There’s a reason our brains link the taste of ice cream with happy memories
Ice cream tastes great, but there’s a reason why we crave this cold, creamy treat every summer.
“I have never heard of anyone associating ice cream with a bad memory. So it’s a feel-good treat,” says Prairie West Ice Cream Vice President Nichole Wilson. “Most people remember ice cream from when they were little kids, going to the ice cream parlour with mom or dad… or [celebrating with the treat after] a sporting event.”
But it’s how our brains process memories by linking them to tastes and smells that we’re almost biologically programmed to love the cold stuff.
Scientists believe the region of the brain that analyzes smell is connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, two areas that process memory and emotion. Flavour also plays a part. Researchers have also found links between the taste cortex and those areas of the hippocampus that remember where and when we were when we experienced something.
“Maybe it’s the cinnamon or the apple flavour that reminds [you] of something, especially to a time when [you] were [a child]. People [are] very specific and say ‘this tastes like my grandmother’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookie when I was a kid.’”
It’s those sweet, sentimental memories that Wilson and her team love being a part of.
The Winnipeg-based company has been producing private-label ice cream for major grocery retailers and smaller specialty brands since 2005; they’ve since grown a loyal following.
Wilson remembers one customer who said the company’s rainbow ice cream reminded him of weekends with his grandmother. He wanted to relive the memory so badly that he asked Wilson if she could ship him a tub of the blend to his current home in British Columbia. In the end, it was too expensive to ship it to him, but now that the company has expanded beyond Manitoba to the other prairie provinces and B.C., the customer doesn’t have to go far to relive those memories.
It’s those kind of connections that Prairie West has in mind whenever they expand their flavour portfolio. A current favourite is their new line of six Asian-influenced ice cream.
“We have a honeydew melon which is absolutely delicious; it’s so refreshing. The peach lemongrass is a nice little twist of flavours. The coconut is the most popular, tasting just like creamy coconut milk. Mango is our second most popular and is light and tangy. We also have a delicious green tea using matcha green tea that we import from Japan and it’s so yummy and our last one is sweet spice which is a light chai flavouring.”
She adds: “There are all these great flavours that have come into our country thanks to the diversity of people living in Canada. We looked around, did some research, and said let’s make some ice cream with these great flavours. We paired some great Canadian dairy with Asian influences and we called it CanAsian.”
While Wilson says it’s been fun to come up with flavours that resonate with, and trigger memories for, a new ice cream fan base, staple sweet treats will always be their bread and butter.
“We created the CanAsian line with higher end flavours in a basic style of ice cream on purpose to keep it affordable for the consumer,” said Wilson. “We didn’t want it to be priced up there like premium brands. We wanted to give Canada a great product at a great price so we kept it simple and creamy. We use natural flavours and natural colours and they truly are the award winner in the product because they are deliciously true to their flavours.”
Prairie West Ice Cream is available at many retailers across Western Canada. Check out prairiewesticecream.ca for more information.