the deception of the yogurt

as part of my near year's resolution plan to lose a million pounds and become gorgeous, i am having yogurt for lunch today. yum yum yum. it is dannon, and raspberry-flavored, and it has Fruit On The Bottom, which sounds like something yelled out by the last guy onto the hate-crime gang rape pile.

Opening the yogurt, i sort of vaguely noticed that its tranquil white surface was a bit lower from the top of the cup than i was really expecting. And in bringing the Fruit On The Bottom up to the top, and then sort of mushing it around so that it was now Fruit Everywhere With Particular Areas Of Concentration In Those Edges Of The Bottom Which My Spoon Did Not Reach, i very non-vaguely thought to myself how useful that extra space was in terms of stirring without generating spillage.

Now it's important to note at this juncture that i am very much of the school of Read Absolutely Everything, which means for example that I can recite both the french and english versions of the ingredients in my shampoo and am also aware of the advertising rates for Vogue and the method for ordering from Design Within Reach via postal mail and the usage instructions for my moisturizer ("apply to face"). So in keeping with this, i was reading the yogurt cup and I noticed that, in fact, they had noticed the extra space as well, and were calling attention to it with a note just above the nutrition information:

Room in every cup for your favorite mix-ins... Create your own yogurt experience.
I was all set to write a fuming post about this - how these devilish folks at Dannon are making us humble consumers feel grateful to the company for their deceptive packaging - see how big the cup is! that must be a lot of yogurt! - but then i realized that, like a tesselation generator or my relationship history, a pattern was forming.

Besides the recasting of the oversized packaging as thoughtfully provided space for "your favorite mix-ins" (aside: wtf? are there people out there who actually do this who are not, in their spare time, my grandparents? and does mix-in space actually factor in to their yogurt-purchasing experiences?), the tinfoil lid self-congratulatorily notes Dannon's decision to stop producing their see-through "overcaps," thus saving an arbitrarily determined 3.9 million pounds of plastic (and in the process pissing off those of us who like to spread our yogurt-eating out over more than one sitting or perhaps protect it from errantly-flicked paperclips). I'm willing to bet, say, your life that Dannon execs were not sitting around in a boardroom in their French corporate headquarters (fun fact: in french, Dannon is spelled Danon. Why? Who cares.) and were like "you know what is a huge problem? Landfill spread. What can we, a lowly yogurt conglomerate, do to help offset this?" No. They were like "I want a raise. Stop producing some facet of our yogurt product so we can reroute the money to my Swiss account. Baby needs a new pair of outriggers." So goodbye plastic overcaps, hello feel-good environmental message on the foil caps.

And then there is the greatest scam of all! The Fruit On The Bottom! This is an institution, ladies and gentlemen. It is a freaking copyrighted phrase. It is the NAME of the goddamn PRODUCT. It is not actually "Dannon Yogurt." It is "Dannon Fruit On The Bottom." And they have convinced us over the decades that this is a GOOD THING! That we LIKE our fruit on the bottom. That the top is a stupid place to put the fruit! Only nazis and racists put their fruit on the top, what are you, some kind of nazi or racist? That the act of mixing the fruit up into the yogurt is FUN and INTERACTIVE and makes the act of yogurt-eating somehow more exciting or delicious than it would be if the fruit were anywhere but on the bottom!

This is painfully obvious when you (over)think about it. The fruit on the bottom is nothing more than a time-saving measure. They squirt the fruit into the plastic cup. They squirt the yogurt on top of the fruit. They seal it (mindfully not putting on the plastic overcap). This way they don't have to do any costly mixing, they don't have to worry about portioning out the yogurt to the fruit in terms of demand, and they have CONVINCED US THAT IT IS WHAT WE WANT.

Oh my god I am moving to the mountains and becoming an anarchist. I will wear a tinfoil hat. Not even the yogurt is safe to eat.

having eaten the yogurt, i now feel nauseous (nauseated?). the yogurt is out to get me. if i die, know that i love you.

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Anonymous said...

actually, danon is spelled danone in french. why? to translate its pronunciation and brand name more accurately. see? someone cares about the vicissitudes of french to english translation.

helen said...

a) but dannon in english is spelled dannon.

b) i would argue that if you're anonymous, you don't really count towards answering the "who cares" question, since it "who" tends to be one of those things that relies on identity. however, you do a great service to those men and women searching for the answer to "how many?"

c) but you're right about danone, and i stand corrected.

