Go to the freezer aisle of your local grocery store, and you’ll see no shortage of ice cream options. There’s just one major flavor that’s always missing: grape. Why is it that you can easily find strawberry, raspberry, pecan, or mint, but not grape ice cream?
A few years ago, an internet hoax came up with a (false) reason. Grapes, as it turns out, contain anthocyanin, which is deadly to dogs. Grape ice creams contain large amounts of anthocyanin, and as a result, they’re extremely poisonous for pets—so poisonous, in fact, that the FDA supposedly banned the sale of grape ice cream in the United States.
As myth-busting website Snopes pointed out, there’s no such prohibition in the United States or any other country. Grapes are poisonous to dogs, but the FDA doesn’t regulate products based on toxicity to canines. If that were the case, the administration would also have to step in to ban the sale of avocados, chocolate, and macadamia nuts.
Why can’t you find grape ice cream?
1. It’s scientifically challenging to make grape ice cream.
There’s no real reason why ice cream makers can’t infuse ice cream with a grape flavor, but it is scientifically challenging to do so. It’s a problem because grapes are about 81 percent water. In small batches, ice cream makers can effectively manage the consistency of their pureed grapes, resulting in a tasty ice cream, but in larger batches, the process becomes more difficult (and therefore expensive).
Additionally, consumers generally expect chunks of real fruit in their frozen treats (case in point: cherry ice cream or strawberry ice cream). Freeze a grape, and you’ll end up with a little grape-flavored ice cube—hardly something you’d want to bite into while enjoying a sundae.
“Jerry and Ben will talk about the days of making melon ice cream, or cantaloupe ice cream, and how good that was,” said Sean Greenwood, PR lead for Ben & Jerry’s, to Thrillist. “But then, they were doing it on a 2-gallon batch. To try to do that on a massive scale is much more challenging.”
2. People don’t actually like it.
You might be thinking, but Cherry Garcia, one of Ben & Jerry’s flagship products, does have big chunks of a very similar fruit: cherries. Cherries, like grapes, are made up of a very high water content (about 81 percent).
“Grapes are a difficult fruit, because of the water content—but it’s also not a very mainstream flavor for ice cream,” Greenwood said. “Most people don’t even associate grape with ice cream. People grew up on cherry and vanilla—so now, they love cherry-based ice cream. Grape has not broken through the creme-de-glace ceiling, if you will.”
So that’s the reason that grape ice cream isn’t commonplace—most people don’t want it. Perhaps if grapes had been infused into ice cream long ago, folks would have an appetite for it now, but because of the historical precedent, grape ice cream is not bound for the ice cream hall of fame.
Does grape ice cream exist?
Case in point: Greenwood did tell Thrillist that Ben & Jerry’s tried a similar flavor several decades ago, with poor results. So, there has been grape ice cream on the market, but…
“So, we have an actual graveyard of flavors we made and just didn’t hit,” Greenwood explained. “One of the most iconic examples is ‘Sugar Plum,’ which is a similar flavor profile to grape made in the late ’80s. A lot of our employees still talk about how it was a fun idea, but not a great flavor. I don’t think there’s a huge appeal or appetite for it.”
So, there you have it. Grape ice cream doesn’t exist partly because of the scientific challenge behind making it. But, moreover, even if ice cream makers could master the recipe, it seems the masses wouldn’t buy it anyway.
Can you make grape ice cream?
If you’re a huge grape enthusiast and you want to give it a go yourself, there are several recipes online you can try. As we mentioned earlier, making grape ice cream in a smaller batch should help you manage the consistency and come out with a tasty flavor.
Try these recipes if you’re curious about the mysterious flavor. The first one by Kiwilimon has over 11,000 reviews and an average rating of 5.0 stars, so ice cream makers, take note.