Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Hey Breyers, Where Are the Vanilla Beans?

MrConsumer is lactose intolerant and therefore is limited in his choice of ice creams. His go-to bargain brand has been Breyers Lactose Free. But he was in for a surprise a couple of weeks ago when he switched back to the vanilla variety after having been buying the chocolate version for about a year.

Breyers has advertised on TV for years that it uses real vanilla beans in its natural ice cream:

Note: this ad is not for their lactose-free product

Although a large scoop with flecks of vanilla beans was prominently pictured on the top, front and back panels of the Lactose Free Vanilla carton that MrConsumer bought, upon opening it, none was to be found. This is contrary to past practice for this variety.


Breyers lactose free Vanilla package
Breyers lactose free vanilla open container

There has been a huge run-up in the price of vanilla in the past year. Could Breyers be cutting corners by leaving out the flecks? We asked Unilever, the maker of Breyers, about that as well as why the container depicts the flecks but there were seemingly none inside. Neither the company nor its PR firm has responded to three inquiries.

From a consumer standpoint, showing one thing on the packaging but delivering something different inside is a pictorial misrepresentation, and can be considered an unfair or deceptive practice under state consumer law.

Share this story:
All comments are reviewed before being published, and may be edited. Comments that are off-topic, contain personal attacks, are political, or are otherwise inappropriate will be deleted.

11 thoughts on “Hey Breyers, Where Are the Vanilla Beans?”

  1. Their lack of response should be taken as their answer. It should make one wonder what those flecks actually were. Does it still taste like vanilla? Then those “marketing visuals” were just that, and not any proof that real vanilla was ever actually used. Maybe Mr. C can have a lab diagnose the goop.

    • Hi Marty… Yes, there still is a vanilla taste and the ingredients panel says “natural flavor” but nothing more. Elsewhere on the package it says they use real vanilla. Not worth testing because the lab will probably come back and tell me that there was no tuna in it.

  2. They claim on their page for the Lactose Free Vanilla that:

    “Our vanilla is 100% sustainably sourced and through our partnership with Rainforest Alliance, your Breyers® Lactose Free Vanilla is also supporting farmers and their families in Madagascar. We believe that the quality of our ingredients makes the delicious vanilla desserts.”

    Then when you look at the ingredient list it only lists “natural flavors”, but not specifically vanilla. I saw evidence online of a 2020 class action suit alleging that upon receiving a more specific list of ingredients from the company, they noticed that there was only a trace amount of real vanilla in their ice cream at best, and no reference to vanilla beans in particular. There is also a lawsuit filed in Jan. of this year by a woman in Boston concerning their low fat “Breyer’s Delights” variety, on the grounds that the package calls it “Vanilla Bean” ice cream, while the ingredient list only discloses “natural flavors”, and that it seems that no actual vanilla beans are in the product despite the black flecks in it.

    So you are obviously not the only person upset about Breyer’s Vanilla, although you have now added the fact that the picture on the package of the Lactose Free variety suddenly doesn’t match up to what’s inside either. You’d think that with all the recent lawsuits they’d be more careful about that stuff, but I guess that’s asking too much.

    • Wow, Renée, what great research you did. Thank you. I begin to wonder if the flecks are just decoration like the green flecks in the Tostitos guacamole chips?

  3. After reading Renee’s comments and your story, it seems like we may have a real controversy here. In almost every aspect Unilever is doing whatever it can to advertise or push the idea that it uses real vanilla in it’s ice cream products, but doesn’t actually want people to know how much (if any) actual vanilla it uses.

    I can understand wanting not use real vanilla. It is very expensive and artificial vanilla is dirt cheap. If you can make artificial vanilla taste convincingly like the real thing then you save a lot of money, but to market it so heavily in imagery and commercials will, hopefully, bit them in the ass.

    This is one instance where I say, if they aren’t using REAL vanilla, throw the book at them.

  4. I stopped buying Breyer’s ice cream way back in 2013 when Edgar posted about them downsizing and reformulating their product:


    It looks like Unilever continues to deceive up to (and perhaps crossing) the line of legality. If I was lactose intolerant (I used to be), I’d look instead at the wide variety of coconut milk-based or nut-based products out there. Even if they’re more expensive and perhaps not the healthiest either, at least I would have more choices than chocolate and vanilla. 🙂

    • But it tastes so damned good. Also, it’s the only ice cream, that I know of, that is extremely easy to scoop, no matter how frozen it is.

      • Hi Len and Alan,
        I stopped buying Breyers back when they zapped their half-gallon containers with the grocery shrink ray (GSR) and the new size ended up being what, 56, ounces (I just read that 2013 story and you confirmed the 2 GSR hits it took). It took me like 3 containers that summer to figure out why I was finishing them so fast.
        So I went to the H-D pints. Then they used the GSR on their pints down to 14 ounces.
        So, now I am left with B&J (who are now owned by the same folks). Not a bad thing, mind you.
        Oh, there is also Talenti, and their stuff tastes good too.

  5. since ice cream has absolutely nothing in it that is good for me i do not look at ice cream as food therefore i do not care what is in it when i eat ice cream i eat it because it tastes delicious and on a hot summer day a dish of ice cold ice cream junk food really hits my spots.
    one ice cream company told me the less ingredients in it the better it is. there are several brands of ice cream with few ingredients. my grocery store has over 80 feet of frozen coolers stocks with every variety of ice cream on the planet and novelties too.

    • I’m not sure whether fewer disclosed ingredients is the same as fewer ingredients. What exactly is used for the vanilla flavor, and is it actually safe to ingest?

Comments are closed.