Ate an ice-cream today? Are you sure it was an ice-cream? Or was it frozen desserts?

There is a thin line dividing frozen desserts and ice-creams. So, read the fineprint on the product cover to know what you are having.

Barring a few companies in the market such as Amul, Mother Dairy, Hatsun Agro Food Ltd and Havmor, others –including Kwality Walls (Hindustan Unilever) – serve frozen desserts and not ice-creams. International brands such as Haagen Dazs, Movenpick (Nestle), Swensen's and Baskin Robbins offer ice-creams. Vadilal sells both.

According to the definition of milk and milk products under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, an ice-cream is a product with not less than 10 per cent of milk fat, whereas frozen dessert contains vegetable fat.

Vegetable vs milk fat

“There is no health hazard in using either of the two ingredients. Traditionally, ice-creams have been made out of milk fat, so it might be considered as cheating by some consumers,” says Ms Pritee Shah, Senior Director, Consumer Education and Research Centre, Ahmedabad and Editor, InsightMagazine .

Baskin Robbins is a market leader in the premium category of ice-creams and plans to introduce an emblem to convey the use of cow milk fats in its products. The company's Executive Director, Mr Sunil Pardal, says that there is a difference in the taste of ice-creams and frozen desserts and a seasoned customer can easily make that out.

“As a policy, we will not enter into the frozen dessert space, even though it is cheaper to do so. Dairy fat is more than double the cost of vegetable fat,” he says.

Price factor

One kg of vegetable fat (vanaspati) is about Rs 50-55 a kg, while one kg of milk fat (ghee) is Rs 245-350 a kg.

On a litre of ice-cream, cost of a milk fat mix is Rs 60/litre and the cost of vegetable oil mix is Rs 30/litre, says Mr Pradeep Chona, Managing Director, Havmor.

The 67-year-old brand operating in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, Havmor advertises its ice-cream as 100 per cent pure to increase consumer awareness. It operates a popular retail chain and grew 35 per cent this year.

Margins, the same

Vadilal manufactures both ice-creams and frozen desserts in a 50:50 ratio to cater to all segments of customers, according to Mr Rajesh Gandhi, Managing Director, Vadilal Industries Ltd.

While it is cheaper to produce frozen desserts, the margins for both turn out to be the same, he says. “Consumers are aware. In Europe, both are called ice-cream, while in the US, the differentiation is maintained,” he adds.

Arun Ice Creams, which claims to command 62 per cent market share in Tamil Nadu, advertise its products through its own parlours.

“We have been in the business since before vegetable fats were allowed in ice-creams and the taste is different,” says Mr R.G. Chandramogan, Chairman and Managing Director, Hatsun Agro Products Ltd.

The Rs 2,500-crore frozen dessert market in India is growing at an average of 15 per cent and is still dominated by regional players. The per capita consumption of ice-creams in India is very low and considering the hot weather, there is space for factory made ice-creams along with matka kulfi, asharfi, koti ice-cream and Rs 5 candies to survive and grow, says Ms Pritee Shah of Insight .