Respect For Ice Milk

HAPPY EATER

March 31, 1991|By ROB KASPER

Ice milk doesn't want to be called ice milk anymore. It wants to be called ice cream.

The International Ice Cream Association has suggested that the Food and Drug Administration allow ice milk to be called "reduced fat ice cream."

The people who make ice milk think that a new name will make the product more appealing. I'm against the idea. Changing your name doesn't automatically bring you respect and admiration. I know, I once petitioned my parents to be called "Duke."

I understand the temptation to get a new name. Especially an appellation as delicious as "ice cream," or as powerful as "Duke." You are tired of being pigeonholed. You want the world to take notice of the new you. And so you change your handle.

Name changers are not totally against preconceived notions. Far from it. We want to shed the displeasing stereotypes attached to our old appellation and latch on to the glowing attributes associated with our new one.

If, for example, the outfielders never backed up when they heard that "Rob" was batting, you had the feeling they would immediately head for the fences when a "Duke" stepped to the plate.

And somehow you got the feeling that car mechanics and chain link fence guys worked on "Duke's" repair job before bothering with the one from "Robert." You knew that the "Duke" factor didn't do much when you were trying to get a reservation at a fancy restaurant. For that you needed a "Doctor Duke."

I'm sure the ice milk people have been thinking along the same lines. They know that for years the name "ice milk" connoted thrift. Since it has less butterfat than the good stuff, ice milk was sold for less. And a mom, shopping for a family of four boys, would buy a half gallon of "ice milk" for the kids. They couldn't taste the difference between it and ice cream, she reasoned, and ice milk was cheap.

But now, in days of smaller families, the marketers figure "thrift" is out and "reduced fat" is in.

They may be right. Growing up with three brothers, I found there was little chance in our household to eat "too much" ice milk. If a half-gallon of the stuff lasted 24 hours, it was rarity. But now as a father of two kids, I notice a half-gallon lasts several days. Presenting, I guess, a threat to household nutrition.

Meanwhile, the renamed ice milk figures on having it both ways. It could capitalize on the fact that everybody says they want to "reduce fat," while at the same time knowing that everybody wants to eat "ice cream." So thrifty old ice milk becomes trendy reduced fat ice cream.

Except, of course, that is not how name changes work. Th effect is rarely lasting.

The outfielders who at first backed up when "Duke" was at the plate, soon move back to the "Rob" positions. And I think customers who buy a "reduced fat ice cream" will be disappointed. Regardless of what it is called, ice milk doesn't have the creamy taste of ice cream, because ice milk doesn't have the fat.

So I am against the name change. But I'm the kind of guy who still wants pleasure, not some half-baked health food, for dessert.

Despite my opposition, I think the name change will be approved the FDA, probably this spring. The FDA has a say-so in the matter because in an effort to protect the public from fraud, it sets down the established recipes for many edibles, including ice cream.

The new order of ice milk is part of a proposal which calls for labeling the concoctions according to amount of butterfat they contain. I predict that we will select ice cream the way we now buy gasoline, according to the wallop the product packs. At the low end, "non-fat ice cream" will contain less than 1/2 percent butterfat. Then there will be a "low-fat ice cream" with a token butterfat content of 1/2 to 2 percent. Then a "reduced fat ice cream" with a moderate 2 to 7 percent butterfat. And real ice cream will still be required to have a butterfat content of 10 percent.

And maybe the really good stuff like Haagen-Dasz and Ben and Jerry's will get to call itself "super premium, premium ice cream."

If they can do that, I might change my name to Kareem.

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