Why it's a good sign that your ice cream is melting


Melted ice cream cone on ground

Related Articles

A vigorously melting ice cream sandwich on an 80-degree summer day is a thing of nightmares for moms around the world.

The mess. The stickiness. The wasted money. The paper napkins. The tears.

While our favorite summer treat liquefying in the blink of an eye is a total tragedy on a hot summer day, it’s very good for our health. Earlier in July, Christie Watson, a mother living in Cincinnati, noticed that the Walmart Great Value ice cream sandwiches that she purchased for her children, one of which her son left sitting outside for at least 12 hours on a hot day, hardly melted. Watson said she wondered how something that claimed to be ice cream, not an artificial treat, could stay solid in the heat for so long.

Watson ran some tests and ended up with similar results as her son's initial "experiment," sparking consumers and news organizations around the United States to conduct their own. Haagen-Dazs, Klondike, Blue Bunny — all of them melted within 30 minutes, while the Walmart Great Value ice cream sandwiches stayed solid.

After Watson’s story was published, Walmart released a statement, saying that its Great Value ice cream sandwiches meet FDA guidelines. The company also cites using less cream as a healthier, more cost-effective reasoning for the staying power of the sandwiches.

So how is an "unmeltable" ice cream sandwich possible? The short answer: temperature, ingredients and science. The warmer the temperature, the more energy an object has and the faster it absorbs energy. Once an object (ice cream, in this case) hits its threshold of energy, it starts to melt. Likewise, ingredients — creams, sugar, eggs and such fixings as chocolate chips — affect how quickly ice cream melts. For example, low-fat ice cream melts slower because cream is replaced with water and more whipped air, which require more absorption of energy to melt.

There’s also another explanation — preservatives and gum stabilizers such as guar gum, corn syrup and cellulose (wood pulp, an additive that is used to thicken products). Also, a lack of cream and buttercream are what help the Walmart Great Value ice cream sandwich stay solid.

Health issues aside, there are some brands that identify more with frustrated moms who have to deal with the havoc of prematurely melted ice cream. Those companies are using those preservatives in a positive way to develop treats that won’t melt.