulky ingredients, and must weigh a minimum of 4.5 pounds to the gallon."

Another factor in making ice cream is the overrun. Overrun is the term ice cream makers use for how much air ends up mixed in the product. Less overrun leads to a creamier ice cream because there is less air mixed into the dessert. What makes higher-end ice creams like Ben & Jerry's taste so good is that they have less than 50% overrun. 

To make cheaper products, some companies include more air in their ice cream. However, once an ice cream exceeds 100% overrun, it can no longer be labeled as "ice cream" but becomes a "frozen dairy dessert." Additionally, companies make dairy-free products that aren't officially ice cream, although they may be decadent and creamy treats. We've rounded up 10 "ice creams" you can find at the grocery store that aren't really ice cream.

1. Blue Bunny Simply Vanilla Sandwiches

You may think you're eating ice cream sandwiches when you buy the Blue Bunny brand. However, if you look closely, you will see no mention of "ice cream." Blue Bunny Simply Vanilla Sandwiches do not have the words "ice cream" anywhere on the package. Instead, "sandwich" and "simply vanilla" are written in large lettering on the front. In smaller font, the following is printed, "vanilla with other natural flavors frozen dairy dessert layered between two chocolately wafers."

Turning the package around to look at the ingredients, you can see the first ingredient listed is "frozen dairy dessert." This consists of a variety of items, including skim milk, whey, sugar, buttermilk, cream, cellulose gum, coconut oil, and carrageenan. One benefit of using less cream and adding gums, like guar gum, to frozen products is that Blue Bunny Sandwiches won't melt as fast as real ice cream does. Bring the sandwiches to the park on a summer day for your kids, and you won't need to worry your frozen treats will melt quickly. Consumer Reports once did a test to measure how quickly five different ice cream brands melted outdoors. The researchers found Blue Bunny sandwiches hadn't melted after 30 minutes!

2. Nestlé Drumstick Vanilla Sundae Cone

Nestlé Drumstick cones may look like a sugar cone filled with chocolate-covered ice cream, but in actuality, the "ice cream" is a frozen dairy dessert. Nestlé avoids any mention of ice cream on its packaging and describes the Simply Dipped Vanilla Drumstick as "a creamy vanilla cone. Dipped in smooth chocolatey coating." The first five ingredients listed are dairy product solids, sugar, skim milk, corn syrup, and coconut oil.

Unlike genuine ice cream, such as Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream, which lists cream as its first ingredient, the first ingredient here is "dairy product solids." Dairy product solids are what is left over when you remove protein, lactose, and/or minerals from milk or whey. It's safe to eat and is used in many foods from frozen desserts to baked goods. However, it's not ice cream. Another thing missing from Nestlé's Vanilla Sundae Cones is vanilla. You can't find vanilla listed in the ingredients, although you will find "natural flavor."

3. Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy Pints

Ben & Jerry's is known for its premium ice cream, however, pure ice cream products aren't all that the company offers. Unless you look at the label, you might not guess that Ben & Jerry's non-dairy flavors are not actually ice cream. Because these are made with oat milk, almond milk, and sunflower butter bases, they do not meet the FDA's standards to be labeled as ice cream. However, they are a creamy, decadent treat for vegans and people who need to avoid dairy products. 

Though Ben & Jerry's regular ice cream is almost universally loved, opinions can be somewhat mixed on the non-dairy flavors. However, one Reddit poster said of the Strawberry Cheezecake non-dairy version, "Went vegan two years ago and my prayers have been answered." Someone replied in the comments, "It's so good. I've been vegan for about 18 years and this is the best tasting vegan dairy substitute I've ever had."

4. Good Humor Bars

Good Humor bars have been delighting children chasing down ice cream trucks for decades. In the early 1920s, in Youngstown Ohio, Harry Burt invented ice cream on a stick with a chocolate coating. He began selling his creations from a dozen vending trucks around the city. Eventually, Good Humor bars became a favorite staple of ice cream trucks everywhere. Good Humor offers a variety of frozen bars, including Creamsicle, Chocolate Éclair, Strawberry Shortcake, Cookies and Cream Bar, and the Original Ice Cream Bar. While the Original Ice Cream and Creamsicle bars are made of ice cream, the other flavors may look like ice cream, but instead are labeled as "frozen dessert bars."

Good Humor describes its Strawberry Shortcake Bar as a "creamy strawberry and vanilla dessert bar, made with our famous signature cake coating." While the Cookies and Cream Bar is a "fan-favorite frozen dessert bar." This bar is "loaded with chocolate cookie pieces, with a delicious chocolatey cookie crunch coating." However, the Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Éclair, and Cookies and Cream bars are not true ice cream, but frozen desserts.

5. Halo Top Fruit Pops

Halo Top is known for offering a reduced calorie ice cream that tastes richer than you might expect for such a light treat. However, the company also makes a fruit pop that doesn't contain any ice cream or dairy at all. If you're craving a fruity, frozen dessert that is dairy free, you may want to give Halo Top Ice Cream Fruit Pops a try. The bars are made with real fruit juice and come in fun flavors like strawberry lime raspberry, coconut, and mango. They are lower in calories, ranging from 30 to 90 calories per bar. And they also boast 40 to 60% less sugar.

