Ice Cream

President: Quirino CIPOLLONE - UNILEVER ITALIA MKT OPERATION S.R.L., Secretary: Giovanna RUFO

Ice cream is a great source of nutrients and energy, and thanks to being easily digestible it is particularly suitable for children, athletes and the elderly.
Ice cream was invented by the Italians and they introduced it to the rest of the world, thanks to the work of the master ice cream makers who were employed by the most important European courts during the Renaissance. In the last century, Italy regained its supremacy in the art of ice cream making thanks to the rise of industry.

The Italian ice cream industry started in Milan at the beginning of the 1950s, and was responsible for ice cream spreading across the world, making a decisive contribution to the increase in its consumption (which in the space of forty years, rose from 250 grammes to 4 kilos per capita) and making it possible for everyone to enjoy it throughout the year.

In numbers

In 2022, ice cream production reached a volume of 177,560 tons, valued at 1,867 million euros, showing a 10% increase in value. Total consumption attributed to 2022 was 129,000 tons, equivalent to 2.18 kg per capita annually.

  • Types of Ice Cream
  • History
  • Production Process
  • Nutritional values
  • Members
  • Types of Ice Cream

    In Italy, impulse ice cream is called "gelato da passeggio", which roughly translated means “ice cream to eat while taking a stroll”. The term was coined a long time ago, probably with reference to those moments when one has a sudden desire for something refreshing and tasty. This category includes the most classic types of Italian ice cream: on a “stick” (for example cremino), “cone” or “cornetto”, “cup” and “ice lolly”.

    Takeaway ice cream
    “Takeaway ice cream” identifies ice creams packaged in multiple portions, intended for domestic consumption. This category includes “multipacks” (multi-portion packs of single flavour or assorted ice creams, also in smaller sizes than normal), “small and large tubs” (packs of single flavour ice cream for those wanting to create their own personalised “bowl” at home”), “cakes” and “slabs”, delicious proposals for convivial occasions, and finally the so-called “specialties” (including some of the most famous specialties of the Italian confectionery tradition, such as tartufo, tiramisu, cassata etc.).

    Bulk ice cream
    The term “bulk ice cream” refers to products, generally in large tubs, supplied to bar and restaurants by manufacturing industries, destined to be sold to the public in cones, bowls and cups.


    The Chinese art of freezing
    Ice cream originated in ancient China, where in the 8th century BC they discovered how to store the ice collected in winter so as to have a supply in summer. From China, the art of freezing was first passed on to the Indians and then the Arab world. In ancient Greece and Rome, they ate something similar to water ice, made with snow or ice and sweetened with honey or must.

    Delicious Middle Eastern sorbets
    The Arabs and Persians mixed fruit syrups and snow to make tasty “sharbats”, the ancestors of our sorbets. The Arabs transmitted this art to the Sicilians, who in turn diffused it in the rest of the world.

    Buontalenti’s invention of creamy ice cream
    Ice cream was officially invented in 1565. A “creamy ice cream” was served for the first time at the court of Cosimo de ‘Medici, on the occasion of a banquet in honour of the Spanish ambassador. The genius creator of the ice cream was Bernardo Buontalenti, a Florentine artist and engineer who had invented a machine capable of freezing milk, zabaglione, wine and fruit, giving it a creamy consistency. When Caterina de ‘Medici married Henry II, the King of France, she introduced ice cream to the French court, to where one of Buontalenti’s students was summoned to work. From here, Italian ice cream spread to all the courts in Europe.

    The great Tuscan, Sicilian and Neapolitan masters
    In 1662, another Florentine, Procopio Coltelli, arrived in France, and he invented a machine that was able to mix cream, fruit, sugar and ice to create a uniform mixture. His workshop soon became very famous, receiving the enthusiastic appreciation of Louis XIV himself. While the Tuscans invented ice cream, the Sicilians and Neapolitans were soon specialising in interesting creative evolutions, the first becoming famous for their cassata and the latter for spumoni.

    Ice cream in the industrial age
    During the 18th century, ice cream shops and cafes serving ice cream spread like wildfire in Europe and the Americas, but the industrial production of ice cream only began in the 19th century, in the United States. The first “prototype” for non-artisanal ice cream was made in Baltimore in 1851, thanks to Jacob Fussell, a milk dealer, who invented ice cream as a way to use up the excess milk and cream at his dairy. Industrial production began in Europe after the First World War. In Italy, the first industrial ice cream – “fiordilatte”, produced by Motta ΜΆ appeared on the market in 1949: this was followed by “coppette” (paper cups) and the “sandwich”.

    Production Process

    Ice cream is frozen cream that is aerated during the freezing process to soften it. Water is the main ingredient in fruit sorbets, followed by sugar and then all of the other ingredients that characterise the different types of ice cream, starting with milk and followed by cream and other types of fats, and then the ingredients that give the ice cream its flavour and colour, such as fruit and cacao.

    The ice cream production process starts with the different ingredients being mixed to produce a uniform liquid that is smooth and creamy.

    The mixture is then pasteurised, i.e. heat treated (at 80-85 °C) to eliminate any pathogenic bacteria that may be present.

