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Americans have adopted NZ real fruit ice cream but are 'butchering' the product with sugary toppings

Feb 21, 2024

Aotearoa’s real fruit ice cream is a hit in America, but the US addition of sugary toppings like cookies, gummies, swirls and sprinkles, is “butchering” the goodness of the original, say New Zealand retailers.

Ice cream from fresh berries, a Kiwi summer icon, is catching on in big American cities according to a recent report in the New York Times, driven by a rise in US tourists to Aotearoa.

Toad Hall in the Nelson Tasman region – the “fruit bowl” of New Zealand – is a “go to” spot for the original, voted as best place for fruit ice cream by Stuff’s travel team.

Owner Angie Morris’s vision is to offer healthy and nutritious ice cream from locally sourced berries.

Tampering with the original is unnecessarily “adding lots of crap”, she said.

“It’s definitely butchering the product. Americanising it and making it unhealthy. There are already outlets who do ice creams where you can put all sorts on it.”

Piling on sauce and Oreos means you are potentially consuming harmful additives, she says.

“The point of New Zealand fruit ice cream is that it’s just that – with natural flavour and sweetness from fruit.”

Owners of US ice cream store, Far Out in Massachusetts, America, who were inspired after a trip to the South Island, not only named their business after a Kiwi phrase, but its website said it offers “what Kiwis call ‘Real Fruit Ice Cream’.”

Its menu though, tells another story, with options for cones to be chocolate or sprinkle dipped, and additional toppings of sprinkles, chocolate or coconut flakes, “drizzles” or “Graham cracker” (sweet biscuit).

When the store opened two years ago, it did just offer the New Zealand original, but that did not fly with the “hedonistic” American ice-cream culture, owner August Radbill told the Times.

Eventually the owners “gave in” to Americans who wanted all the extras.

“I am going to indulge so much, and I am going to get a large with hot fudge, gummy bears and put everything on it because I am not worried about calories,” said Radbill.

New Zealanders are the biggest consumers of ice cream in the world, with each of us chowing down on around 23 litres per capita per annum, according to the New Zealand ice cream association.

New Zealand ice creams are “on-trend for lifestyle and wellness” and the country’s “regional ingredients”, according to a recent research report commissioned by the government, but the country is not getting a big enough scoop of the $107 billion global ice cream market.

The report identified export opportunities that could make our ice cream as popular overseas as our wine, lamb and honey.

Not if you add cookies to it, says Nelson manufacturer Dennis Little, who supplies New Zealand retailers a machine to turn fruit into ice cream.

In recent months he’s received hundreds of enquiries from Americans wanting to open real ice cream shops, and some wanted to know if they could put cookies into his machine,

“In New Zealand, if you did cookies or some sort of lollies, I don’t think you would sell very many at all, to tell you the truth,” he told the New York Times.