LJD said...

Believe it or not, Anonymous wasn't me. But I did think "huh, and it's Danone in Ireland" as I was reading this post.
Do you remember that yogurt, when we were kids, that came with crumbled up oreos in the top to mix in? Man, was that good.

Colleen said...

god, advertising is wonderful. fruit on the bottom is crap, and anyone who over thinks packaging and language use on products (me, you, and other interesting people) knows that. fortunately, there are very few of such people. and, might i point out, that you purchased said yogurt. perhaps because the insinuation that it is a better yogurt, due to fruit on the bottomness, you picked it up. in a search for elitism, not only did you wish to purchase the Best Yogurt, but more than that, you wanted to purchase what others perceive as the Best Yogurt. and because as i said previously, most people aren't as interested in the intricacies of packagery and language and yogurt conspiracy theory as We, there are a lot of people who would look at chic helen sitting cross-legged in a sun-drenched bench, wearing a pin-stripped pencil skirt, Chanel sunglasses, and smart kitten heels eating her Fruit on the Bottom yogurt and think, My god- I want to BE HER. And the easiest way for them to acheive that is to buy the yogurt. And you, basking the glow of the warm, January sun and the mysterious looks of the pathetic and desperate passers by, dip your spoon lovingly into the cup. Flicking your wrist only a few times, you manage to mix the yogurt to your own, elite standards, thinking to yourself.... This yogurt cup... it's so... LUXURIOUS... what with all this extra room, I could add mix-ins!

Thanks to those who think not what they can do for their yogurt, individuals such as ourselves can enhance our aura of superiority for a mere $2 or so.

Or maybe it was just on sale. It was crap yogurt afterall.

James said...

First of all, Dannon is 6 ounces, while Breyers is 8 ounces. Secondly, the real tragedy was when Breyers decided their yogurt had bad texture and started mixing in some kind of cornflour crap. Ruined the taste and the texture.

Finally, the fruit is on the bottom to teach our children the value of delayed gratification. Mixed yogurt boys grow up to be premature ejaculation men. That's no fun in any language.

EL said...

a Theory
Maybe they put the fruit on the bottom in order to better simulate the self-made yogurt-mixing experience that is spawned when you have plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Therefore, their yogurt seems marginally healthier than the average fruit yogurt product which is, as we who read packaging and count calories know, loaded with sugar or sugar substitute. They call it "Fruit on the Bottom" so that you'll know where to find the fruit.

The part that they didn't consider, which I'm appalled that you neglected to mention, is that Fruit on the Bottom is actually *disgusting.* As a connosieur of the smooth-yogurt experience, I can say with confidence that the texture that is created by mixing viscously-challenged plain yogurt (plain yogurt is always hard in a way that fruity yogurt just isn't) with the gloop that passes for "fruit" which is located "at the bottom," is never a pleasant one. It is always a little bit grainy, and it also results in a weird somewhat-grayish color that is significantly less appealing than the chemically created but familiarly comforting light pink of other raspberry yogurts.

Having said that, I dig the ditching of the "overcaps." Thumbs up, Dannon.

James said...

Oh man, this is making me so angry. Can't you people see that fruit on the bottom is so vastly superior? Let's run the analysis.

1. With the fruit on the bottom, you get to choose how much fruit you want mixed in with your yogurt. You like it less sweet and fruity? Then mix early. You like it really sweet and fruity? Then skim off the top to your preferred level, and then mix.

2. Excuse me for breathing, but isn't anyone going to bring up the fact that you never really see mixed-berry blended yogurt? Also strawberry-banana.

3. Mixing the yogurt yourself brings a feeling of accomplishment and self-sufficiency. Do you want to take that away from our daughters? Do you hate all women, or just those who try to be self-reliant?

4. If you want, you can eat most of the yogurt and then push the remaining pieces around in the fruit like icebergs. Then you can eat them.

Naugler said...

I hate fruit on the bottom.
A lot. Somehow, I think that this must be related to my dislike for "red delicious apples". I need my fruit and yogurt united, unless it is plain yogurt which I am adding my own things to-frozen raspberries being the preferred add-on at the moment.
What I've been led to understand from another yogurt company (which has since gone under) is that THEIR decision to switch from plastic lids to foil covers was also a matter of shipping and the environment: it is less expensive because it is easier on gas to ship the significantly smaller, lighter foil tops than the plastic tops which made the containers reusable.