    After being cooled down quickly, the liquid is left at 4 °C for half a day, so that all the ingredients blend together as thoroughly as possible.

    It is then frozen at -5 °C. The mixture is stirred throughout the freezing process so that the water forms microscopic ice crystals and, at the same time, innumerable air bubbles remain trapped: this is the only way to make the frozen cream light and fluffy. At this point the ice cream is cooled again until it reaches 25 degrees below zero, so that it becomes compact.

    After packaging, the ice cream is kept at -18 °C. For the correct preservation of the product it is essential that the cold chain is maintained at all times: a rise in temperature is not so much risky from a sanitary point of view (we can see if the ice cream has melted as soon as we open the packaging) but because partial thawing followed by refreezing would lead to the formation of larger ice crystals, which would modify the consistency of the ice cream.

    The I.G.I code
    The Istituto del Gelato Italiano, founded by the major Italian ice cream industries in the absence of a specific legislation in Italy and Europe, has developed a self-regulation code for the production of ice cream.

    Let’s take a look at some examples.
    - Fruit ice cream must contain at least 15% fruit juice or pulp, with the exception of citrus and exotic fruit, for which the code authorises a reduction to 10%, and in-shell nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts, pine nuts), for which it may be reduced to 5%.
    - Fruit sorbets must contain at least 25% fruit (15% for citrus and exotic fruit and 7% for dried fruit) and must not contain any fat.
    - Vegetable sorbets must contain 25% vegetables (10% for vegetables with a strong flavour and/or a hard consistency) and must not contain any fat.
    - Ice lollies are defined as a mixture of water and sugar combined with fruit and/or other characterising ingredients.
    - Ice cream labelled “frozen yogurt” must contain at least 40% yogurt, whereas “yogurt ice cream” must contain a minimum of 20%. The Code requires the yogurt to be fresh and therefore containing lactic acid bacteria.
    - Chocolate-coated ice cream must only contain proteins and fats that derive from milk, unless they are present in the characterising ingredients (e.g. cacao butter in the cacao mass).
    - Dairy ice cream must contain cream, at least 2.5% milk protein and at least 8% milk fat. Again, the presence of fats and proteins that do not derive from milk is not permitted, unless they are present in the characterising ingredients (e.g. cacao butter in the cacao mass).
    - In regard to additives, the Code dictates precise rules: the food colourings in industrial ice cream must be natural, while no preservatives  are required as the freezing temperatures inhibit any microbial growth.

    Visit the I.G.I website

    Nutritional values

    Ice cream: tasty and balanced
    Ice cream is a balanced product: it provides the right proportions of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.
    - 100 grammes of dairy ice cream provide about 200 calories, 4 grammes of protein, 26 grammes of carbohydrates and 9 grammes of fat.
    - 100 grammes of fruit sorbet provide 120 calories, with less fat and calories, and higher levels of vitamins.

    Protein to grow
    A recent study promoted by the Istituto del Gelato Italiano (Institute of Italian Ice Cream) and carried out by the Istituto Nazionale della Nutrizione (National Institute of Nutrition), the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Modena and the Institute of Food Science at the Sapienza University of Rome, confirmed that ice cream contains high levels of proteins of high biological value (those of milk and eggs), which are rich in essential amino acids, easily digestible and assimilable, and essential for growth, cell differentiation and tissue repair.

    Rapidly absorbed lipids
    The lipids present in ice cream mainly come from milk. These fats in fact contain “short-chain” fatty acids, which are rapidly absorbed by our body. In ice cream there is also a good percentage of oleic acid which, among other things, is used by the muscles.

    An energy booster
    The two sugars present in ice cream are lactose and sucrose. They are absorbed quickly and therefore provide an immediate source of energy, especially for nervous tissue and red blood cells, which is particularly important during childhood, old age and the recovery of athletes after competitive activity. In products containing wafer or biscuit, there is also the presence of starch: the nutritional synergy between milk and cereals makes ice cream a nutritionally balanced food that speeds up metabolism.

    And it also contains vitamins
    Ice cream is also high in micronutrients such as vitamins and mineral salts. In fact, milk provides vitamins A and B2 (riboflavin), calcium and phosphorus, with very low quantities of sodium. Chocolate ice creams are also high in vitamin E. Finally, coffee and chocolate ice creams, on a stick with biscuit and coated, contain polyphenols, substances with antioxidant properties.

    Nutrition facts and energy value per 100 g of product
    Type of ice cream Proteins g Lipids g Carbohydrates g Energy kcal Calcium mg Phosphorus mg
    Biscuit with crema, zabaglione and chocolate 5,3 7,3 49,1 271 68 106
    Cone with panna and chocolate 5,1 15,5 34,9 291 103 222
    Fior di latte (in a tub) 4,2 13,7 20,7 218 85 165
    Fior di latte coated with strawberry sorbet 1,4 1,7 21,3 101 55 50
    Lemon sorbet (in a tub) 0,9 traces 34,2 132 2 5
    Orange ice cream 0 0 36,5 137 0 0
    Source: National Institute of Nutrition


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