Yogurt Flashback

I know, I know. Joe, can’t you just leave the yogurt thing alone? I wish I could, but I can’t. Everywhere I turn these days, I see fresh-fermented dairy products. If you feel like you’re having the same problem, it may be because this spring/summer will mark the “great return” of frozen yogurt to the American market. Frozen yogurt? you say, didn’t that go out with leg warmers and Flock of Seagulls records? In fact it did. Starting in the early 90’s the country’s number one vendor of frozen yogurt, TCBY, took such a pounding in the market that it’s almost impossible to find one around anymore.

Yet suddenly frozen yogurt has a whole new life, thanks in part to a fast-growing West Coast chain by the name of PinkBerry. In contrast to the rich, silky, ice cream-like frozen yogurts of old, PinkBerry sells a very tart Korean-style product that’s usually served covered with fresh fruit and a sprinkling of Cap’n Crunch, granola or shredded coconut. It’s plenty addictive stuff, so I’m told by friends in New York where they call it “CrackBerry”.

But PinkBerry is just the most conspicuous example of the millennial frozen yogurt boom. Nowadays the all-seeing eye of food marketing spans the globe. Product developers long ago noted the Southeast Asian frozen yogurt craze and have been preparing for something similar here. That’s why everyone from Dreyer’s to Häagen-Dazs even now have products waiting for you in your local dairy case. The packaging might not scream “frozen yogurt” (those are still dirty words to some extent), but you’ll know them by the probiotic promises they make (“Contains live and active cultures!”).

Of course the great fallacy of frozen yogurt (made famous by Seinfeld) is that it’s healthier than ice cream. That’s rarely true, especially after the Cocoa Pebbles have been heaped on the top. The best reason to eat it is because it’s different. As I said, the new wave of frozen yogurt is much fresher and tangier than the “frogurt” of the 80’s. So try it if you will this summer, but please, I’m begging you, don’t put the zubaz back on.

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