11 Cool Facts About Frozen Yogurt

iStock
iStock

When frozen yogurt hit the commercial food scene in the U.S. in the late '70s and subsequently boomed in the early 1980s, it was a huge hit with health-conscious, workout-obsessed Americans who were thrilled to have a lower-fat alternative to ice cream. Even though its popularity chilled out in the '90s and aughts, frozen yogurt has returned on the scene en masse in the last few years in the form of the soft-serve shop with an extensive toppings bar. But however you enjoy your froyo, you’ll be sure to enjoy these cool facts about it almost as much.

1. IT DOESN’T JUST COME FROM COWS.

Like regular yogurt, cow’s milk isn’t the only milk that is used to make frozen yogurt. The milk of sheep, goats, and water buffalo are sometimes used in the froyo process in the U.S., while camel and yak varieties are available in the Middle East and Western China, respectively.

2. IT’S FAIRLY NEW IN TOWN.

Yogurt itself has been around for ages, with origins in the Middle East and India about 5000 years ago, but the idea to freeze it, at least as far as we know, came about fairly recently: The first commercial brand, Frogurt, was introduced in New England in the early 1970s, and was served in scoops, in the style of ice cream.

3. IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR MANUFACTURERS TO FOLLOW THE POPSICLE MODEL.

Yogurt giant Dannon was among the first to jump on the blossoming trend, with its 1979 release of “Danny,” a packaged, fruit-flavored frozen yogurt pop on a stick with a chocolate coating. Dannon's pop became the first perishable frozen treat to be distributed nationwide.

4. TCBY HELPED REPLACE THE SCOOPS WITH SOFT-SERVE.

In 1981, Arkansas’s TCBY changed the yogurt game when it began offering yogurt in soft-serve format, dispensed by a machine at the point of sale. When TCBY started out, the acronym stood for “This Can’t Be Yogurt,” but a 1984 lawsuit by competitor I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt inspired the company to create a back-ronym, so now it stands for “The Country’s Best Yogurt.” And they're still making froyo innovations, like being the first to offer Greek frozen yogurt, dairy-free, and vegan options.

5. DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK. (IT'S BEEN HERE FOR YEARS.)

It’s true that frozen yogurt experienced a lull in popularity for a couple of decades, but it has surged right back, and then some! In 2012, sales of frozen yogurt were $194.9 million, with 121 million servings of frozen yogurt sold—totally decimating its peak sales of $25 million in 1986. (Adjusting for inflation, $25 million would be about $54.3 million in 2016 dollars, so it has more than tripled its earnings today when compared to 30 years ago.)

6. IT HAS BEEN HONORED WITH ITS OWN MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION.

As of 1993, June is National Frozen Yogurt Month in the United States (in close pursuit of its obvious natural rival, National Ice Cream Month, which happens in July). It also has the more specific National Frozen Yogurt Day on February 6 (not during a month many of us crave frozen treats, weirdly). Many yogurt shops celebrate the day, as well as the month, with free froyo and discounts.

7. THE COMPETITION IN THE FROZEN YOGURT MARKET IS STIFF.

Although TCBY ruled the froyo roost for decades, it’s no longer number one, despite recent attempts to rebrand itself with new décor and updated self-serve machines. As of 2015, the front-runner is California-based Menchie’s, with 13.5 percent of the market and 300 U.S. locations—which is no mean feat, considering it was only established in 2010. TCBY trails with 10.8 percent of the market and 518 locations, and then Yogurtland, sweetFrog, and Red Mango round out the top five.

8. YOU COULD BUY IT DRY.

Originally, frozen yogurt was made using—unsurprisingly—real yogurt as a base. But these days, it can begin in powder form, which is then mixed with water or some other liquid and poured into a soft-serve machine.

9. IT’S NOT NECESSARILY MADE OF YOGURT.

Although yogurt, when unfrozen, is regulated by the FDA and requires a Live and Active Cultures seal, frozen yogurt is not, and it legally may or may not contain live cultures, so you may want to check your labels.

