When it comes to food matters, everything you always believed could be turned upside down with a simple change in geographical location.
While traveling across Europe sometimes back, I was so elated at the idea of sampling ice cream at every stop I made.
I looked up the best scoop joints on the internet and almost always landed on a gourmet Gelato shop that was so different from a normal ice cream grocery in terms of products, services, and pricing.
One thing that struck me, in particular, was the price difference and how the two almost similar products were handled.
Generally, the price of a single serving of gelato scoop was always 2 times the price of a similar “regular” ice cream serving.
For instance, a small cone of Gelato would cost an average of 4 euros (~$5) whereas a similar serving of ice cream would cost about 1 euro (~$1.5).
To satisfy my curiosity, I engaged one of the Gelato artisans and found out some interesting things about the different worlds of Gelatos and ice creams.
The Difference Between a Gelato and an Ice Cream
To begin with, I wanted to understand what made Gelatos different from regular ice creams.
Turns out that Gelatos and ice creams are generally made using almost similar ingredients but in different proportions and attention.
While both are made from the same basic ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar, and flavors), Gelatos usually have less fat content, less whipped air, and richer flavors than regular ice creams.
Since they are also treated as gourmet foods, Gelato artisans will usually try to avoid adding additives into their recipes.
They will also make use of more natural and organic products in their Gelato preparation.
If you remember what we said previously in this article about organic food prices, you already know why your pockets always hurt when you decide to treat yourself to an organic Gelato scoop.
Another key difference between Gelato and regular Ice cream is the amount of air whipped in the products.
Whereas ice creams are whipped with almost 50 percent air, gelatos usually have less than 20 percent air whipped in them.
Gelatos do not go through that rigorous churning that is synonymous with ice cream making.
Also, unlike regular ice creams which are frozen for almost 1 hour, Gelatos only get around 10 minutes of freezing time.
The 10 minutes freezing stint doesn’t allow Gelatos to form large ice crystals, thus making them have their characteristic dense and smooth structure.
As stated earlier, the fat content in Gelatos is also lower than that in regular ice creams.
This means they can be served at slightly higher temperatures than ice cream without destabilizing their structure.
It is also the reason those small sturdy spade-like spoons are used as scoops for serving Gelatos.
So, why is Gelato So Expensive?
From the differences explained above, a number of factors actually contribute to the elevated Gelato prices.
The major factors that make Gelatos expensive are the methods of preparation, the proportion of ingredients used, and the fact that it is considered a gourmet product especially outside its native country, Italy.
Let me break it down.
1. Preparation Method
My Gelato artisan pointed out the importance of appreciating the artistic work, and the passion that goes into making real Gelatos.
I totally agreed with him because a regular commercially made ice cream is no match for a well-crafted hand-made Gelato.
You will find very few Gelato makers who will take their time to make the best tasting Gelato.
The task is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and in most cases require expensive Italian equipment such as specialized freezers.
It is also a job that requires special skills and great attention to detail, especially in mixing the ingredients.
Since most gelato customers are looking for that exclusive exotic feeling when treating themselves to a scoop of Gelato, the owners wouldn’t want to compromise that perception with low prices.
2. The Proportion of Ingredients Used
Although the ingredients in both Gelato and ice cream may be the same, there is a way they differ in the proportions used in the mixture.
One striking difference is the amount of air whipped in the two products.
According to Gelato makers, the reduced amount of air in the product makes it denser and fuller than whipped ice cream.
They also don’t use fillers and stabilizers in gelatos that increase their mass like they do with commercial ice cream.
This means you will be enjoying more solid matter in a scoop of Gelato than in the same scoop of regular ice cream.
It is also made with less fat and mostly topped with organic ingredients, which means it is preferred as a healthy substitute to regular ice cream.
We all know that anything that is marketed as “healthy” always destroys the pockets when it comes to pricing.
3. Supply and Demand
Although many may not agree with this reason as a considerable factor for the high pricing, Gelato pricing is basically a matter of supply and demand.
If the supply is low and a section of the population is willing to buy the product at a premium price, then the product will be priced high.
Most places with few Gelato lovers have to cope with the limited number of available craft shops to get the exotic feeling of the real Italian Gelato.
These few shops will most likely import exotic equipment and ingredients to satisfy their gourmet customers.
The supply chain can be very tasking and expensive, which means the customer will have to bear the cost.
I believe that is what is happening to Gelato, especially outside Italy.
Is Gelato Better than Ice Cream?
Almost everyone who has tasted both Gelato and regular ice cream will say Gelato is far better than ice cream.
This is due to the balanced ingredients in Gelato which makes it denser, smoother, tastier, and creamier despite its low fat content and no egg yolk.
Its intense flavor is also magnified by its serving temperatures which are higher than those of regular ice cream.
The low fat content and the quality of ingredients used in making Gelato make it a good option for someone who would like to enjoy a piece of cream while watching their weight.
If you are an organic person, it is easier to find organic Gelato than it is to find organic ice cream.
This is because its preparation method can easily accommodate organic ingredients without destabilizing its structure.
You also don’t get so many artificial additives in Gelato, if that is something that worries you in ice creams.
If you are looking to enjoy authentic Gelato, you may need to dig deeper in your pockets.
However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot find some special Gelato treat at an affordable price.
It is important to sample a few scoop shops to see who offers the best in your area.
Try looking outside tourist-prone streets to avoid those overpriced vendors targeting the tourists.
You might be surprised to get a deal that may keep you going back for a freezy mouthful.