One ingredient you may want to be aware of is the second one listed, soluble corn fiber. Added to processed foods to add fiber and improve texture, studies have shown it can cause some people to have digestive issues, especially if eaten in large amounts. 

6. PhillySwirl SwirlStix and cups

With flavors like Banana Split and Orange Dream, it's easy to understand how a PhillySwirl bar could be mistaken as ice cream, but it's not. The frozen dessert is actually an "Italian ice inspired treat." The business began in 1992 in Tampa, Florida when two Penn State college students realized the amazing market potential to sell Philadelphia-style frozen treats in Tampa. Soon after opening the first store (a 400 square foot rented house), the friends had the innovation to swirl flavors together. Thus, PhillySwirl SwirlStix was born. Some of its flavor offerings include Orange Dream (orange and marshmallow) and Rainbow (white lemon, cherry, and blueberry.) After the initial SwirlStix, PhillySwirl introduced Swirl Cups and Swirl Cups with Candy Spoons.

Its frozen treats are a favorite among those with food allergies. The company offers bars and cups that are free of the top eight allergens, including dairy. The bars and cups are also a low-calorie option if you're looking for something sweet. The bars are only 45 calories with 0 grams of fat while the cups are 100 calories with 0 grams of fat. 

7. Reese's Frozen Dessert Bars

Although Reese's does make a peanut butter light ice cream, it's Frozen Dessert Bars are not real ice cream. Launched in 2023 in a partnership with Unilever Ice Cream, the dessert bars are described by the company as a, "smooth peanut butter frozen dairy dessert." The bars are "covered it in a delectable chocolate and cake coating." Although it may look like an ice cream treat, you won't find the words "ice cream" anywhere on the package. Ice cream is also missing from other peanut butter treats in the Reese's 2023 lineup including Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cones, Peanut Butter Frozen Dessert Cups, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, and Chocolate Frozen Dairy Desserts.

The first two ingredients in the bars are nonfat milk and a peanut butter sauce. While the sandwiches are made with nonfat milk and a "peanut butter swirl." Neither of which meet the FDA's definition to be able to call itself ice cream. 

8. Oreo Frozen Desserts

Oreos and dairy have long gone together. Whether is cookies and cream ice cream, or simply dipping Oreo cookies in a glass of milk, it's a classic combination. Oreo cookies have been around since 1912 when they were first sold at New York City's famous Chelsea Market. Today they are the top-selling cookie worldwide. 

In 2022, Oreo launched a line of frozen products, much to the delight of Oreo lovers everywhere. However, these frozen treats are not ice cream per FDA guidelines but instead are considered frozen dairy desserts. The lineup includes bars, sandwiches, cones, and frozen dairy desserts (which look a lot like a tub of ice cream). The frozen cones, for example, are filled with "creme-flavored frozen dairy dessert packed with OREO cookie pieces, then dipped in a delicious coating made from crushed OREO wafer pieces." The top ingredient in the frozen dairy dessert is dairy product solids. 

9. Popsicle Fudge Pops

You won't find ice cream inside a Popsicle Fudge Pop. These frozen treats debuted in 1946 as the brand's first chocolate-based pop and became a favorite treat offered on ice cream trucks around America. The pops are only 40 calories per bar. However, despite that good news, the pops contain some questionable ingredients with the top five listed as nonfat milk, maltodextrin, sorbitol, polydextrose, and cocoa processed with alkali. Of course, skim milk is standard, but maltodextrin as the second ingredient is a bit shady considering it's a food additive used to replace sugar. Too much maltodextrin, which can be found in highly processed diets, can cause stomach issues, especially when heavily consumed. Sorbitol is a sweetener that is considered safe, although too much sorbitol can cause gut issues. Polydextrose increases the fiber in foods and is often used to replace sugar. Also considered a safe additive, it is also known to cause gas and bloating in high amounts. And finally, cocoa processed with alkali is simply cocoa that has been processed to reduce acidity. It's also known as Dutch process cocoa and it improves the flavor and richness of cocoa powder. 

10. Breyer's Non Dairy Frozen Desserts

If real ice cream is what you're after, check that package of Breyers carefully before you buy. Breyers offers both ice cream and frozen dairy desserts. Unless you see "ice cream" somewhere on the package, however, what you are getting is instead, a frozen dessert. For example, the Butter Pecan and Cookies & Cream flavors are both labeled as frozen dairy desserts on the bottom right corner of the package. However, both chocolate and natural vanilla are labeled as ice cream on the front. 

The company explained the reason behind its frozen dairy dessert offerings on its website saying the decision was based on consumer demand, "People have told us they have various flavor or texture preferences. For example, some tell us that they want a smoother texture, which is what we're able to deliver with our Frozen Dairy Dessert products." To further confuse things, Breyers also has other frozen dairy desserts such as its Carb Smart line of products and non-dairy desserts.