How Frozen Yogurt Went Bad

Before you start the enjoying the hot weather and cool treats this summer – there’s something I have to tell you, but you first have to promise not to kill the messenger (me!).

Commercially available frozen yogurt is one of the most processed food products on the planet!
Yes – you heard that right – that creamy, low calorie, probiotic promised goodness swirled into your cup and topped with your favorite goodies is one of the worst “healthy” fads to hit the franchise market, and I’m here to tell you the cold hard facts (ha! – no pun intended).

Frozen yogurt is made with several components:  (Unlike real yogurt that is made with just two ingredients – milk + cultures)

  • milk solids, processed milk product (like powdered or condensed milk) and/or milk fat
  • some kind of refined sweetener – usually a few different kinds like evaporated cane syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, etc.
  • yogurt culture (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are common cultures)
  • natural or artificial flavorings
  • natural or artificial coloring
  • sometimes trans fat
  • sometimes preservatives
  • stabilizers and thickeners like guar gum or carrageenan
  • other fillers like cellulose gum (a.k.a. the stuff made from wood pulp)

Before the mixture is frozen into an edible product, the yogurt ingredients come in a big box of pre-made liquid or powder. This is very similar to how most fast food franchises obtain their products – in a box or a carton pre-made, pre-mixed, heavily processed and preserved. In fact, most frozen yogurt companies buy their formula mix from the same manufacturer and at a very cheap cost, about 10 cents per serving – and sell it to you for a 500% markup! To witness just how processed frozen yogurt can be, I challenge you to go over to your favorite frozen yogurt joint and ask them how they make their yogurt. They’ll show you the pre-packaged liquid or powder they mix with water that they throw right into the machine – pre-packed liquid that looks NOTHING like yogurt and more like kool-aid, depending on the flavor in a plastic jug. It’s a rather disgusting sight to tell you the truth, and an exercise I conduct on occasion to remind myself not to eat that stuff.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular brands of yogurt available and what they contain.

Guar gum is an ingredient that is used in all the brands featured below (Pinkberry, Menchies, Yogurt Mountain, TCBY, Red Mango and Yoforia) that you may have heard of and wondered about. It comes from ground up guar beans, which technically aren’t bad for you, but when highly processed into gum it can contain an extraordinary amount of soluble fiber that can reduce the absorption of important vitamins and minerals in your body 1. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg considering what’s really in these frozen yogurt products…
Red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.
Pinkberry started its business by selling a yogurt like substance, claiming health benefits of probiotics and live cultures. In 2007, the LA Times sent samples of Pinkberry’s product to get tested, revealing that Pinkberry did not contain enough active cultures to be considered yogurt by California law. It wasn’t until a law suit that Pinkberry eventually came clean about their ingredient list and changed their formula so their products could be called real yogurt.

Today Pinkberry’s ingredients are available online like most retailers. The Cookies and Cream flavor has TBHQ (commonly used in varnishes, lacquers, pesticide products, cosmetics, and perfumes – not something I want to be eating), GMOs (corn flour, soy lecithin, dextrose, maltodextrin) and carrageenan, which can cause stomach inflammation. These ingredients make this product far from healthy. In addition, they do not use organic dairy, which is #1 on my organic shopping priority list because conventional dairy comes from cows on a mostly GMO filled diet, injected with growth hormones and/or antibiotics.

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Red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.

It was shocking to find so many different kinds of sugar (including corn syrup) and artificial food dyes in the “Fancy French Vanilla” at Menchies and “Old Fashioned Vanilla” at Yogurt Mountain. I thought getting the vanilla flavor would be about as plain Jane as you can get, but apparently these yogurt chains feel the need to color their vanilla to make it white. Unfortunately, this is a common technique the food industry uses to disguise inexpensive, chemically processed ingredients as real food. When you see artificial colors or flavoring in a product it is a huge warning sign that what you are eating is not real food.

