It’s Official. I am a yogurt groupie.

Readers of this blog have long known of my love affair w/ a certain yogurt.  WELL.  This past Friday, I just so happened to be in New Hampshire.  Although time was tight (my kids were due home from school), and I knew I’d have mere minutes to gaze in wonder upon Stonyfield Farm, I was NOT GOING TO MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY.  I could not, would not, return to Maine without making the pilgrimage to the mecca of organic yogurt.  So I drove south, speeding all the way – through Manchester, past the mall, round the airport, to a most unexpected sight.

WOWZA!  There I was – two minutes away from Stonyfield Farm – and a plane was nearly landing on my car.  Hmm..  Not quite the idyllic setting I’d imagined.

Picture this.  You’ve been “dating” a guy online for a while.  He looks good and sounds even better.  You’re ready to make that face-to-face plunge.  So you schedule to meet someplace, only when you arrive – you can’t find him anywhere.   Eventually another guy meanders over and sheepishly explains that HE is your guy.  You see.  He fudged his photo.

When I arrived at Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Works I felt very much like that.  Why?  B/c I had pictured Stonyfield Farm looking like the scene on its label.  Pastures, animals, manure.

Instead I got:

This is Stonyfield Farm.

Contrary to the pastoral scene on the front of each and every one of its recyclable cups, Stonyfield is actually born in an industrial park.  Where there are no real cows.  A good thing, too, because there was barely any grass.  The Yogurt Works is a factory.  A large but otherwise nondescript building located in an office park behind the Manchester Airport.

I should have anticipated this.  Right?  I mean, how else can Stonyfield mass produce the best selling organic yogurt on the face of the planet?  By hand, in a barn?  Still – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t let down.  By the way, they no longer give tours.

They do have an 11-minute video.  Which is cute.  And informative.  But as a true groupie, it just wasn’t enough.  How long is the yogurt left in the incubator? The cool-down tunnels?  How many HONKIN CUPS are stored on all those pallets?  I wanted more.  Much more.  And when I got home I realized something else.  The woman at the Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Works Gift Shop (although pleasant) actually overcharged me by F-I-V-E whole D-O-L-L-A-R-S.  My t-shirt was on sale.  It was clearly marked.  ??!!  I should have been paying more attention.

And speaking of attention.  I just noticed something else.  If you look closely at that enormous Yogurt Cup above (yes, I will wait for you to scroll up & back down…) you will see that it says STONYFIELD – BUT. It no longer says Farm.  Stonyfield.  But no – Farm.

The old Stonyfield Farm logo had the word farm.  I know this b/c earlier that day I’d been at the New Hampshire Historical Society.

And back when I did the Yogurt Taste-off, the cups still said Farm.

But in 2009, Stonyfield changed its logo.  I knew all about this b/c as a true groupie, I belong to the online MyStonyfield website.  I’d been asked for my opinion by the marketing group responsible for the Stonyfield makeover.  (Note: they didn’t pick my first choice of logos – which looked more like their old logo – but that’s o-kay.  I am not bitter and still love Stonyfield as much as ever.)  I of course noted when the new cups came out.  Being a yogurt groupie, one tends to notice these things.  Unfortunately, I must be love blind b/c until this very moment I failed to notice they’d removed the word FARM altogether.  Strange but true.

The new logo is pretty.  It’s fresh, and new.  Not as good as my first choice, of course, but lovely all the same.  I read an online appraisal of this change.  People seem divided as to the aesthetic, but I’m happy to see most people are still united as to what’s inside.  Stonyfield Farm yogurt is Good.  And really, that’s what counts.  Right?  So I will leave you with a photo of me in my new tee shirt.  Which I love even though I paid $5 more for it than I should have.

Once a groupie, always a groupie.