10. IT HAS POWERFUL ALLIES.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan clearly can’t resist froyo—she was responsible for the installation of the first frozen-yogurt machine in the Supreme Court cafeteria. As such, Kagan joked that she’ll be remembered as the “frozen yogurt justice” in the annals of history. Not that that’s a bad thing, Your Honor.

11. IT REACHED NAMESAKE STATUS.

And it’s not just Justice Kagan who has a soft spot for the soft-serve. Continuing its adorable theme of naming each version of the Android OS after a dessert, Google’s Android 2.2 release, unveiled in 2010, was codenamed “Froyo.” How sweet.

All images via iStock.

George Mason University Becomes First College to Include Food Delivery Robots in Its Meal Plan

Starship Technologies, Sodexo
Starship Technologies, Sodexo

Students at George Mason University will now be able to buy fuel for their study sessions without trekking to the dining hall. As of Tuesday, January 22, the college is offering a robot food delivery service on its Fairfax, Virginia campus.

The new system, a collaboration between Sodexo and Starship Technologies, is the first of its kind to be integrated into a college meal plan. To use it, students must first download the Starship Deliveries app for Android or iOS, and from there they will be able to order food and drinks from a handful of locations, including Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, Dunkin', and the on-campus grocery store. Deliveries cost $1.99 per trip, and usually take about 15 minutes to complete.

The service is made possible by the school's fleet of more than 25 delivery robots. Reaching about knee-height, the boxy vehicles can hold 20 pounds each, or roughly three shopping bags of food. They navigate the campus autonomously, updating users on the journey in real-time via an interactive map in the Starship app, and when they arrive, users can unlock the hatch from their phones.

Food delivery robot outdoors.
Starship Technologies, Sodexo

"With the hectic schedules students lead, there is a convenience for students to have their food, groceries, and packages delivered," Ryan Tuohy, SVP of business development at Starship Technologies, said in statement. "Our goal is to make life a little bit easier for students, whether that means skipping the line, eating lunch on the lawn rather than in the cafe, or finding the time to eat better when studying for exams."

George Mason University is the latest place to experiment with delivering food via robot. Domino's rolled out similar autonomous vehicles in New Zealand in 2016, and 2017, the robotics company ZMP and the food delivery service Ride On Express debuted sushi delivery robots in Japan.

The $13,000 Epiphany That Made Orville Redenbacher a National Popcorn King

iStock.com/NoDerog
iStock.com/NoDerog

Happy National Popcorn Day! While you’re no doubt celebrating with a bowl of freshly popped, liberally buttered popcorn, here’s something else to digest: Orville Redenbacher originally called his product Red-Bow.

In 1951, Redenbacher and his partner, a fellow Purdue grad named Charlie Bowman, purchased the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Township, Indiana. Though Redenbacher’s background was in agronomy and plant genetics, he had dabbled in popcorn, and was friendly with the Chester family.

Eventually, Carl Hartman was brought in to experiment. In 1969, when the trio had developed a seed they felt really confident in, they went to market. They dubbed the product “Red-Bow,” a nod to “Redenbacher” and “Bowman.”

The product was a hit regionally, but by 1970, Bowman and Redenbacher were ready for a national audience and hired a Chicago advertising agency to advise them on branding strategy. At their first meeting, Redenbacher talked about popcorn for three hours. “Come back next week and we’ll have something for you,” he was told afterward.

The following week, he turned to the agency and was told that “Orville Redenbacher’s” was the perfect name for the fledgling popcorn brand. “Golly, no,” he said. “Redenbacher is such a ... funny name.” That was the point, they told him, and they must have made a convincing case for it, because Orville Redenbacher is the brand we know today—and the man himself is still a well-known spokesman more than 20 years after his death.

Still, Redenbacher wasn’t sure that the $13,000 fee the agency had charged was money well spent. “I drove back to Indiana wryly thinking we had paid $13,000 for someone to come up with the same name my mother had come up with when I was born,” Redenbacher later wrote.

Hungry for more Redenbacher? Take a look at the inventor at work in the vintage commercial below.

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