Red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.
TCBY – famously known as “The Country’s Best Yogurt” – is actually one of the worst, using the ingredient propylene glycol in almost all of their yogurts. Propylene glycol is a non-deadly antifreeze and solvent no one should be ingesting.
Red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.
Luckily, Red Mango is realizing the importance of probiotics to their customers and using strains that can survive the freezing process. However, the way they make their yogurt is still very questionable considering that the “Caribbean Coconut” flavor actually contains ZERO coconut. Which is not the least bit surprising when you examine the ingredient list closely and find the words “natural flavors.” These flavors are created in a laboratory and there’s no way to figure out what’s actually in them by just looking at the ingredient list. They can be created by anything “natural” found on earth (in some cases that could be beavers’ anal glands for a “natural” strawberry flavor!). Food scientists create specific flavors to trick your brain into enjoying a processed product more than you should or trick your brain into thinking a product has an ingredient that it actually doesn’t have.
Red text indicates potentially harmful ingredients and/or ingredients likely to contain GMOs.
Yoforia uses organic milk (which is FANTASTIC) but then they go and totally screw up a beautiful thing by putting all sorts of other additives in their yogurt, including artificial food dyes, GMOs, and trans fat. This is one of the worst abuses of marketing I’ve ever seen, which motivated me to write several posts about this company and demand changes from their CEO. While they did release their ingredients online after our conversations, they have not changed their product to fit their marketing in their stores.

How To Get Your Frozen Yogurt Fix

Besides all of these chemically made processed ingredients, you have to remember that almost all frozen yogurt has an extraordinary amount of refined added sugar – that’s how they get away with feeding you a non-fat/low-fat product that actually tastes good. Frozen Yogurt was actually invented in the 1970′s as a healthier alternative to ice cream, but food manufacturers found they had to cover up the tart flavor with lots of sugar in order for it to be mass marketed and to taste just as good as ice cream – totally defeating it’s original intent!

With that said, the option least damaging to your health is plain frozen yogurt (tart flavor) with no added flavoring (not the vanilla flavor, because it could likely have additives and/or be artificially colored as noted above). You can add fresh fruit or nuts to it that are commonly found at the topping bar, which are the best real food options. But remember if you decide to go this route, you still have the risk of consuming non-organic dairy and other preservatives. Personally I think choosing the plain tart frozen yogurts is no fun considering they taste pretty boring and too “healthy,” and seeing all the other options can be too tempting for me to even go visit in the first place. Always ask to see the ingredient list before you buy because 9 times out 10 that makes the decision to say no to that craving easier. Please note, recombinant bovine growth hormone (a.k.a. rbGH) found in milk won’t be included on the list of ingredients, so specifically ask about this too, which is outlawed in 27 countries and study after study links it to many forms of cancers.

Personally, I don’t see the need to eat frozen yogurt as a dessert or to get my probiotics (I get them through a daily supplement and lots of fermented vegetables like kimchi). When I want a dessert I go for the real full fat thing and I usually make my own frozen treats to avoid additives. This is my favorite quick and easy recipe for ice cream that un-junks three of my old favorite flavors from Baskin Robbins – Cookies & Cream, Pistachio Almond and Mint Chocolate Chip – and it can be ready in just 25 minutes! 
coconut icecream
If you know someone who loves frozen yogurt and real food, please share this post with them!

Love,

Food Babe

Expo West Highlights & Making an Impact

Here’s some highlights of the trip out west so far…. and the first day at Expo West.  I want to show you everything that’s happening here and could write for days about what I have experienced so far!  But a girl’s gotta get to the pool before another long day of exploring new products, meeting companies and idea generation.

Speaking of idea generation, yesterday I met with the CEO of Yoforia, Luke Tashie.  If you’ve been reading my blog – you know that I am super passionate about having the highest level of quality available in foods and hold companies accountable to their marketing.  After writing about some of Yoforia’s questionable advertising and lack of ingredient disclosure, Yoforia positively responded to the attention.  The CEO not only wrote me one, but two personal letters and publicly asked if I would be willing to work with the company to improve their product offering.  Most recently, the company has conducted a course correction by finally changing and clarifying some of the marketing slogans displayed in their stores.

After meeting with Mr. Tashie yesterday, I see a lot of potential for the company and I am becoming convinced they are headed back in the right direction. Mr. Tashie is committed to making his product as clean as possible, but is only a year and half old CEO. And this may be one of the reasons Yoforia isn’t quite there yet. It’s worth noting he is already making groundbreaking partnerships with some notable organic food producers for new products, but still finds certain ingredients cost prohibitive to provide in his stores. For instance, would consumers be willing to pay more to top off their yogurt with organic gummy bears?

