Where Did Frozen Yogurt Come From?

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Do you love ice cream? Most Americans do. On average, in any fourteen day period, nearly 40% of people in the United States will eat ice cream and the typical person will eat it 28.5 times every year. And it is not just ice cream we crave. Frozen desserts of all kinds are popular in the United States. Nearly 90% of all households are known to enjoy some kind of frozen treat on a regular basis. There are about 2.852 shops that sell frozen yogurt, as of the end of 2013.

Frozen yogurt is a lot like ice cream. In fact, many stores who sell it, try to make it as much like ice cream as possible. The history of that frozen delight goes back thousands of years. Frozen desserts were developed in Asia but the idea would not stay locked on that continent for long. Roman folklore and literature tells of the Emperor Nero and his fondness for mixing mountain snow from the volcanoes Etna and Vesuvius with sweet fruit juices and even wine. From there, frozen desserts made their way to the rest of Europe and finally the Americas.

The 1800s saw technological improvements that greatly simplified the frozen dessert making process. In 1848, the first hand crank freezer was patented. This changed the texture of gelato, a precursor to ice cream. The dessert went from being grainy to creamy. Soon after, the ice cream that we know today was developed.

Although it is delicious, ice cream has a high fat and sugar content. Health conscious people began looking for a way to have a delicious frozen dessert that was healthier. In the 1970s, the yogurt company Dannon began experimenting with a frozen yogurt product that they named, “Danny.” Their idea was to sell their yogurt, frozen on a stick. The idea was a distinct failure. Consumers complained that the product just tasted too much like what it was, which was yogurt. It was back to the drawing board for the proponents of frozen yogurt.

After Dannon failed so miserably, ice cream and yogurt makers went back and refined the flavor. They worked on the recipes for the frozen treat and worked hard on it. In the 1980s people were more interested in healthier food options than ever before and were more receptive to the idea of frozen yogurt. This was a population that really wanted more lower calorie and lower fat options for meals and desserts. They would be more open to a new frozen dessert option like frozen yogurt.

When frozen yogurt was reintroduced to the public, manufacturers provided American consumers with the frozen desert in a wide variety of flavors. It was introduced across the United States. People began to see it as being a lot like ice cream. Its versatility rivals ice cream’s. Served in many of the same ways ice cream is served, people were soon enjoying frozen yogurt cups, cones, sundaes and in just about every way ice cream is served. It is often served on waffles, in crepes and with a host of toppings. It is sometimes seen as being a bit more tangy than ice cream but has a more complex flavor than sherbet. A new chain emerged and took the country by storm. The Country’s Best Yogurt or TCBY could be found in just about every town in the country.

The market for frozen yogurt reached $25 million in the mid 1980s. Most companies that make ice cream began making their own frozen yogurt. The low calorie dessert had finally arrived and was here to stay. The treat had begun capturing about 10% of the market for frozen desserts by the early 1990s.

Frozen yogurt, also called “froyo” changed again in the early part of the new century. Live probiotic powder bases mixes were developed. John Wudel, who is also known for developing alternative sweeteners. These powders make the frozen yogurt a little more like traditional yogurt in terms of the health benefits of eating it. Pinkberry hit the market in 2005. It pretty much took over the space TCBY had in the 1980s and 1990s.

To give you an idea of how far this has come, Google’s operating system (Android 2.2) was given the code name “Froyo.”