Every week we receive suggestions about how to make our company better — suggestions for which we are grateful. Customer feedback is essential and we read and listen to it all. One of the most popular questions we’re asked is, “Where can I find a list of ingredients?” Truthfully, this has been a constant challenge for us to answer. Listing ingredients seems like an easy enough exercise, but as we’ve come to find out, nothing in a small, consumer-facing business — especially one associated with food — is ever simple.
Here’s the dilemma: We rely on multiple suppliers to help us create each of our products, as well as distributors to get those products to us. Additionally, we pride ourselves in mixing our yogurts fresh in each store rather than using a generically processed and/or frozen product, as is the industry norm. We then take those products – each of which are made up of multiple ingredients themselves – and blend them to make our frozen yogurts and sorbets. Still seems relatively simple, right?
Well, let’s look at an easy example: To make our Banana flavor, we combine organic milk, organic Stonyfield yogurt, condensed milk, our base (which gives the product its consistency) and flavoring. That gets us:
Organic Valley Milk: Organic Grade A Fat Free Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: Cultured pasteurized organic nonfat milk, pectin, vitamin D3. Cultures: S. THERMOPHILUS, L. BULGARICUS, L. ACIDOPHILUS, BIFIDUS, L. CASEI, AND L. RHAMNOSUS
Condensed milk: Nonfat milk, sugar, vitamin A palmitate
Base: Sugar, nonfat dry milk, dextrose, hydrogenated vegetable fat (coconut), natural flavors, citric acid, nonfat yogurt powder (skim milk, culture), salt, dehydrated glucose syrup, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, guar gum, locust bean gum, lemon juice, modified vegetable gum, soy protein
Flavor: Fresh bananas
When you add that together, it’s an overly complicated ingredient list that none of us want to see. Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s the best we can do. So that naturally begs the question, “How does a company like Haagen-Dazs offer its “Five” line of products using only five ingredients?” Well they don’t, really. They simply pay a food scientist to classify multiple types of ingredients (pure cane sugar, dextrose [or dry glucose] and maltodextrines) into broad buckets and simply label it “sugar,” for instance.
We could pay a food scientist some hefty sum to do the same – IF we used a contract manufacturer to blend our product offsite, certify it, dehydrate and/or freeze it and then redistribute it. This is incredibly expensive and has a multitude of problems in and of itself. Namely, we would be forced to continue using that same formula forever (or at least until we wanted to pay to re-certify it) and we would lose the ability to continually enhance it. Additionally, we would have less flexibility in creating new flavors and would no longer be able to offer a freshly blended product.
Further, we are constantly trying new, better, cleaner formulas and we often trial them in some of our stores and collect feedback. We want and need the flexibility to improve our formula because we’re not satisfied by where it is today. The more flexibility we have, the faster we can offer what we all want – a product able to be certified by the USDA as an Organic frozen yogurt.
So here’s what we’re going to do: In the next few days, we’ll add a new page to our website outlining the ingredients in each component of our frozen yogurt formula. In exchange, I’d like to request your help in getting us over the hurdle with our partners in several areas. Please share your voice in the comments section below.
Here are the current items we’re working to improve:
Peanut Butter: There’s an all-natural version of the peanut butter we currently use, but our distributer won’t carry it. Any emails or posts in the comments section in support of this would be helpful in persuading our partners to carry it.
Oreos: We’ve been in talks with Late July for over 15 months to use their organic cookie sandwich product as an Oreo substitute. It amazes me that companies don’t want our business, but we’re now working on alternatives. Our goal is to have an organic “Oreo” substitute available within the next 75 days.
Pomegranate syrup (added to the pomegranate juice for our pomegranate flavor): Our distributor carries Torani, but not Monin syrup, which would be an artificial, color-free alternative. Your support can help us get them to carry this product faster.
Nutella: This product uses “vanillan,” an artificial flavor, as its final ingredient. How much does this matter to you? Can you help us source an alternative?
Despite these areas of development that are at the front of mind for Yoforia every day, it must not be lost that we do so many things right, despite the many obstacles we face. Our use of fresh organic milk and organic Stonyfield yogurt, along with mixing a fresh product, raises our food costs dramatically. Our Stevia-sweetened Dark Chocolate flavor is the industry standard for reduced-sugar frozen yogurt. The fact that we go to the extra effort to provide a real product – rather than relying on the mass producers of frozen yogurt most companies our size use – is a big deal.
Yoforia’s a company that truly cares about the products we offer and continues to improve daily. The more customer support we receive in our many initiatives, the faster we can bring them to market. I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on what we can do to improve, and to see what you can do to help, so please share your voice in the comments section below.
Yoforia Chief Executive Officer