The Real Reason Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Is So Expensive

Ice cream is part of American culture. From George Washington reportedly spending $200 to bring it to our nation's capitol to Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings of the soda jerk scooping ice cream into a bowl for a woman, ice cream is woven into the American experience (via Ben & Jerry's). In fact, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, ice cream is an $11 billion industry, with the average American consuming 23 pounds of the frozen dessert each year. Over the years, both the flavors and techniques of how we make this favored treat have evolved, which has allowed ice cream makers to produce luxury and artisan brands of ice cream. 

One such brand is Haagen-Dazs. Haagen-Dazs is a Brooklyn-born, super-premium ice cream company that started in the early '60s by Reuben and Rose Mattus. Mattus wanted to make an ice cream he could be proud of, so he increased the butterfat to at least 15 percent, refused to use preservatives and stabilizers and instead concentrated on natural ingredients, and cut the overrun — the amount of air pushed into ice cream — to 20 percent (via Eater). This standard created a Mercedes-Benz niche of luxury ice creams and significantly changed the competitive nature of the ice cream industry. 

But why exactly is Haagen-Dazs so expensive?

Weight and ingredients contribute to the high price of Haagen-Dazs

Haagen-Dazs has set the bar high when it comes to what makes a luxury ice cream luxurious. One of the biggest criteria that must be met to be part of this elite group of ice cream that allows ice creams like Haagen-Dazs to command a hefty price tag for its product centers around standard overrun. If you want to run with the super-premium ice cream clique, your overrun needs to be less than 50 percent. Why is the overrun ratio so important? Simply put, the lower overrun ratios means fewer ice crystals, producing a much denser, creamier, and richer texture and taste. With super-premium ice cream, then, you are getting less air and more product. If you were to compare the weight of this ice cream with the competition, you would realize you are actually getting more bang for your buck. 

Super-premium ice creams like Haagen-Dazs have one more requirement. It also must contain at least 14 percent butterfat if it is going to have that luxuriously smooth taste (via Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream). These standards, coupled with natural ingredients, allow for the brand to charge about $5.50 a pint. And while that is certainly a lot for what will amount to a few scoops of ice cream, it has set the pace for its competitors like Ben & Jerry's and some of the regional artisan ice creams that have hit the frozen dessert scene.