After finishing the last tub of Stonyfield Cream Top yogurt earlier this week, I opened the first tub of Stonyfield Whole Milk “smooth and creamy” yogurt. I hadn’t noticed the subtle changes in the packaging when I was at the store earlier this week. Just like no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected Stonyfield to change the wonderful yogurt they’d been making for the last 27 years. The change dawned on me as I pulled off the plastic lid and saw the foil seal that said, “We’ve stirred in the cream ….to make our creamiest, smoothest whole milk yogurt ever.” And then in big red letters: “You’re going to love it.” Umm. No. I’m not. The inside of the foil goes on with the hard sell of the new formula: “Ever since we began making yogurts, the debate has raged: should we let that creamy layer rise to the top or stir it in? It was always a tossup, but after 27 years of cream on top, we and a bunch of customers tried it the other way. We were all blown away by how delicious it is. And you will be too. Enjoy!” This note is signed “Gary” [Hirshberg], the CEO of Stonyfield. Nice sentence structure, by the way. The changes on the actual tub are subtle: big letters saying “Cream Top” were gone and replaced with bigger letters that say “Whole Milk”. There is also a little blurb on the package that says “tastes Creamier than ever”. I didn’t notice this at the store. If I had, I wouldn’t have purchased it. I look carefully to make sure that I’m buying whole milk yogurt and to be sure that I’m not buying the cloyingly sweet vanilla flavor, but I didn’t think I’d have to watch out for this. I’d written twice on this very blog last February here and here about my love for the cream top yogurt and my unhappiness on one occasion settling for low-fat when the store was out of whole milk cream top and on the other trying Whole Foods own yogurt when cream top was sold out. In neither case did I find a winner.
So somehow Stonyfield has been making their yogurt wrong for the better part of three decades? And they were SELLING it? And they just realized this now? Unlikely. It’s also not so benign as that they are just “stirring in the cream”. They’re using homogenized milk. Which I do not want. I’m guessing Gary saw a bunch of dollar signs either relating to changing suppliers or due to changing their manufacturing process. However this went down, I’m sure it is more about money than it is about taste or producing a quality product. Who knows if this taste test really ever took place? Even if it did, were they really blown away by “how delicious it is”, or did they just figure they could pass off this slop and get by on their name?
Stonyfield’s website (I’m not linking on purpose as it’s easy enough to find) has more of the same hard-sell. The website encouraged me to leave a comment about the new product. I did, and this is the disingenuous response that I received:
Hello Ann ,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We’re always happy to get
comments and questions from our yogurt lovers and are grateful when someone
takes the time to let us know what they think of our Company and products.
We appreciate your passion for the cream on top and you’re not alone – ever
since we started, we’ve been hearing the debate: should we let that creamy
layer rise to the top or stir it in? It was always a tossup, and after 27
years of cream on top, we’ve decided to stir things up. The cream you love
is still there, only now the yogurt is smoother, creamier, and we think,
even more delicious. We appreciate what an amazingly loyal Stonyfield whole
milk yogurt buyer you are and we’re sorry our new cup disappoints you. We
sincerely hope you’ll continue to give us a try.
The folks at Stonyfield
First of all, loyalty, my ass! But I digress. I’m sure that form letter was crafted before the smooth and creamy abomination ever hit the shelves. I can’t imagine they didn’t think there would be a backlash. I just don’t know how big it is, and whether or not they are managing to convince former cream top customers to continue to buy this homogenized and inferior product. I know that if I hadn’t cared about buying something that was unhomogenized, I wouldn’t have been shelling out Stonyfield sized dollars for an average of a little over a tub of 32 ounce plain yogurt per week. Do the math. That adds up to real money if I stop buying their products and thousands of others do the same. It also looks like they’re pushing coupons harder than ever as well as sponsoring giveaways such as the one on this blog where it isn’t even clear to me that the blogger loves the product and where her content is mostly cribbed from the Stonyfield site. I don’t know that she was compensated, but this reeks of paid blogging to me. And I see no disclosure notice.
I do not want this yogurt and I am not alone. I found this anonymous comment #32 on a thread at wisegeek:
I asked Stonyfield why they discontinued their wonderful plain whole milk yogurt, that had the cream settled on the top. They said, it was debated, and was a toss-up, so they decided to change it. (Why, if it was a toss-up?) I asked how they kept the cream from rising to the top. They said they homogenized it. I will not buy their yogurt anymore.
I also found this thread started by a woman who goes by the screen name of “beaglemommy” over at Mothering.com. No one who posted on that thread wrote anything like, “The new smooth and creamy yogurt is the most delicious yet!” Or even expressed the thought that maybe it was o.k., acceptable. Comments range between disappointment and outrage. Which is really just angrier disappointment. With permission, here is her original post:
Um, I’m NOT going to love the only consistently available non-homogenized dairy now homogenized! And in such a sneaky way. I could not read that portion of the label until after I purchased it. The rest of the packaging looks much the same as it always has. Now that I am studying the label, it does not say “cream top” as it used to. Is there any other explanation other than they are now homogenizing it? It doesn’t smell bad, but the top of the yogurt in the container looks bubbly and nasty.
This container will be going back to Kroger.
Anyone else noticed this?
our whole-milk yogurts. Scientific research tells us homogenized milk is no
less healthy than unhomogenized milk.
In the 1970s, a researcher named Kurt Oster theorized that an increase in
coronary heart disease was caused by homogenized milk, which was introduced
in the 1930s and 1940s. Research done in the 1980s, however, refuted
Oster’s theory. If you’d like to read more about the topic, check out the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Dairy Science.
Thanks again for contacting us, and please don’t hesitate to drop us
another line. We’d love to hear from you again.
The folks at Stonyfield
Get free yogurt and green goods. Sign up at MyStonyfieldRewards.com
Clifford AJ, et al: Homogenized bovine milk xanthine oxidase: a critique of
the hypothesis relating to plasmalogen depletion and cardiovascular
disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983 Aug;38(2):327-32.
Deeth HC: Homogenized milk and atherosclerotic disease: a review. J Dairy
Sci. 1983 Jul;66(7):1419-35.”