PART 1: PRODUCT INFORMATION (12 points)
Product Name: (1 point)
The product I have chosen is Dreyer’s Slow Churned Rocky Road Ice Cream.
Product Ingredients: (1 point)
Listed below are all the ingredients used in Dreyer’s Slow Churned Rocky Road Ice Cream. The ingredient information was taken from the Dreyer’s Ice Cream Company website (“Dreyer’s Flavors”, n.d.).
• skim milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup
• miniature marshmallows (corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, gelatin)
• roasted almonds (almonds, safflower oil, salt)
• dutched cocoa, whey, guar gum, carob bean gum, carrageenan
• contains: milk and almond ingredients.
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Company Background: (5 points)
Co-founded in 1928 by Joseph Edy and William Dreyer in Oakland, California, the Dreyer’s Ice Cream Company is an ice cream manufacturer that is historically recognized for revolutionizing the frozen dessert culture in America (“Dreyer’s”, 2018). This company produces various types of ice cream and frozen treats, like their slow-churned ice cream, fruit bars, yogurt/sherbet blends, etc. Today, Dreyer’s is operating as a subsidiary of Nestlé due to Nestlé purchasing Dreyer’s in 2002 for $3.2 billion (“Company Overview of Nestle”, 2017). In 2004, Dreyer’s annual revenue was at its peak, raking in approximately $1.588 billion (“Company Overview of Nestle”, 2017).
Product Background: (5 points)
When Dreyer’s was still in the initial stages of developing its ice cream formulas, one of the first products the company began manufacturing was its classic Rocky Road ice cream in 1929 (“How Did Rocky Road”, 2014). The name “Rocky Road” was meant to not only represent the texture of the ice cream but also the economic hardships many Americans endured fighting through the Great Depression. The marketing tactic utilized was “share a scoop, share a smile”, influencing Americans to indulge and bond over this comforting flavor to uplift their spirits during rough times (“How Did Rocky Road”, 2014).
PART 2: INGREDIENT 1 – LIVING ORGANISM (12 points)
For Part 2, you need to select an ingredient in the food product that was a living organism prior to its processing.
Ingredient Name: (2 points)
The ingredient I have chosen that was once a living organism prior to its processing is sugar, which comes from sugarcane plants. The scientific name for sugarcane plants is Saccharum officinarum (Denham, 2011).
Evolutionary history: (5 points)
Sugarcane domestication first started around 8000 BC in New Guinea, where the crop was originally domesticated to use its sturdy, fibrous stalks as building material to make mats, roofs, tables, etc. (Denham, 2011). The people of New Guinea also extracted sweet cane sugar juice from the crop by sucking on the plant’s stalk. However, the utilization of this crop has slowly transformed with manufacturing and refining techniques introduced to extract sugar granules from sugarcane juice, producing the white, smooth sugar we are familiar with (Denham, 2011). The manufacturing of sugarcanes has also influenced the modern development of fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners as “alternative sources” of sugar.
Current status: (5 points)
Although sugarcanes are grown globally, they are massed produced in tropical and subtropical regions favorable to their growth (“Sugarcane Climate”, 2010). With respect to the US, sugarcane cultivation is mainly based in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii (“US Sugarcane Production”, 2018). Since Dreyer’s is a US based company, they most likely obtain their sugar for their ice cream from sugarcane plantations and factories existing in those four states. These states are favorable for sugarcane production due to their climates providing “long, warm growing seasons with sufficient rainfall” that maximize the growth of sugarcane plants, benefitting the general economies of these four states (“Sugarcane Climate”, 2010).
PART 3: INGREDIENT 2 – FOOD ADDITIVE (12 points)
In Part 3, you need to select an ingredient that is a food additive. Food additives are substances designed to protect or improve the flavor, texture, and/or appearance of the end product.
Ingredient Name: (2 points)
The ingredient I have chosen that acts as a food additive in Dreyer’s Rocky Road ice cream is “dutched cocoa”. The scientific name for this ingredient is “alkalized cocoa” or “cocoa processed with alkali” (“What is Dutched Cocoa”, 2012).