Katie said...

yeah, charging the same for 6 oz as for 8 is crap. ditto on the breyers re-working. If you're missing the lids to preserve and prolong your yogurt experience, try a Pringles lid. They still exist, and if you snag one or two, you could reuse them for quite a while ...

Darlene said...

I already deem this post the highlight of my week (It's only Tuesday). A friend and I were emailing about yogurt this morning (specifically our stance on "the fruit on the bottom") and per usual I decided to do some digital research. I was always under the impression that the fruit on the bottom was somehow "fresher" than it's "mixed" brother in the yogurt family. My friend proposed that most likely the fruit was located at the bottom for economical reasons. Thanks for the clarification. It's nice to know that we're not alone in the over analyzation of (well lets face it), really important things.

Craig said...

My favorite part about the oh-so-altruistic scrapping of the plastic tops was the fanfare with which they did it: they promised to donate the first 3.9 gajillion pounds of plastic to the production of crappy plastic toys so that poor children would be made aware of just how worthless their lives are to corporate executives. Support healthcare? "Been done." Literacy? "Lame." Plant some trees? "Gay." Provide a few low-income families with one of the few things they can pick up for less than a dollar at any Goodwill or Salval in the country? "Yes!" So it was only after the first month or two that they diverted the funds to outriggers.

By the way, I prefer to eat Dannon yogurt without mixing (and sans mix-ins). I credit my unsurpassed sexual stamina to this.

Marcin said...

Here's the thing: I buy my own jam and my own greek yoghurt, for a delicious, waistline-expanding snack. Whenever I eat yoghurt, my joy far surpasses your humble, pre-packaged yoghurt experience. It is only surpassed by greek farmers who make their own greek yoghurt and jam.

Anonymous said...

Yoghurt is about as good for you as breathing fresh air (which is free—for the time being). Yoghurt is industrial gloop that comes in expensively-packaged containers—which is what you're paying for. The contents cost fractions of a penny—about $0.005 a hundred gallons—so don't let's kid ourselves there's an industry out there fretting about our health.
All they're concerned about is encouraging us to worry about our health and getting us to consume more. Oh yes—I nearly forgot—and profit.
So let's all get off our fat butts, tuck in our bulging stomachs (mine is huge) and start eating responsibly, economically and healthily.
Tap water, vegetables, fresh fruit, meat and/or fish, cheese, no convenience foods—plus (of course) occasional alcohol and frequent bouts of athletic sex.
It's the Life Diet. FREE!
We'll all be thin as a Will O'The Wisp in no time.
Yoghurt makers need not respond.

Amanda said...

I actually love yogurt. I don't care if it is or is not healthy. I think it's a good thing to have. The pre-mixed kind, not the fruit on the bottom kind, which is gross.

I also liked the plastic lids. I could either recycle the whole container if I didn't need it, or I could use it for some lunch item later. I am in college and too poor to by tupperware. :(

Amanda said...

Argh. That last sentence should be: I am in college and am too poor to buy tupperware. Silly me with the silly typos.

Yogurt Guru said...

Believe it or not, the "fruit on the bottom" serves two very important purposes: first, it minimizes the surface area of contact between sugar (fruit) and yogurt culture. This in turn actually gives the product a longer shelf-life than mixed yogurts. Secondly, they don't have to pay for mixing machines.

Anonymous said...

That's a ridiculously cynical post. They clearly leave the space at the top so when you mix you don't spill all over the place. They don't do it to somehow gip you.

And I vastly, vastly prefer fruit on the bottom yogurt. If you eat blended and fruit on the bottom, you'll find the latter is much richer yogurt. They don't do it to cheap out on blending machines, they do it because some people prefer it. Companies aren't constantly trying to trick the consumer. If they did, we'd catch on and switch to a different product.

Anonymous said...

If there were no fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, how would you make a Yogurt Volcano in the school cafeteria?

a) Open yogurt.
b) Move a butter knife or flat ice-cream spoon around the edge of the yogurt to help it release from the sides of the container.
c) Invert onto plate.
d) Bask in the oohs and aahs of the cafeteria crowd.
e) Quick hide the butter knife, here comes the yard duty!

JRae said...

OMG, Yogurt Guru you're my hero! I knew the fruit on the bottom issue had to be economical or practical (as opposed to catering to the consumer experience, because I far prefer the mixed in kind and can NEVER find it!). I thought it was maybe because the fruit would separate out on its own or something, but shelf life makes far more sense. You rule!