THE GREAT YOGURT TASTE OFF!

yogurttasteoff1

Yogurt. The stuff of legend. Well.. maybe not, but to me.. yogurt is T-RRIFIC. This weekend while visiting w/ my sister and her FABBBULOUS new boyfriend, we got to talking about yogurt. And I finally decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do. NAMELY, hold my very own taste test… of YOGURT!  YAY!!!!!!!!!!

I eat enough of the stuff to support at least one company in the style to which they’ve become accustomed.  (I am talking to YOU Stonyfield.)  BUT why limit myself?  I am a woman of adventure, of daring, of DAIRY!  There are dozens of yogurts out there on the market, just waiting to be sampled.

Thinking about all that yummy delicious yogurt makes my mouth water…. but how to compare a peach whole milk to a soy caramel latte to a goat’s milk key lime pie?? In order to maintain fairness and accuracy in this TASTE OFF! I would have to set restrictions. BEHOLD the 3 Basic Criteria for Eligibility:

  • VANILLA yogurt only;
  • made of NON FAT cow’s milk; with
  • NO Chemical Sweeteners.

Most manufacturers produce some sort of vanilla.  I excluded non-cow’s milk (soy milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk) to be fair.  And to hedge against varying levels of milk fat across low fat or light brands, I opted for FAT FREE products. Finally, I decided NOT to taste test any yogurts containing artificial sweeteners – b/c I hate them and this is MY CONTEST.

Although most of the yogurts are organic, a few are not. I decided to include conventional (aka, NON organic) yogurt for two reasons. One. Although there is normally a price differential associated with buying organic (i.e., it usually costs more), this was not necessarily the case here.  I wanted to see why.  Two. I felt comparing organic and conventional yogurts would add yet another level of interest to the experiment. YES we all know that organic yogurt is better for you, but does it also TASTE BETTER??

Curd for curd, my goal in this GREAT YOGURT TASTE OFF! was to find the best tasting, best value nonfat vanilla on the market. NOTE: In an ideal world, I would have been able to find all of the yogurts in single-serving 6 oz. cups. Unfortunately, after hauling it to 5 stores I took what I could get. BUT YOU GET THE IDEA. Now onto the results.

THE WINNERS!!!

Colombo Classic New England Made Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt (conventional)
colombo
$0.80 for 6 oz.
Good texture. Slightly thick, yet smooth and creamy. Reminds me of Stonyfield’s subtle sweetness, but with a touch more vanilla flavor. This is a yummy yogurt I would definitely buy again and recommend to others.

Stonyfield Farm Organic Fat Free French Vanilla Yogurt
stonyfieldff
$0.99 for 6 oz.
This has been my go-to yogurt for years. I still love Stonyfield’s thick (almost chunky) appearance and very smooth & creamy texture. By comparison it is much less sweet than competitors, with only a hint of vanilla. Just how I like it.

Horizon Organic Fat-Free Vanilla Yogurt
horizon1
$4.69 for 32 oz.
Top marks for this delicious organic yogurt, with its smooth, light and creamy texture. This one is a bit sweeter than Stonyfield, with a more discernible vanilla taste. Highly recommended.

Brown Cow All Natural Nonfat Vanilla (conventional)
browncow
$0.89 for 6 oz.
It’s hard to believe this yogurt’s fat free! TONS of vanilla flavor in a very sweet, rich and creamy base. This yogurt is perfect for those craving decadent desserts while dieting. A little sweeter than I’m accustomed to, but delicious all the same. Recommended.

THE LOSERS

Chobani Vanilla Non Fat Greek Yogurt (conventional)
chobani
$1.59 for 6 oz.
This yogurt is not cheap, though it was the least expensive of the three Greek-style yogurts sampled. I read a bit about Greek yogurt before undertaking this experiment, both to educate as well as prepare myself for what it would be like. I agree with most reviews which describe Greek yogurt as chalky and unappealing. Both adjectives can easily be used to describe Chobani, as well as unbelievably thick, not sweet, with no discernible vanilla flavor. Do not buy this unless you enjoy Greek yogurt or need cheap glue.

