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What Really is Frozen Yogurt?
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Frozen yogurt (also known as frozen yoghurt or by the tradenames such as froyo, frogurt, crakberryand fro-yo) is a frozen dessert made from, or containing yogurt or other dairy products. It is slightly more tart than ice cream, as well as lower in fat due to the fact that froyo uses pure milk or skim milk instead of cream.
Frozen yogurt has come to be used much like ice cream and is served in a wide variety of flavors and styles. Many companies allow customers the option of adding various toppings, or ordering their frozen yogurt in cups or in cones. Certain sellers even offer sugar-free varieties. Frozen yogurt made by chains such as Pinkberry, Red Mango, Blush, and Yogen Fruz is tarter and closer to the original recipe, whereas other companies like TCBY and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt focus on making their frozen yogurt taste like ice cream.

History of Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt was introduced in the 1970s as a healthier alternative to ice cream but consumers complained about the tart taste and yogurt-like consistency. Manufacturers began production of a recipe that consumers would enjoy and frozen yogurt made a comeback in the 1980s, reaching sales of $25 million in 1986. In the early 1990s, frozen yogurt was 10% of the dessert market.

Frozen Yogurt Production

Frozen yogurt usually consists of milk solids, milk fat, yogurt culture, sweetener, gelatin, corn syrup, coloring, and flavoring. To be considered true frozen yogurt the ingredients must include live or active cultures.

Milk fat comprises about 0.5-6% of the yogurt. Added in quantities inversely proportional to the amount of milk solids, the milk fat lends richness to the yogurt. Milk solids account for 8-14% of the yogurt's volume providing lactose for sweetness and proteins for smoothness and increased resistance to melting. Cane or beet sugar provides 15-17% of the yogurt's ingredients. In addition to adding sweetness, the sugar increases the volume of solid ingredients in the yogurt improving body and texture. Animal and vegetable gelatins stabilize the yogurt, reducing crystallization and increasing the temperature at which the yogurt will melt. This stabilization ensures that the frozen yogurt maintains a smooth consistency regardless of handling or temperature change.

Frozen yogurt can be made in an ice cream machine; however, major companies often use assembly lines specifically dedicated to frozen yogurt production. The milk products and gelatin are combined and homogenized. They are then cooled to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). At this temperature, the yogurt culture is added and the mixture is cooled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Once it has reached the desired temperature and viscosity the yogurt is allowed to sit in aging tanks for up to four hours. Sweeteners, colorings and flavorings are then mixed in and the yogurt mixture is cooled to 20 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to -2 degrees Celsius). In order to create extra volume and smooth consistency, air is incorporated into the yogurt as the mixture is agitated. When a sufficient amount of air has been incorporated into the product the yogurt is rapidly frozen to prevent the formation of large ice crystals and stored in a cold place to be shipped.

Fro-yo Today

One big factor in the renewed frozen yogurt craze is Pinkberry. When the first store opened in West Hollywood in January 2005, Pinkberry was an instant hit. In fact, it soon became known as “the taste that launched a thousand parking tickets.” That first location was not an optimum spot for parking. Customers parked illegally and stood in line for an hour or more. According to CEO and President Ron Graves, the city of West LA made $175,000 from parking tickets in one month, just from people trying to get to Pinkberry. From that single location just a few short years ago, Pinkberry now operates more than 75 stores in California, New York, Texas, Kuwait, and Dubai. Future plans include expanding across the U.S.

Pinkberry competitors such as Red Mango, Yogen Fruz, and others are also trying to capitalize on one of the country’s hottest trends. Red Mango, a company that originated in Korea in 2004, already has stores in15 states, with new stores being added all the time. Yogen Fruz opened its first store in Canada in 1986 and now lists more than 1,200 stores in 25 countries. And don’t forget TCBY and their 1,200 plus locations.

Active Cultures in Frozen Yogurt

Just as with some products that term themselves “yogurt,” not all products listed as “frozen yogurt” actually contain live and active cultures. Frozen yogurt is not subject to federal composition standards, as it is a non-standardized food. To carry the “Live & Active Cultures” seal, the frozen yogurt must be made by fermenting pasteurized milk with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Frozen yogurt manufacturers will then mix this yogurt with a variety of ingredients per their own recipes. Those ingredients can include fruit, stabilizers, and an ice cream mix of milk, cream, and sugars. The mixture is then frozen. The live bacteria, few of which are killed in the freezing process, go into a dormant state. When eaten and brought back to warm temperatures within the body, these cultures again become active and impart the same health benefits as regular yogurt.

According to TCBY’s website, their yogurt contains seven active cultures. Besides the standard Lactobacillis bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, TCBY also contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus lactis, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Yogen Fruz adds Lactobacillus paracasei and says they “put a billion probiotic bacteria in each serving in addition to all of the yogurt culture that is already there.” Though it’s not clear why TCBY and Yogen Fruz do not hold the certification, Pinkberry and Red Mango both carry the “Live & Active Cultures” seal on their frozen yogurts. Besides the two standard cultures, Pinkberry frozen yogurt also includes Lactobacillus acidophilus. Red Mango lists Lactobacillus lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus as live cultures in their products, along with the two required cultures. Red Mango is also the only frozen yogurt retailer whose products contain the patented Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 or Ganeden BC30.

All of these live bacteria offer a range of known health benefits. Frozen yogurt, for instance, is an excellent option for those that are lactose intolerant. The beneficial bacteria transform lactose into lactic acid, making it easier to digest. Replenishing the intestines with the good bacteria that are supposed to live there aids greatly digestion. The probiotic organisms in frozen yogurt have other positive health benefits such as boosting the immune system, helping to prevent the development of certain cancers, and preventing the growth of many harmful bacteria.

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