With persistence and the right partners and influence with formula makers and distributors, I think it is possible for Yoforia to become one of the first certified organic self serve frozen yogurt franchises.  But will they be willing to take the financial risks? Only time will tell. There are many hurdles in this space and I am up for taking on the challenge and working with Yoforia to help overcome these obstacles.  

Thank you for commenting on the multiple posts about Yoforia and sending your feedback to them directly, because this, as you can see, has made a lasting impact. It’s pretty incredible to think a blog and its readers have the power to influence positive change like this. They’ll be a lot more to come on this topic…Just wait.

On a lighter note, I ordered a juice for breakfast yesterday from room service here at the St. Regis, it was tasty – but not quite the level of quality I am used to. Lots of pulpy foam on the top of the juice.  Today I’m going to try the Laguna Whole Foods and compare… really excited about making a salad there and taking it with me to the Expo.

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I followed the juice with a quick 3 miles on the treadmill and some “made in your hotel room” oatmeal.  It was delicious.
Continue Reading →

Should We Believe the Hype? Response from the CEO of Yoforia

In response to my post entitled “Don’t Believe the Hype – No Euphoria from Yoforia” about how companies deceive their consumers about the ingredients in their products, I received this letter below from the CEO of Yoforia.

I know this blog is usually about me giving my opinion – but this time I want yours.   Instead of me responding directly to him, I thought your responses would have more impact. This issue is bigger than just me – it’s about ALL OF US being able to trust what companies are telling and selling us.

Please respond in the comments section below.  When you respond – Think about Yoforia’s marketing….

 

 

Letter from Luke Tashie, CEO of Yoforia – Dated, Saturday, January 7th at 12:37pm (Please note: I bolded some items for emphasis)

 

Vani,

 

Thank you for addressing an issue that is equally important to us at Yoforia.  While we do not claim to be perfect, we are on a mission to continue to improve our offerings every day.  We combine our fresh, organic milk and our fresh, organic Stonyfield yogurt with a powder base and flavorings to create our frozen yogurts.  Most of our flavorings are naturally derived (for instance, we use actual bananas for our banana yogurt, a jar of peanut butter for our peanut butter yogurt and pineapple juice for our pineapple yogurt).  However, some flavors are not so easy to create naturally – Taro being one of them.  We have to rely on our suppliers to create a few flavors for us (namely honeydew, taro and our sorbets) and, for the time being, we have to live with a few artificial flavors/colors in those products.  Additionally, we have a trace amount of hydrogenated vegetable fat in our yogurt base that certainly meets the “no hydrogenated fats” label requirements, but we are not satisfied with that.  We have trialed several completely natural formulas to which customers have given poor reviews given the complete removal of these trace fats results in a very “icy” product.  That doesn’t mean we are not continuing to push forward with these efforts and that we will not figure out a solution.

 

Our most popular flavor, cookies & cream, is a perfect example.  We use actual crushed Oreo’s to flavor this product, but are not happy with the bad ingredients found in Oreo’s.   To fix this problem, we have looked for substitute cookies to match the flavor profile and settled on Late July organic cookies.   It has taken nearly a year to finally procure the steady supply of enough product from Late July to be able to make this change – which you should see in our stores shortly.   It takes a tremendous amount of effort for companies like us to offer a perfect product because we face the same difficulties as consumers of sourcing our ingredients.

 

We are sorry for your poor experience and our lack of communication about such an important issue.  We promise that we will continue to make every effort possible to completely rid our products of any unhealthy ingredients – but we are confident that our current product is already the best in the industry when it comes to your concerns.  We will also make a better effort to make our ingredients more readily available and to educate our entire staff about the products.   Consumers certainly have a right to know – and, given our view on the importance of the issue, we are proud to share.

 

If you have further concerns, I would be happy to discuss.

 

Regards,

Luke

Luke Tashie

Chief Executive Officer

Yoforia, LLC

 

__________________________________________________

Did the CEO really just admit to using artificial flavors and colors? 19 of the 26 flavors are non-tart, does that mean the majority their products contain hydrogenated fats in their yogurt base? How can they really believe in a product free of artificial flavors and colors if this is true?

(Fact – If 3% of your daily calories come from hydrogenated fats, you can end up raising your risk of heart disease by a whopping 23%. That means only 60 calorie a day based on a 2000 calorie diet. Trans fats are DEADLY even in a small amount and will easily add up if you go over one serving size.)