Also, everyone should note that Dannon is notorious for calling fruit-flavored goop with no active cultures yogurt. Yikes! Make sure and check your yogurt labels to see that they have active cultures, otherwise you are losing all the probiotic benefits of yogurt.

Fun tip: When in strange countries, eat local yogurt to become resistant to local bacteria and bugs and stuff that will cause indigestion and other intestinal distress.

Anonymous said...

all this fuss over yoghurt?

People can't even speller it right

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, fruit on the bottom (or top), not mixed in is better. The little bacteria that our intestines know and love so well would peter out if it were mixed with all the fruit/sugars during packaging (as so many other yogurts are). Once sugar hits these little guys, they activate, multiply and die. So, having to stir the yogurt is better in the long run because you get more of the little guys in the active state before they hit your intestines. While they may be in institution, dannon does think some things through (and then fire the folks who thunk it because they cost them money!). I hope they keep fruit on the bottom or I'll just have to (go back to) mixing in the fruit preserves myself with plain or vanilla yogurt (yuk).

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I hate yogurt but eat it because it's good for the intestines.

Maryland said...

Having made dozens and dozens of gallons of yogurt over the past couple of months and researched it carefully, it would seem attributing the rationale for the position of the fruit as one gigantic guessing game. As a techie, I am happy to report that there are two basic types of commercial yogurt available today - that which is fermented first, stirred, and squirted into the containers for the public, and that which is mixed, poured into the containers where the fermentation takes place in the container itself. So it is my understanding that mixing fruit with the liquid before it is poured into the container results in a random arrangement and possible sinking of the fruit within the container anyway.

So most likely, the "Fruit on the bottom" is merely capitalizing on the fact the fruit ends up there anyway...

Since the yogurt in question is firm, I have to assume it is not stirred first.

And as far as the fruit having some effect on the yogurt - that might take a microbiologist to explain.



Anonymous said...

this stuff is disgusting. the yogurt sucks, and the fruit isnt fruit! its jam. white yogurt and jam? no thank you!

davidsupreme said...

The reason for the fruit on the bottom is obvious. It's a different flavor experience for those who like that. It's like the difference between a strawberry cheesecake where the strawberries are evenly mixed in all through the cake, and the kind where the strawberries are MARBLED through the cake, more strawberry in some bites, less in others. That's why the fruit is on the bottom, every bite doesn't taste exactly the same, if you like it more mixed, you stir it more, if you like it more marbled, stir it less.

Anonymous said...

This post and your comments are quite hilarious ...

Having made more than a billion (yes - billion) pounds of yogurt in the last 6 months I must comment:

First, it IS Danone (pronounced 'Dan-known') like your first commented pointed out.

Second, the machines that 'mix' the fruit with the yogurt and the ones that don't are almost identical in price, so F-on-B is not saving them money.

Third, the fruit is on the bottom because of how the yogurt is made. Hopefully everyone understands the basics of yogurt - that it is fermented sugar-milk... Well, you can either ferment the yogurt in a large tank, the transfer it through a cooling process in to a tank that supplies the filler OR you can send the hot-pre-fermented product (which is MUCH easier to transport since it is not thick at this point) directly to the filler... Problem with that is you cannot 'mix' the fruit in before it has completed the ferm process hence F-on-B....

Oh, and lastly - yogurt is not as inexpensive as some of your readers believe - if milk is $3/gal + sugar (mainly for the cultures) + cultures + vitamins + fruit (not cheap) & heating/cooling/pumping/packaging utilities ... It really is not that lucrative of a business - at least not in America where it is limited to a breakfast food/occasional snack


Breanna Joy said...

@Colleen, you can't sit cross-legged in a pencil skirt... Unless it's hiked up to your hips. In which case, it would be men wanting to be in her, not women wanting to be her.

Alysa said...

Agreed. When it’s left to the media to arbitrarily decide which issues deserve attention, it can often encourage conflict between competing “issues” that ultimately serves the status quo. A better approach, of course, would be solidarity between all parties, but that’s easier said than done!
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Bull shit. We all have this much time on our hands. He just used it to make something.
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Unknown said...

They place the fruit on the bottom since it is more liquidy than the yoghurt. If they placed it on the top, it would sink through the yogurt and defeat the purpose of separation.