The United States leads the world in annual production of ice cream and related frozen desserts, with most households choosing to indulge with regular offerings.
In 2003, regular ice cream still commanded the lion's share of the market at 64 per cent, while reduced fat, light, low fat and non-fat ice cream accounted for 24 per cent.
However, it would appear that Unilever and Haagen-Dazs are looking to change that and build on the increasing number of Americans who want to decrease the size of their waistline.
Unilever said on Friday that it was using double churned technology to create a new generation of premium light ice cream, which "delivers all of the creamy taste of regular ice cream with half the fat".
"Not only are consumers watching calories and fat, there also is a growing interest in products made with all natural ingredients. We're the first to launch an all natural light premium ice cream that has the same creamy taste as regular premium ice cream," said Dan Hammer, vice president of marketing and development for Unilever Ice Cream.
Initially, Breyers Light will be available in seven flavours, including Creamy Vanilla, Vanilla Bean, Creamy Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Butter Pecan and Rocky Road, as well as the traditional flavours of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry.
According to Unilever, a half-cup serving (118.5g) ranges from 100 to 140 calories and from 3.5 to 5g of fat - half the fat and 25 per cent fewer calories than regular ice cream.
Meanwhile, Haagen-Dazs announced earlier this week that it plans to introduce its light version of the food - containing 50 per cent less fat than the regular range, without compromising on the taste.
The ice cream retains its flavour because it is made using a proprietary European process that uses slow, low-temperature blending, according to Haagen-Dazs. Hence, the same "high quality, all natural ingredients that are used in its full-fat ice cream" are used and no artificial sweeteners, fat substitutes, or air are added.
The ice creams are therefore coloured with natural fruit juices, and eggs and lemon juice used in preference to artificial emulsifiers and citric acid.
Total US production of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2003 amounted to about 1.6 billion gallons (6 billion litres), up about 1.3 per cent over the previous year prior, translating to about 22 quarts (20.8 litres) per person, according to the USDA, with the top flavours being, in descending order, vanilla, chocolate, nut/caramel, Neapolitan and strawberry.