Thank you for taking this request seriously and for your participation in advance.  I really believe your response will make an impact.  This could force change on Yoforia’s marketing concepts, becoming more clear and direct in the future. Or who knows, maybe open up some other company’s eyes to getting their act together.  Your response will be powerful.

Much Love To You All -
Food Babe

 

P.S. Use one of the buttons at the top or bottom of this post and “Like” this post if you want to see change!  The more it spreads, the better!

Don’t Believe the Hype – There’s No Euphoria from Yoforia….

The new year has got me thinking… and reflecting on something I haven’t shared with you yet that I have been meaning to talk about. One thing I wanted to do when I started this blog was to uncover information not easily accessible to the general public and open more people’s eyes to the hidden dangers behind food marketing and labeling.

In the last 6 months – three major companies Kashi (Kellogg), Frito Lay, and Naked (Pepsi Co) have all been faced with lawsuits exposing the “unnatural” ingredients in their “All Natural” food products. People are suing these BIG FOOD companies because they are fed up with misinformation, marketing lies, and for the potential to unknowingly ingest hazardous substances (chemicals, GMOs, etc) that the food companies cover up with the word “natural” on their labels.

You would think that this recent legal action against these food giants for not upholding the food contents and quality on their packaging would wake up other food companies that might be in similar situations. You’d think that the word “All Natural” would be dropping off labels left and right to avoid litigation and class action lawsuits. But, no, sadly it hasn’t. That’s because their false claims make them money. Big money.

It’s often cheaper and less expensive for a business to continue with the status quo vs. implement change. Only when something happens directly for them to mandate change, does big business start to listen. This is evident in the slew of banking regulations after the mortgage meltdown of 2008.

So what has to melt down for food companies to start unveiling the truth? It will be something even more important than the economy and our wallets – It will be our health.

With that said – I want to share with you an interesting situation I encountered late last year….

Last Spring, I wrote a post about the ingredients in the Frozen Yogurt places that are popping up all over the place. One of the places I mentioned was “Yoforia” brand of yogurt – because they place signs that say “Organic Tastes Better” all over their store windows. I became really upset after learning that one of my favorite flavors “Taro” was laden with additives, transfat and food coloring. They totally tricked me with their marketing and I was mad, to say the least. I knew their product wasn’t “certified organic” but I thought they would at least adhere to their marketing and claims on using natural ingredients. I was terribly wrong.

IMG 0358

Since then, the ingredients which used to be on their website became missing with the Yoforia.com redesign. So I wondered – did they make a change to their products? Is it really organic now? I went on a hunt to find out…

The First Attempt – After not finding the ingredients anywhere on the Internet, I emailed them. I received no response for about 2 months. I also visited the store at the mall and asked if they had the ingredients – they did not.

Second Attempt – After not receiving a response, I was re-engaged if you will, after noticing a Yoforia was opening a couple blocks away from where I live. I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they cleaned up their yogurt and I would feel good about supporting them when I wanted a treat!” – So I called them this time, with a response basically saying they’ll be publishing the ingredients soon. I said, “ok – I’ll just have to wait….”

Third Attempt – After not seeing the ingredients listed on their site about a month later, frustrated, I walked into the Yoforia store by my house one day and asked if they could show me a list of ingredients in my favorite flavor – “Taro.” They said they couldn’t tell me. I asked why – and they said because the mix they use comes in powdered form in small ziploc bags and doesn’t have a label. Was I really hearing this? To prove their point, one of the employees brought out this bag to show me: (I blurred out his face, to protect his identity)

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Wow – ok. This was obviously kinda weird. The manager begged me to go to the website to find the information I was looking for – I told him that I already tried this before, and even tried emailing and calling the headquarters.

Before I left, they did show me a package of the ingredients they used for their “non-tart” yogurt flavors.  I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes – “hydrogenated” fats were included in the list. The manager wouldn’t let me take a picture, claiming that it was “confidential” information and was a “trade secret.”

