For The Best Store-Brand Vanilla Ice Cream, Skip Trader Joe's And Head To Wegmans

Most grocery store chains have proprietary brands for household staples, from peanut butter to cooking oils. Store-brand products once had negative connotations, considered lower-quality generic versions. However, many store brands have garnered quite the following. Trader Joe's is a prime example of how successful a store brand can become, with products comparable in quality and taste to some of the most renowned national brands. However, if you're looking for the best store-brand vanilla ice cream, Trader Joe's lags behind Wegmans.

We did an in-depth taste test of 12 grocery store-brand vanilla ice creams, and Wegmans Madagascar Vanilla Premium French Ice Cream was at the top of the list. Trader Joe's Super Premium French Vanilla ice cream came in second. Both products are French vanilla varieties, alluding to the addition of egg yolks to the recipe, which results in the creamiest, most custard-like consistency. While the creamy consistency is a strong suit for both store brands, Wegmans wins the taste test.

While the whole vanilla bean isn't on the ingredients list of either brand, Wegmans uses vanilla extract and Trader Joe's uses vanilla flavor. Vanilla extract is made from pure vanilla beans, while vanilla flavor is artificial. Therefore, you get a pure and rich vanilla flavor with Wegmans and a fake, chemical aftertaste with the vanilla flavor in Trader Joe's ice cream.

Signs of quality in store-brand ice cream

Wegmans wins for taste and texture, but Trader Joe's is still a worthy contender, especially if you live outside of the eight states that Wegmans serves. Tasting Table's ranking of store-brand ice creams gives you a good idea of what to look for on a store-brand label. A short, all-natural ingredient list is a good place to start. Another sign of quality is the overrun percentage, which describes the proportion of air incorporated into the frozen mixture of other ice cream ingredients. You should be looking for an overrun between 30 and 60 percent. Trader Joe's falls has an overrun of 50 percent, earning it high markings for creaminess.

If the overrun isn't stated, you can also look at the content of butterfat in your ice cream. Wegmans boasts 16-percent butterfat, which falls into the desired range of 10 to 18 percent. Butterfat provides a smooth, creamy texture as well as a dairy richness to bolster vanilla's flavor.

Of course, the reason you're probably buying store-brand over a national brand is price. National brands tend to cost more than store brands because store brands have a monopoly over production and distribution. That said, even store-brands have different price tiers for their products. Wegmans vanilla ice cream consists of regular and premium grade, and the winner is the much more expensive premium ice cream. However, premium store-brand ice cream might still cost less than a national ice cream brand.