- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
July 16, 2004

Cool Relief: Armenian summer melts under 14 factories of ice cream

With temperatures rising toward the dreaded 40-degree (104 Fahrenheit) mark of recent summers, Armenians look for relief from a source once only dreamed of: Real ice cream.

In the hard years of 1988-93, mothers tried to pacify children with home-made versions of ice cream that rarely came close to the real thing.

14 companies produce "baghbaghak" in Armenia.

“I have a special notebook where all my ice cream recipes are written, but however hard I tried still my children were saying it doesn’t taste like the ice cream in stores,” says Nazeni Mkrtumyan, a housewife.

Today, however, 14 companies produce ice cream in Armenia.

“In summer, about 40 percent of our daily income comes from selling ice cream, and Tamara and Ashtarak Kat are selling the best,” says the manager of Milena store Artur Minasyan.

Tamara, in 1992, was the first company to start producing ice cream after independence, but its quality was far from today’s standards. (During Soviet times there were three-four types of ice cream in Armenia, but none as good as today’s quality).

In 1995 Ashtarak Kat entered the market, followed by the rest that today offer an unimagined paradise of cold sweets.

All the selection of ice cream producing companies in Armenia was thoroughly studied by Anna National Association of Consumers in 2003. According to the president of the association Melita Hakobyan, the research that lasted 6 months included a market study, monitoring, sociological poll carried out among 1,000 people, tests done in 4 laboratories and tasting by an 11-member panel of specialists.

The poll found that about 40 percent of consumers prefer Ashtarak Kat; 30 percent, Tamara; about 20-25 percent favor Shant, while the other 11 companies (ASA, Grand Candy, Yerevan Penguin and others) get only seven percent of the market.

“Our next most important step was laboratory tests which were carried out at 3 laboratories accredited by the RA Accreditation Council and at one inspection laboratory which has all the modern facilities and which we trust,” says Hakobyan.

After laboratory tests, tasting and visits to plants the committee gave 98 points (on a 100 scale) to Ashtarak Kat, 94 to Shant, 82 to Shant, 81 to Grand Candy. The rest did not score 80 points, which means they fall below acceptable standards

Samples of different ice creams were taken from the city’s different communities. In the center 85 percent of ice cream corresponded to its expiration date. In the suburbs, however, 25 percent of ice cream was found to violate health standards (such as being kept with other food products, or stored above accepted temperatures).

Some companies weren't happy with Hakobyan's assessment of their product.

Often, in order to save electricity, sellers turn off refrigerators during the night. But according to specialists, re-freezing ice cream can create bacteria that lead to illness.

Hakobyan, herself, became a victim of bad ice cream during the testing.

“I was getting treatment for a month, feeling for myself the situation of over 100 consumers who applied to us with complaints; who have had various poisonings and diseases because of bad quality ice cream,” she says.

Besides suffering health damage as a result of these tests, president of the association Hakobyan, also suffered moral and psychological pressure. After several TV programs during which together with members of the committee, Melita Hakobyan presented results of the research, she was receiving many threatening phone calls.

“They (ice cream companies) would call a lot and say ‘We’ll destroy you, we’re coming now with our guns’ and so on, and I was telling them not to bother, that I shall go to them myself, I have nothing to be afraid of, I only now that there’s a product that is a threat to people’s health and I consider it my duty to warn the consumer about it,” assures Hakobyan.

Together with Armenian ice cream producing companies today, there’s also the ice cream of Algida company. According to the manager of importing company Cleopatra Anahit Dervishyan, this kind of ice cream is not a competitor to the local production.

“Of course, I’m not saying that Algida is so good that they cannot compete with it, our local ones are very good, too, but Algida has totally different taste peculiarities and is made with other technology and raw material,” says Dervishyan.

From the freezer to the waistline?

Algida is produced in 150 countries, but is imported into Armenia from Trabzon, Turkey.

This brand of ice cream was also tested by the National Association of Consumers. Unlike the local brands, Algida is the only one with packaging that fully corresponds to the law, by listing in detail the ingredients. Among the ingredients are preservatives not found in the local product. If local ice creams can be kept from 4 to 5 months, Algida can be kept a year and a half.

Prices of Armenian-produced ice cream bars range from 50 drams (about 10 cents) to 450 (about 90 cents).

According to saleswoman Naira Muradyan most of her customers prefer local ice cream. According to her, children who often don’t have a lot of money buy cheaper ice cream, like ASA, or Grand Candy, and the adults mainly buy Ashtarak Kat or Tamara.

“It has often happened that a child asked the parent to buy Algida but the parent refused, saying that it’s Turkish,” says Muradyan. “But it’s not the child’s fault, it really is very tasty, but not as good as our Tamara,” continues the young saleswoman jokingly and enjoys the cold ice cream covered with chocolate.

According to Agnes


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  Photos of the week
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Click on the photo above to enlarge.
Summer in the City

With Friday temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), little boys and big girls found relief in the fountains of Republic Square.



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