How in the world can a company have the marketing “Organic Tastes Better” written all over their windows, in addition to saying this below on their website, and get away with including hydrogenated fats, which are clearly not natural nor organic?!!!

here at yoforia we believe…

  • organic ingredients free of artificial flavors and colors create a healthier, better tasting yogurt experience
  • the health of our environment is as important as our individual health
  • if the thought of yoforia does not bring an instant smile to every customer, partner and employee, we are missing the point

Yoforia – yoforia yo∙for∙i∙a |yo̅ fôr′ē ə| noun. a healthy and delicious yogurt treat that sends your taste buds into a state of euphoria.
Yoforia is a new frozen yogurt concept that emphasizes natural and organic ingredients.

 

There’s no instant smile on my face. And there shouldn’t be on on your face either.

At this point – I was ready to write this post. But, for further investigation – I decided on one last attempt at emailing them. This what happened: (Note -I removed my personal info and left the publicly available Yoforia email addresses intact)

_______________________________________

First Email:

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 3:24 PM

To: jarod@spiraclebuzz.com, comments@yoforia.com, patricia@yoforia.com

Subject – Help! – Need Ingredient List for all flavors

Please Help!

Hi – I am writing again to inquiry about whether or not I can get a list of all the ingredients in all flavors at Yoforia.  I’ve visted multiple stores asking for this information and they do not carry it.  One manager pointed me back to the website – I let him know it wasn’t on there and that I had contacted yoforia.com via email and phone several times before asking for this information.  The person I talked to ensured me it would be updated soon.  Now – it’s been 3 months – and I am still waiting for a listing of all ingredients in the flavors at Yoforia to either be posted on the website or available at the stores.

Unfortunately, not knowing what is your product is preventing me and my family from trying Yoforia. Such a shame – since we live right down the street from one of your new stores.

Could you please send me the list of ingredients if you have it?  I am especially interested in Taro, Pistachio and the new Dark Chocolate flavor that has stevia in it.

Thank you kindly,
Vani

 

Response to First Email:

Patricia Morris Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 3:34 PM
To: Vani
Cc: Jarod Latch

Vani,

Thank you for your inquiry requests. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I will tell you that I cannot give out a complte list of all of our ingredients as they are brand protected recipes; however, if you can let me know what specific ingredients’ you are looking for that, would help in getting you the information you need. For example: Gluten products, wheat, etc.

Hopefully we can get you the answers you need this way.

Thank you for your interest in Yoforia products.

Kind regards,
Patricia Morris

My First Response

From: Vani Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2011 2:25 PM
To: jarod@spiraclebuzz.com; comments@yoforia.com; patricia@yoforia.com

Subject: Help! – Need Ingredient List for all flavors

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 4:02 PM
To: Patricia Morris Cc: Jarod Latch

Do you use Blue Food Coloring in the TARO? What about Yellow or Blue coloring in the Pistachio?

In the non tart flavors or any flavors – is there anything that is hydrogenated?

Do you use anymore artificial ingredients in any of the flavors?

Thank you -
Vani

Sent from my iPhone

My Second Response:

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM

To: Patricia Morris Cc: Jarod Latch

It’s now been a week and half – were you able to confirm these ingredients below?

Thank you kindly,
Vani

My Third Response:

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM
To: Patricia Morris Cc: Jarod Latch

Checking in one more time – were you able to confirm the ingredients
in the TARO and Pistachio flavors?

______________________________________________________________________

Ok enough with the emails…

All I want to know is what I am ingesting. Is that so hard to ask? Apparentely it is. As you can see they have chosen to ignore me and did not provide the ingredients I inquired about. I am asking about a product that most people consider to be a healthy choice and didn’t expect to be confronted with so much resistance.

What does one have to do to get information about their food? The average person is certainly not going to go through this kind of effort to understand what they are eating – they are going to trust what the package and writing on the wall says. There should be a certain level of mutual trust between consumers and businesses, right?

We trust food companies with our business, our money and our body – the least they can do is provide us with accurate information about their products.

What do you think about all this?

What can we do as consumers in a situation like this?

Does Yoforia really believe that “Organic Tastes Better”, but that it doesn’t apply to the products they sell?

What are the chances of Yoforia addressing this? Do you think they will finally release the information I am looking for?

Could this be a potential class action lawsuit brewing aganist them for selling non-natural food products and claiming they are natural and organic?

I know one thing – I’ll get my euphoria another way…

Food Babe

P.S. Join my Facebook Fan Page for more ideas and discussion with nutrition minded folks!

***If you are reading this for the first time – Check out the Response from the CEO of Yoforia here…. ***