During a recent trip to New Jersey for a friend’s wedding, I had the chance to try Chobani gluten-free yogurt. Since then I’ve also seen Chobani pop up in my local supermarket in Colorado, so I thought it was high time to write a review.
Chobani is based in the dairy country of upstate New York, and launched in 2007. Its parent company, AgroFarma, started out with Euphrates, a feta cheese company. Chobani is AF’s second offering, with Greek-style yogurt.
Happily, their yogurts are certified gluten-free by the GFCO. Seeing that logo on the side of the package is like instant peace of mind that the food you’re about to eat is indeed gluten-free. The company offers three categories of yogurt: non-fat, low-fat, and “Chobani Champions,” with packaging designs and flavor names meant to appeal to kids. (I’d love to see a full-fat version of their yogurt, though I doubt there’s enough consumer demand to justify branching out in that direction…)
From an ingredients and nutrition perspective, there’s much to love. Chobani’s non-fat and low-fat plain yogurts contain nothing but non-fat milk and live, active cultures, and non-fat milk, cream, and live, active cultures, respectively. There’s a beautiful simplicity to that. And thanks to the Greek-style of yogurt making, each 6-ounce serving contains about twice as much protein as “normal” yogurt.
On the flavored side of things, they offer an impressive range of nine options currently, including many popular favorites: blueberry, strawberry, peach, vanilla. In a word, the fruit flavors are delicious. They are rich and creamy, much like the Noosa Aussie-style yogurt. And yet, they contain less sugar than most yogurt brands I stock in my fridge regularly.
From a philanthropic point of view, there’s also much to love about Chobani. Every year, the company donates more than 50,000 cups of yogurt to events that support health and wellness. What’s more, the company donates 10% of its annual profits to a dozen charities that work in the areas of health, environment, and what Chobani calls “good” – NRDC, Farm-to-School, Team Hoyt, and Doctors Without Borders, to name a few of them.
[Update: July 23, 2010. When I originally posted our Chobani review, I had mostly praise, but also some criticism with regard to the marketing language on their website. In response to our criticism of some of their marketing language, Chobani has revised the wording on their website to more accurately reflect their product. (Their yogurt does not contain thickeners or other additives. The locust bean gum and pectin are used in the fillings for the fruit flavors to improve the consistency of the fruit.) We give big kudos to Chobani for responding so promptly and attentively to our concern. It’s a great yogurt that just got even better.]
[For those interested in reading my original criticism, here it is:
Now, despite all this Chobani-lovin’ I’m throwing around, I also do have a bone to pick with the company. They are using marketing language that’s coming dangerously close to falsehoods.
For example, their website declares that “unlike some Greek yogurt companies that add ingredients to their yogurts for texture, you won’t find any thickeners, gelatins or stabilizers in our yogurt.” Not so fast. Both their website and the nutrition and ingredient labeling on the yogurt reveal that the fruit flavor yogurts contain both locust bean gum and pectin, both of which are thickeners and gelling agents widely used in the food products industry. I’m not necessarily saying locust bean gum and pectin are bad, but don’t tell me you don’t use thickeners, gelatins or stabilizers.
For another, Chobani also proudly states that they “lightly sweeten our real fruit chunks with evaporated cane juice, a natural type of unrefined sweetener.” Evaporated cane juice seems all the rage in the natural foods market these days, but from what I’ve read, it’s a lot of smoke in mirrors. ECJ is remarkably similar to refined sugar. Structurally, they’re nearly identical, and ECJ goes through just one fewer step in the refining process than its alter ego, refined sugar. ECJ does contain trace amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, and its color is slightly darker, but these differences are marginal. Again, I don’t necessarily mind a little sugar in my yogurt to sweeten the flavor (within reason), but don’t dress up an ingredient to be something it’s not.]
That being said, I’m still a fan of Chobani. At the bottom of my proverbial balance sheet, I give it many more pros than cons, and I’ll continue to enjoy it in my rotation of favorite yogurts.
Image courtesy of Chobani.