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 ice cream, but not grape? 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 step in to ban the sale of avocados, chocolate, and macadamia nuts.
The real answer is scientifically interesting, but not nearly as scandalous.
There’s no real reason why ice cream makers can’t infuse ice cream with a grape flavor, but consumers generally expect chunks of real fruit in their frozen treats. That’s a problem because grapes are about 81 percent water. 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. 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). “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.”
Grape ice creams do exist, but they don’t usually have those satisfying chunks of fruit.
But Cherry Garcia, one of Ben & Jerry’s flagship products, does have big chunks of a very similar fruit: cherries. “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. Greenwood did tell Thrillist that Ben & Jerry’s tried a similar flavor several decades ago, with poor results. “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.”