News & Events

August 30, 2023

How to select the best ingredients for your ice cream or gelato shop

Which are the best ingredients for your gelato shop? How to select and pick the right ones?

This is a million dollar question that involves a number of topics and – often – opposite visions.

Selecting the right ingredients for your shop is indeed an issue of the utmost importance. And finding a solution that fits your needs strongly depends on the kind of product you offer, your target audience, your processes and, overall, your own gelato making style.

Some solutions are faster, others are quicker, while some provide your gelato with a unique taste or texture.

Overall, there’s quite a difference between artisanal gelato makers and industrial ones. Gelato and ice cream can in fact be made with fresh ingredients or pre-made compounds. Pre-made solutions are way quicker, cheaper and easier, but the final result will obviously be lower in terms of quality, uniqueness and memorability.

On the other hand, fresh ingredients require more complex recipes and much more work, but they also make people come back, craving for more.

Here at MODALiTA we always team with quality, and we highly recommend you to focus on that to ensure a long, successful life for your gelato shop.

In this blog post, we’ll briefly explore the world of gelato ingredients.

Best ingredients for gelato and ice cream shop

The 4 main gelato ingredients for any shop the base

Starting from the basics, as our partner and top gelato chef Sabrina Mancin always explains, we have 4 main ingredients to make gelato base. 

– Water

Water is the first essential element in any gelato recipe. While dairy-based gelato derives water from milk and cream, fruit sorbets rely on tap water, whose quality is crucial, particularly for fruit gelato.

Filtering the water is a must-do part of the process since it eliminates impurities, limescale, and bacteria that could impact your gelato taste. It is also crucial to use ONLY drinking water for both the gelato mix and cleaning purposes to ensure maximum safety.

It is advisable to avoid water from tank-based sources to prevent potential contamination.

– Milk

Milk is typically one of the primary ingredients for gelato production. It can be whole or full-fat milk: the most important thing to consider is ensuring that its fat content ranges around 3,5-4%.

Properly balancing the fat content of the milk is crucial and it’s one of the aspects that separates gelato from ice cream. Ice cream has in fact a way higher fat content when compared to its Italian delicious cousin.

Milk plays a crucial role in achieving a consistent and harmonious final product.

– Sugar

Sugar plays a key role in the gelato making, and not just for its obvious, sweetening role.

Replacing it with other kinds of sweeteners would change the entire nature of gelato, making it a totally different product. And probably, a less healthy and pleasurable one.

The sugar used in gelato making is typically sucrose, also known as ‘table sugar’. Aside from providing sweetness, its key job is controlling the freezing point of gelato, ensuring it comes out non-icy.

The right amount of sugar is absolutely crucial for texture. While a too little amount results in a crumbly texture, too much of it will lead your product to an unbearable stickiness. Generally, for an 8% fat mix, a 13% sugar content is recommended.

You can also combine other kinds of sugar to sucrose. For instance, sugars like fructose or dextrose can be used to adjust sweetness or freezing point: fructose adds more sweetness, dextrose stabilizes better the texture in the cold without adding too much sweetness.

– Air

The presence of air in gelato plays a crucial role in determining its texture. It must be considered a real ingredient.

In fact, without air, the product would become excessively dense and freeze to a rock-solid consistency. However, the incorporation of air lends gelato the desirable lightness we all love, and that results in a smooth and pleasant texture when we eat a delicious one.

Furthermore, the presence of air aids in the scoopability and serving of gelato. Insufficient air would render the product hard and challenging to serve. An excessive amount of air would make instead the gelato overly soft, causing it to collapse easily.

The amount of air (the overrun) also determines one of the main differences between Italian gelato and cheap ice cream. In this previous article we covered in detail the topic.

Balancing the air content is essential to achieve the perfect gelato consistency, ensuring it is neither too dense nor too soft.

The best gelato ingredients to make the difference for your shop


Once you have prepared the gelato base, it’s time to introduce the flavors.

Flavors are obviously a crucial part of your sweet dessert, because people are buying your gelato basically for them.

The number of possible gelato flavorings are roughly endless. According to your target audience and your existing customers, you may prefer classic, evergreen ones, or unleash your fantasy and create ambitious and surprising new flavor pairings.

Here the gelato base plays in fact a crucial role as the foundation of a recipe or gelato flavor. 

Gelato shops often prefer using a base that is low in fats and sugars. This allows them to incorporate various additions and ingredients to create a diverse range of flavors

Alternatively, a powdered base can be used instead. Powdered bases are premixed formulations that contain a combination of thickeners, stabilizers and other components. Depending on the desired outcome, powdered bases can include different sugars, skim milk solids, fibers, and even dehydrated heavy cream.

The amount of powdered base added depends on the desired dosage, which is indicated by a number (50, 100, 200…) that represents the grams of powder in a liter of milk. 

The important thing is: the higher the percentage of powder in your mix, the less fresh ingredients you will use to create your flavors. Therefore be careful: decide first what kind of flavors you’ll want to offer, and act accordingly!

Stabilizers and emulsifiers

All frozen treats from authentic, top class Italian gelato to cheaper ice cream alternatives, need some special ingredients to stabilize the final product and keep everything together.

Back in the day, people used egg yolks to do the job, but they had some downsides. For instance, egg yolks have a shorter lifetime span and they give gelato a yellow unattractive tone.

That’s why today both industrial and artisanal gelato makers mostly use powdered stabilizers and emulsifiers. These special components come definitely in handy, since they are like the glue that holds gelato in perfect form.

Among the most common stabilizers we have several options such as Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Guar Gum and a few others. They thicken the mixture giving it that smooth and uniform texture we all crave. And they all come from vegetable sources.

On the other hand, we have emulsifiers like mono and di-glycerides. These are the peacekeepers between fat and water molecules, ensuring a harmonious blend and a velvety finish. 

The amount of stabilizers and emulsifiers you use and their combinations strongly depends on how long you want your gelato to stay fresh. If you’re planning to gobble it up quickly, you can be a bit more relaxed. But if you need your gelato to have a longer shelf life or survive a journey, then you’ll want to add the right amount to keep it from getting icy or grainy.

Once you’ve picked the best ingredients for your gelato shop… don’t mess them up!

A great Italian gelato – but that’s also true for any tasty ice cream – obviously requires great ingredients. 

To make a gelato shop successful though, good ingredients are not enough. Think about it: you picked the best of them, but what comes next? How do you transform them into flavorful frozen delicacies that will amuse your customers? How are you going to make them eager to come back every time they can?

To ensure your shop satisfactory results, you will surely need to process and work them in 

the best possible way. And to do that, you need proper expertise and adequate equipment.

A huge number of gelato and ice cream shops end up shutting their business even if their ingredients were top class. 

This is often due to a single point of failure. They don’t have the right equipment to make their investments in high quality ingredients worthwhile.

The solution

An ice cream made by the best ingredients but with inadequate expertise, tools and equipment, will probably be indistinguishable. Or even worse, from many other products made by lower ingredients but great gelato machines and a good expertise.

You definitely don’t want that for your shop.

And that’s why here at MODALiTA always team up with quality, all along the process, from the design of your shop to the very moment customers taste gelato. Whether to listen to this advice or not, it’s obviously up to you.

If you want to achieve success with your gelato or ice cream shop with a superb product, you already have access to all you need.

Here you can find the very best gelato machines on the market.

And here, a series of astonishingly beautiful display cases and cabinets to better showcase your own creations. 

If you need any advice or you want to leverage your frozen business through the best in class equipment, reach out to us anytime!

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