Background: (5 points)
The purpose of processing cocoa with alkali is to neutralize the acidity of natural cocoa that often produces an unwanted bitter taste (Miller et al., 2008). Alkalizing cocoa also gives the cocoa a more appealing, darker shade that natural cocoa does not often possess. Additionally, products incorporated with alkalized cocoa tend to be moister and smoother in texture, which is why this additive is often incorporated in sweets/baked goods (Miller et al., 2008). In terms of the identity of this additive, alkali is a chemical compound derived from an alkaline metal, possessing a basic pH that enables it to neutralize acidic substances, such as natural cocoa (Miller et al., 2008).
Healthy and Safety: (5 points)
One of the most prominent health concerns of processing cocoa with alkali is that this additive decreases the concentration of flavanols, which are beneficial antioxidants found in natural cocoa (Miller et al., 2008). Specifically, flavanols are known to promote cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels and stabilizing blood pressure (Miller et al., 2008). Some measures taken to address this concern include advising and educating individuals about the health benefits of flavanols and how alkalizing cocoa reduces these benefits (Miller et al., 2008). Encouraging people to consume natural, non-alkalized cocoa products would be the best way for them to maximize their flavanol intake.
PART 4: REFLECTION (20 points)
Source Evaluation: (10 points)
For the parts of the assignment where I had to research how cocoa was chemically alkalized or understand the historical background behind the evolution of sugarcanes, I decided to use primary, journal sources, such as the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry and the Journal of Current Anthropology. What further enhanced the validity of these sources was the well-structured nature of these papers, including an abstract, materials/methods section, results and discussion, etc. Both scholarly sources I used also provided an extensive index at the end of the academic paper citing all the literature sources they used. This enabled me to not only verify the accuracy of the paper but also find additional, reliable sources that were primary in nature, writing about original research that the authors conducted themselves.
In terms of the non-scholarly, online sources I referenced, many of them did not provide the specific citations they utilized within their work, which lowered their creditability. This was why I used other filtering mechanisms, such as checking whether the URL link to the website of the article had an educational domain versus a commercial one. Websites with an educational domain tend to be affiliated with a research or academic institution, enhancing the credibility of the information they provide. Another technique I utilized to assess the credibility of a website was to see if a publication date was present and if an organization was sponsoring the website’s works. This is primarily why most of my chosen sources, except for two of them, have actual publication dates listed on their website. Although I did use a Wikipedia source, which is known to have low citing credibility, the information I utilized from the article was generic information that could be verified by multiple sources on the internet, such as the annual revenue of the Dreyer’s company or the names of the company’s founders.
Personal Reflection: (10 points)
Doing this assignment and completing the coursework has revealed the challenges of making wise food choices as a consumer. The appealing taste or sensationalized advertisement of a food product can often make people oblivious to the nutritional value or chemical additives associated with a food product. Many major companies are even starting to “medicalize” their food products, giving consumers the false impression that there are medical benefits to consuming their product (Stotts, n.d.). As discussed in the “Food as Medicine” lecture, I found it interesting how the FDA needed to inform General Mills that they couldn’t advertise their Cheerios cereal as a “heart healthy” breakfast that can lower cholesterol because there was no valid evidence to support the claim (Stotts, n.d.). This incident is proof of how it’s difficult to make informed, healthy food choices without educating yourself on the manufacturing and marketing strategies of these companies.
Additionally, foods that are highly processed and overly advertised tend to possess nutritional ambiguity because it’s harder to discern which aspects of the food product actually came from a naturally grown and cultivated source. This is why I believe that many food items are completely different than the sum of their parts. The name of the product may say one thing; however, scanning the back of the ingredient list will often reveal foreign additives we know little about, like guar-gum or diacetyl. For me, understanding how my health could be jeopardized by overconsuming unknown food additives has enabled me to conclude that what makes something authentic “food” is not only taste but whether it was created with naturally occurring ingredients that the consumer is familiar with. Using this guideline, I’m striving to make health-conscious food choices based on the amount of processing the food product undergoes, such as opting to choose fresh fruits over dried fruits or whole-grain as opposed to white flour.