365 Organic Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt
365organic
$0.89 for 6 oz.
I am not sure how to describe this yogurt. I took one bite and UGH!!!! actually had to spit it out. It had a very pronounced sour “yogurt-y” taste. Almost too much to believe. Until I looked more closely at the cup and realized it was actually expired by THREE WEEKS. Way to sell me that Oct 28th yogurt on November 18th, Whole Foods. I will not be going back for another.

Wallaby Organic Vanilla Bean Creamy Australian Style Nonfat Yogurt
wallaby
$0.99 for 6 oz.
This Australian-style yogurt is actually manufactured in California. Having never been to Australia, I’m not sure what difference there is in our yogurts, except to say this had a smoother, more blended feel. This was one of only two yogurts to have any visible vanilla bean specks, and Wallaby had by FAR the strongest vanilla flavor of any yogurt sampled. Check and check. Unfortunately, it was also extremely sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of Kaopectate. I will not be buying this one again.

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt Vanilla
oikos
$1.99 for 6 oz.
This Greek-style yogurt is made by Stonyfield Farm, which might account for my liking it slightly better than the other two I tried. It had a much lighter consistency – almost whipped – which made it mildly appealing, though in flavor I’d be hard pressed to distinguish it from plain yogurt. Very little sweetness and virtually no vanilla flavor. Not recommended.

Skyr.is Vanilla (conventional)
skyr
$2.79 for 6 oz.
FOUR WORDS: UNBELIEVABLY THICK AND EXPENSIVE. This was the priciest yogurt by far, and not even organic. Granted, it’s a Greek Style yogurt manufactured in Iceland. But even that can’t make up for it. I want to label this yogurt a novelty – it even comes with its own very nifty snap-shut spoon, but frankly save your $2.79. The yogurt is, as I said, incredibly thick, with a soft cheese consistency. To its credit Skyr.is was the only other yogurt besides Wallaby to have visible vanilla bean specks. But its barely sweet taste and batter-like consistency were just too much to conquer. I will not be buying this again.

Butterworks Farm Vermont Vanilla Organic Nonfat Yogurt
butterworks1
$3.99 for 32 oz.
Knowing my predilection for ALL THINGS VERMONT, I was poised to love this yogurt like none other.  Unfortunately, this was the only other yogurt – besides the EXPIRED ONE – that I physically spit out. I am sorry. I feel terrible saying this about yogurt lovingly and wholesomely produced by a small family farm in the Northern Kingdom, but this yogurt is awful. Truly sour. AND Curdy. With no discernible vanilla flavor. Looking at their website, their Maple Yogurt seems to get high marks. Try that one instead.

365 Fat Free Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt (conventional)
365conventional
$0.59 for 6 oz.
I normally LOVE BARGAINS. But sometimes you have to pay more to get what you want. This is one of those times. This yogurt was – shall I say it? GROSS. with a pronounced vanilla flavor that tasted fake. It was so nasty, I double-checked the fine print to see if it was natural vanilla. TWICE. I guess it’s the yogurt equivalent of buying a GUCCI bag off the guy in the street. Whole Foods may be a wonderful store, but frankly their yogurt has left me shuddering. First expired, then THIS. Good thing it only cost 59 cents.

IN CONCLUSION.

The GREAT YOGURT TASTE OFF! was certainly a learning experience. As someone accustomed to eating roughly 2 cups of yogurt on an average day – even for me, this was a little TOO MUCH.

The difference in taste between these yogurts was nothing less than astounding. Now having sampled so many different makers, I realize just what I love about Stonyfield Farm and why I keep coming back. Although I liked Brown Cow and Colombo, neither is organic. And although I also enjoyed Horizon Organic, I don’t like it any better than Stonyfield. In conclusion: there’s a reason why I’ve stayed with Stonyfield all these years. Healthy, delicious organic yogurt at a reasonable price.