Thursday, March 29, 2007

Emmi Swiss Pink Grapefruit

One-word verdict: Indestructible!

The backstory: Emmi Swiss Premium Lowfat Pink Grapefruit Yogurt is the professed favorite yogurt EVER not only of my good friend NYHH, but also of a fair number of Chowhounders out there. Now, I like me some grapefruit and I love me some yogurt, but—like many people I’m sure—I was a little skeptical about how well the twain would work together. The flavor would get a point for novelty, sure, but would it rack up points in any other areas?

I've known about this yogurt for a while, but I hadn’t tried for a few reasons: it's high in sugar, pretty pricey, and a bit hard to find (i.e., not stocked at Whole Foods). But all those tales of its uniqueness and deliciousness finally inspired me to seek it out, so when I recently spotted it at a somewhat reduced price, I picked up a cup.

Nutrition: When examining the Nutrition Facts panel, I found it hard to get past the whopping 24 grams of sugars—that’s at least three teaspoons of added sugar per bitty 6-ounce cup, blowing right past Stonyfield, practically into Dannon territory. The fat level's not bad (1.5 grams saturated fat), but all that sugar helps vault the calorie count up to 160 calories, which is higher than that of several full-fat yogurts. Not surprisingly, sugar is the second ingredient in the yogurt, after cultured reduced fat milk but before pink grapefruit, lemon juice concentrate, or grapefruit juice concentrate.

I understand that a little extra sweetener may be needed to counteract the tartness of the citrus components, but that much sugar added to a small cup of 'gurt really is too much for me.

Well, how is it? Well, I wish I could report that, with all that sugar, the yogurt was way too sweet…but it wasn’t.

It was actually very tasty. The flavor is a real wakeup call for the taste buds, managing to be citrusy, sweet, and yogurty all at once. It’s a novel experience, and highly enjoyable—after a few bites I got what the fuss is about. Damn those sugar-happy food chemists, they’d done an excellent job.

As for appearance and texture, the yogurt is a pleasant pink color (apparently aided by “red beet concentrate”) and contains distinct little pink grapefruit bits. Even better, the consistency is that great, silky European texture that’s not too thick but still hangs together nicely (well, probably with help from the “modified corn starch”).

Where's it made? Not totally clear (see below)—I contacted the company to ask, but they never got back to me. The address on the cup is in Valley Cottage, NY (39 miles from NYC), but I suspect that may just be corporate headquarters.

Ingredient notes: In addition to the cultured milk, sugar, fruit, and fruit juices I mentioned above, Emmi Pink Grapefruit Yogurt contains modified corn starch, red beet concentrate, natural flavors, whey protein concentrate, cultures (3 listed), and potassium sorbate (to maintain freshness).

In other words: genetically modified thickener, colorant, flavor enhancers, thickener…and preservative. Sure, red from beets beats FD&C red any day, and there's thankfully no HFCS to be seen, but still, the level of processing is disappointing, especially for a product whose “Premium” title, not to mention price, imply that it’s high-end.

Interestingly, according to this thread at Chowhound, it seems that this yogurt flavor may have recently been reformulated. Apparently it used to be less sweet, less “lemony,” and, according to the poster, better. (If any other longtime Emmi-eaters can pipe in with info on this subject, please do!)

I have been able to confirm that Emmi cups used to be slightly smaller than the standard yogurt cup, 5.3 ounces, and as you can see from the picture of the older version at the right, the design has changed. Also, the old cup used to say “Made from fresh Swiss Alpine Milk,” whereas the new cup says "Original Swiss Recipe" and "Produced for Emmi (USA), Inc." followed by a New York address. This at least implies that the company is now producing yogurt over here rather than importing from Switzerland. If that is the case and the yogurts are no longer being imported, then I think that their continued high price is completely unjustifiable.

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: The container is your standard #5 plastic, foil lid. (As an aside, I hung on to the empty cup after I finished the yogurt because I knew that Nutrition Facts for Emmi yogurt are not available online, and I wanted to have the evidence in hand for The Yogblog. Well, at one point the cup fell out of my pocket and rolled off into the street, where it was promptly run over by three different cars. I dashed back to get it when the light changed and found the cup to be in surprisingly good shape.)

The cup itself makes no claims about the origins of the milk or other ingredients, and the website offers frustratingly little information as well. In any case, none of the ingredients claim to be organic, "natural," or otherwise earth- or animal-friendly.

Price: This stuff sells for a whopping $1.99 per 6-ounce cup at Garden of Eden, which is the most convenient source to me, but I actually scored my cup at an Upper East Side branch of Dean & Deluca for $1.50. (Wow, what a deal! Note the sarcasm.)

For a product that appears to be using conventionally produced dairy, sugar, and fruit souped up with a bunch of additives (one of which is objectionable enough that Whole Foods won't carry it), that's pretty outrageous.

The bottom line: There are many reasons I should condemn this yogurt: its very good taste and texture should be overwhelmed in my mind by its high sugar content, not-so-good ingredients, and crazy price. It’s certainly not going to do well in my scoring system.

And yet…and yet…I don’t dislike it nearly as much as I should. It’s tasty, it’s interesting. Remembering how it pleasantly surprised me as I tried it for the first time, strolling through Central Park, makes me smile. There’s a lot of yogurt left out there to sample, but I’d like to eat it again sometime.

Apparently, not only the cup is indestructible—this damn yogurt is, too.


Emmi Swiss Premium Lowfat Yogurt—Pink Grapefruit With Other Natural Flavors:
taste: 4.5; texture: 3; flavor novelty: 1; sat fat: 1

TOTAL = 9.5

Link: Emmi USA.


NYHH said...

1) There is no picture.

2) Um, where is the "This is the offically endorsed yogurt of the New York Hamster House, which means +5 bonus points" sentence? Hi. The NYHH is very picky about which yogurts and yogurt products we endorse. This shit is GOOD, yo.

3) Yeah, it's not healthy, or good for me or the environment. But... yum!

TD said...

The second picture in the post is the older cup design, which is subtly different from the new one, featured in the pic on top.

Jessica said...

Hey there, I really recommend Skotidakis Greek yogurt (made with full fat goat's and cow's milk). Better than Fage. Tastes just like sour cream. Whole Foods carries it.

Anonymous said...

My god, this is the best written cutest commentary about a mundane product I have ever read. And my experience with the product aligned just the same, even saved the cup, but mine didn't roll into the street. So I have to say, spot on my friend. Where can I get it in the 1 kilo containers like they carry overseas?

TD said...

1 kilo? Gosh. If I ever see it, I'll post...

Anonymous said...

I just got a great deal on "about to expire" low fat plain and low fat raspberry Emmi yogurt at Jerry's Deli in Englewood NJ. I believe it is the same you wrote about--but it was 1/2 the regular .99 each. I was looking for the recycling info online and found your review. I couldn't tell what code was on the container. Thanks!
Oh, the plain yogurt was good--a little looser than what we are used to, but hey, it was cheap! The raspberry was 160 cal, 24g of sugar, while the plain was 90 cal with only 8g of sugar.

Adrienne said...

i'm personally addicted to the black cherry...if you find it, give it a try. i get it for 1.95 at a deli on fifth by 13th in nyc, but i think i saw it someplace for 1.75 in brooklyn. i agree...i really should dislike it, but i just can't.