A couple of years ago, the frozen yogurt world was rocked by scandal. Pinkberry was sued in a class-action for falsely describing its product as a frozen yogurt and for falsely calling itself “all natural.” The company settled, changed its ways, and put up its ingredient list for the public to see. But ever since then, I’ve always been a little wary of Pinkberry and wondered if maybe I should switch to another provider for my froyo addiction.
The obvious replacement for Pinkberry is Red Mango. Indeed, their rivalry spans across the country, from LA to NYC. I decided to take a look at the ingredient lists for each company’s original flavored frozen yogurt to see which one is the healthier choice. Here are my findings.
Nonfat milk, sugar, nonfat yogurt (pasteurized nonfat milk, live and active cultures), nonfat yogurt powder (nonfat milk, culture), fructose, dextrose, natural flavors, citric acid, guar gum. (Ed. Click on the link above to see slight variation for Pinkberry sold in California and Connecticut.)
Nonfat Yogurt (Skim Milk, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Live & Active Cultures), Filtered Water, Pure Cane Sugar, and less than 1% of Sodium Citrate and Potassium Citrate (natural buffering agents).
Compare and Contrast
- Dairy. The only dairy ingredient in Red Mango is frozen yogurt, but Pinkberry also has nonfat milk and nonfat “yogurt powder” in addition to plain ol’ frozen yogurt. Another difference is that Pinkberry says that its milk (but not its yogurt or yogurt powder) is made from hormone-free milk. Did you know that the U.S. and Brazil are the only countries that allow dairy farmers to use synthetic growth hormones? On the other hand, the FDA ruled in 1993 that there is no significant different between milk with and without synthetic growth hormone. But on the other, other hand, the Sixth Circuit overruled the FDA in 2010 by concluding that there were significant differences between the two, including more um, pus, in milk with synthetic hormones. Anyway, let’s talk about something else…
- Sweeteners. The sweetening agent in Red Mango is cane sugar (sucrose), but the sweetening agents in Pinkberry are sugar, fructose and dextrose (a/k/a glucose). Recent studies suggest that fructose encourages fat storage more than sucrose does and might cause diabetes (here’s one). Even more significantly, sugar is the second ingredient in Pinkberry, placing it ahead of all ingredients except milk —that means there is more sugar in Pinkberry than there is frozen yogurt! In contrast, sugar is one of the last ingredients in Red Mango, after frozen yogurt and water.
- “Citr”-stuff. Pinkberry has citric acid, which adds a tart flavor and acts as a natural preservative. Sodium citrate and potassium citrate control the acidity of Red Mango’s frozen yogurt. All three substances are considered safe, non-controversial food additives.
- Flavor. Red Mango relies on its yogurt for flavor, and does not add any flavoring agents. But Pinkberry has “natural flavors” which, under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, can be pretty much anything (“the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis”) that has the flavor of, pretty much, anything (“spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof”). The Centre for Science in the Public Interest’s guide to food additives classifies natural flavors with a yellow caution label, meaning that some natural flavors may pose a risk and require further testing.
The Healthier Choice
A really, really, really, close call.
After weighing the pros and cons of each product, I dug deep into my foodie soul and realized that the winning product must be one that “Is what it says it is.” There is something disingenuous and even potentially dangerous about a product that is artificially made to walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and legally qualify as a duck –but in reality is barely a duck. Pinkberry might look and taste similar to frozen yogurt, but its main ingredients are milk and sugar, it uses food additives for flavor, and it contains weird ingredients like yogurt powder. On the other hand, Red Mango’s main ingredients are frozen yogurt and water and has no taste additives. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that Pinkberry uses synthetic growth hormone-free milk, and I wish Red Mango would release a statement on what kind of milk it uses (60% of milk in the USA is hormone-free whether labeled or not), but on the whole it is clear to me that the superior product is: