Ice cream that (almost) doesn’t melt may be on the way

31 Aug 2015

Researchers in the UK claim to have developed a way to make ice cream that melts at a really slow rate, which could see us one day enjoying a 99 for more than a minute before our hands, sleeves and trousers get ruined.

We’ve come a long way in ice-cream terms in the past century or so.

At the turn of the 20th century, the only way to enjoy an ice cream bought on the street was to share an incredibly unhygienic little glass with absolutely everybody else, paying a penny for a lick, before returning it back to the vendor to sell on again.

Melting ice cream galore

Then came a pastry cup, before quickly evolving into waffle cones. I’m not sure when the really cheap cones that we rely on nowadays came about, but you can see a train of the finest engineering feats mankind has ever produced to get us to this point.

Personally speaking, ice-cream evolution took a major step forward only this summer, when I tasted basil and lemon ice cream for the first time.

And now we can see a future whereby they no longer melt in your hand, thanks to scientists in the University of Dundee and the University of Edinburgh.

Melting ice-cream no more

Discovering a protein that helps bind together oil and water – these two hate each other, usually – the researchers think they can ensure ice-cream remains frozen for longer in warm weather.

“We’re excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice-cream, for consumers and for manufacturers,” said Professor Cait MacPhee of the University of Edinburgh, who led the project.

MacPhee and her team said they reckoned this could even lead to healthier ice-creams with lower levels of saturated fat and less calories than what we consume today.

Healthy ice cream in store

“We can’t taste sweet things when they’re very, very cold,” she said to the BBC, so if ice cream can be eaten at a higher temperature, manufacturers will be able to add less sugar.

“By using this protein we’re replacing some of the fat molecules that are currently used to stabilise these oil and water mixtures so it can reduce the fat content, but it shouldn’t taste any different.”

The protein could start appearing in products within the next five years.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic