Frozen Yogurt

Remember when we were kids – those of us who watched far too much television, at least – and we had every song from every cereal commercial memorized? My personal favorite was the “Magically Delicious” tune for Lucky Charms. Now, as an adult, I realize there’s a reason why these cereals were “magically delicious.” They’re full of chemicals magically concocted in a lab. And, in my wiser years, I fear this label can be applied to my grown-up favorites, including summer’s darling: Frozen yogurt.

Fortunately, with my never-ending transition into adulthood has also come a trend set by the national retailer Pinkberry, the self-proclaimed “orginal tart frozen yogurt,” to serve up cool desserts made from all natural ingredients. Red Mango, too, caught the wave, claiming to be the “pioneer of all natural frozen yogurt.” The principal of both is the same: A commitment to frozen treats made from real milk, real sugar and real yogurt: That is, the raw stuff packed with active cultures and probiotics.

Then, there’s the 11-year-old Tasti D-Lite: A New York City staple that’s gone national, bringing reduced-calorie versions of such flavors as Carrot Cake, Marble Cheesecake and even Peanut Butter ‘n Jelly. Tasti, too, claims to be made with natural ingredients and “just enough real sugar,” with many customers crying, “It tastes just like the real thing!”

We’re faced with a FroYo showdown. Which of these dessert retailers is true to its word and really offers lighter, all natural options?

It doesn’t take much research to learn that Pinkberry and Froyo are the leaders. Both websites provide full nutritional information and a complete list of ingredients. Tasti D-Lite, on the other hand, provides only a partial list of ingredients, with the company’s CMO admitting that “some of the flavorings we use at the store level are natural, some are not” in a 2009 Forbes feature. Delicious? Certainly. All natural? Eh.

That’s not to say the lists from Pinkberry and Red Mango don’t raise questions. Both, for instance, contain elusive “natural flavors,” a choice of words over which no food administration exercises regulation. And Pinkberry’s yogurt contains additives maltodextrin and mono-and diglycerides, controversial due to a lack of knowledge about their sources. It also contains fructose, which, though natural, can cause digestive issues when consumed in excess. So, while Pinkberry offers up quite the flavor palette, its natural, er, nature is still up for debate.

Red Mango, alternatively, has a noticeably smaller list of ingredients by comparison. None of its flavors list fructose or mono-and diglycerides, while only two contain maltodextrin: Lemon Honey Iced Green Tea and Pomegranate Green Tea. However, some patrons have aired grievances around the yogurt’s bitter, not tart, flavor.

Which leaves us with the following conclusion:

Natural:

First Place: Red Mango

Second Place: Pinkberry

Third Place: Tasti D-Lite

Taste:

First Place; Tasti D-Lite

Second Place: Pinkberry

Third Place: Red Mango

But I remain curious as to what the most discerning consumers have to say about each retailer. And so, readers, I call upon you to go forth, snack and report the results. After all, we’re halfway through August; the best excuse to catch frozen treats in their prime.

Image: yosoynuts